Most Japanese companies wanting to do business internationally traditionally look first across the Pacific to North America, second to South East Asia and China, or third Europe.
India has not traditionally been a consideration.
Japanese food companies may have been missing a trick.
India of course has a huge population and burgeoning middle class, many of whom have been educated overseas. For many consumers, that’s where they’ve first discovered the joys of Japanese food.
Harry Hakuei Kosato is an entrepreneur who hails from Kobe, a west Japan port city and has been doing business in India for over fifteen years.
Having worked as a consultant for Yoshinoya, Japan’s leading gyudon chain, Kirin beer and Government agencies, Harry took the plunge and opened Sushi & More, a take-away food delivery business in 2011.
The business serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options and best sellers include Crunch Avocado and Prawn Tempura rolls.
Since opening the first outlet in Mumbai, the company now operates in Delhi and Gurugram. It serves over 100,000 meals annually.
One key decision Harry took was to employ entirely locals and train them in sushi. Another advantage of this approach is menus were more likely to appeal to the Indian consumer’s palate.
This experience has inspired Harry to launch the first Sushi school of India, to invest in the next generation of professional Indian chefs. The school also targets serious home chefs who want to indulge their passion for Japanese food.
“The best business model to enter the Indian market is to have real control; without control of all the moving parts in India, where so much can happen, business survivability is doomed.”Harry Hakuei Kosato
Harry says the biggest learning is a laser focus on product consistency so the repeat customer knows exactly what they’re going to get. One procedure Harry put in place is Sushi and More writes the product name and the person for whom the dish is cooked for on the packaging. The chef signs off on the product, for every single order, ensuring high degree of responsibility and accountability.