Rayyan Durrani, along with being the brains and head of take-out service Simple Dimple Khao Suey Palace, also has a day job at 3M (Minnesota mining and manufacturing) managing regional sales and marketing. This may lead one to assume Simple Dimple to be a mere hobby, but according to Durrani this couldn’t be further from the truth. “It’s more like a passion. Initially, I had no wish to get an office job, but I wanted to justify my degree and get some professional experience to build my CV. But my priority is Simple Dimple.”
Rayyan Durrani was born into the food business. He was born in Karachi in 1984, to a well-established restaurateur, Azam Durrani and his wife Anjum, a fashion designer. His father was the owner and founder of a local favourite Dolphin for over 20 years. In the late nineties his deteriorating health forced him to retire and he was unwilling to hand over his baby to outside management.
But Durrani’s story isn’t just a run of the mill like-father-likeson case; “My childhood was steeped in this love of food. My earliest memories are of big family get-togethers based around food,” he says. “Every Sunday, my sister and I would spend our days in the kitchen helping our parents cook, making a mess and then having to clean it up. I can still remember the delicious smell of the different herbs and spices dispersed around our house.” He looks like his mouth is watering as he revisits the delights cooked up in his parents’ kitchen. After all, the recipe for khao suey, Simple Dimple’s signature dish and the reason for its initial success, is courtesy of Mama Durrani.
Having graduated with a bachelors in Business from the College of Business Management in 2008, Durrani took on a job at Helium Marketing. His success there led to him being offered the position of national brand activation planner at PSO. Despite this success, Durrani was always looking to marry his interest in business with his passion for food.
One winter night in 2008, inspiration struck him.He set up a Facebook group for his then non-existent delivery service. His intentions, he reassures me, were not to dupe the Facebook using public but to test the waters. “My objective was to get a response from people. An idea in your head is always an idea until execution. The Facebook group was my first step into making it a reality.”
The idea of something as elementary as setting up a Facebook group catapulting one to success seems perplexing. But according to Durrani, viral advertising via social networking sites is the way forward and his success from it has indicated a change in the way in which businesses market. “Initially, the Facebook group was an in-joke amongst my friends. Whenever there was dinner to be ordered, a chorus would chime ‘Let’s order from Simple Dimple’, but then, it became more than that. The group got a following. People across Karachi wanted to know where it was based since Khau Souey is a popular dish here. There was interest since no existing establishment offered the Burmese speciality.”
After it became clear there was a niche in the market, Durrani set about formulating a business plan to discover the feasibility of the venture. As he leans forward for emphasis, fidgeting with the coasters on the desk, he says: “I couldn’t afford to jump in and open a dine-in, but with the support of my family and fiancée I went ahead with the delivery service. We set up the kitchen in my mother’s former workshop on 26th Street, and my dad helped me out a little with an investment,” he says. “But it wasn’t a heavy investment,” he is quick to add. “Along with word of mouth and an agreement I had with Musica, a video and DVD store in Khadda market, to put my menus in their DVD cases, we launched Simple Dimple a year after the preliminary Facebook group, on November 16, 2009.”
As is the case with most new enterprises, he was anxious and didn’t anticipate much business for the restaurant in the first six months. However, Durrani underestimated consumer demand and the willingness of Karachiites to try out new things; “The reality was we couldn’t handle the capacity after three days. We had to expand and grow immediately.”
The secret to his success? The khao suey, of course. “I have always been a great fan of khao suey myself. My mum would make great khao suey, and having sampled variations of it across the globe, I wanted to bring it to Pakistan, since it suits the Pakistani palate. Well, after a few adaptations it does,” he says with an air of confidence. “It’s simple comfort food.”
After the declarations of the simplicity of the food one is inclined to believe that perhaps this is the inspiration behind SDKP’s name. But Durrani laughs it off, instead declaring that the name just came to him; “The night I made the Facebook group, the name “Simple Dimple” popped into my head. It wasn’t thought out, but it worked. It was bizarre, catchy and sellable.” And sellable it has been, despite or perhaps due to the comparatively lower prices of SDKP to Karachi’s veteran delivery services. And as Durrani talks of his plans to open a Simple Dimple outlet later this year, it is hard to fathom how such a project is feasible considering as he himself admits his business has a low profit margin.
“Usually businesses have a 60-100% profit margin. We don’t. I’m more concerned about sustainable business development. I don’t want to make a quick buck. I want to ensure the best quality service so that I can serve you on a regular basis, not just once. My motto is profit if you can, a loss if you must.”
The motto has served Durrani well so far, since his instinctive attention to detail has led to demand for his delivery services beyond his current Defence and Clifton clientele. Durrani wants to give the people what they want. “I am planning to branch out across Karachi. After that I will expand to other cities.”
Pakistan’s Richard Branson perhaps? “No,” Durrani says, “More like Pakistan’s McDonald’s.”
Published in The Express Tribune September 19th, 2010.
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