Cafe Creme: A Home-Grown Chocolate Revolution Conquering the Hearts through Kuka

Kunal Kashikar,Founding & Managing Director
Kunal Kashikar, Founder & Managing Director

The profuse RJs of Red FM Pune were about to wind-up their special 'Shikka Contest’ episode based on the Khau Galli festival. After a week since the campaign started and thousands of votes cast by the audience for their favorite cold coffee experience within town, the duo announced the most loved cold coffee brand of Pune, and surprisingly, it was not a foreign brand this time around. By a humongous margin, people chose'Kuka', the signature cold coffee wonder of Café Crème–a destination for connoisseurs of rich& delectable chocolate drinks, ice creams, and appreciably more.

“People loving Kuka is always a warm feeling. Ever since launching the company and introducing the drink, that love has been our driving factor. It’s a recognition of our passion and the fuel to go forward,” asserts Kunal Kashikar, Founder & Managing Director, Café Crème, who invented Kuka by blending his sublime talent with 15+ years of rich experience in the Food & Beverage industry.

The Kuka Tale
The story of Kunal and his dream venture Café Crème is as interesting as the success saga of Kuka. Let’s rewind back to when Kunal procured his hotel management degree and started his career with international hospitality brands such as Taj, Westin, and Radisson. Having commenced his journey humbly from the steward level in the early 2000s, Kunal expeditiously climbed-up the ladder owing thanks to the impeccable talent he was born with. Alongside his substantial career, if something that grew at an even better pace, it was his passion to make a difference in the industry through his own venture - a dream as old as his career!

“I had already decided that when I advance to the management layer, I am going to leave the job, come out of the comfort zone, and started my own business. Meanwhile, I was also confident that by the time I get into that level, I will have ample experience to decide the kind of business I am going to do,” recalls Kunal. His line of thought was spot-on, and he had his 'Eureka' moment half a decade back – after becoming one of the most reputed hotels administrative professionals in the town.

It was just a quotidian tea time for Kunal amidst his colleagues, but only till when one among them started voicing the long love for cold coffee. As everyone concurred with each other for the first time on tea time chatter, the incident was more than enough to ignite a spark in Kunal. His research further probed him into an engrossing fact that even decades after the introduction, Pune’s millennial still beat an extra pulse for cold coffee. Rest of the anecdote is an inspiring history.

Having started the brainstorming from 2012, Kunal incepted Café Crème in 2013 and in turn hosted a revolution in the cold coffee
segment through Kuka, the thick & delicious drink with a mind blowing blend of chocolate– to the tune of Pune even pretermitting the terminology, ‘cold coffee’. Thanks to the skilled and talented professionals who are passionate about Café Crème’s growth and delivering the unique Kuka experience to as many chocolate fans in the country as it can reach-out to.

"People loving Kuka is always a warm feeling. Ever since launching the company and introducing the drink, that love has been our driving factor"

“The former experience of being a part of the pre-opening team of several five-star hotels helped me in terms of setting-up the SOPs for the organization & building a brand, ” adjoins Kunal. The company today has come a long way from where it began - from Kuka to a whole new world of more than 60 different varieties of specialty drinks, and from Pune to 150+ outlets across 20+ cities. With an inspired team on board, Café Crème is further gaining momentum with more than one outlet opening every month; thanks to a million happy customers. It’s definitely India’s Starbucks in the making!

An Award Winning Franchise Model
Besides the magic of Kuka, the Café Crème’s excellence in marketing & growth strategies, in addition to its award-winning franchise & supporting model, have simultaneously played a pivotal role in this success. For instance, while the real estate costs flare-up in magnitude, Café Crème has successfully confronted the stumbling block by desisting itself from the prime locations, and unleashing itself into Tier-2 & Tier-3 cities, where the population is huge and competition is at the rock-bottom. We are talking about a franchise model which was nominated for the 16th Franchise India & Star Retailer Award – 2018 in a couple of categories: Emerging Franchise of the Years and Franchise of the Year – Bakery & Café in India.

According to a report by FICCI, the market size for cafes in India is around Rs.25,000 crore and growing at 10 percent per year. In this context, the Café Crème’s strategy is poised to take the edge off the CAPEX, leading to more number of entrepreneurs (franchise owners) getting hold of the opportunity. “We intend to bestow a lucrative business opportunity by adapting into different franchise models starting right from Kiosk (CAPEX: around Rs.6 lakh)to Quick Service Restaurant model (Rs.10 lakh), and full-fledged premium model (Rs.15-20 lakh). We also train them,” Kunal adds. He makes great sense as Café Crème back-lifts its franchise owners with a strong back-end team that processes milk (with sugar & flavors) in its own factories, and thus standardizing the taste across the country, not to mention the strictly time bound supply chain.

The Strategy: People
Above all, Café Crème’s eminent marketing strategies have also been a crucial aspect of ensuring traffic in its outlets. You might be familiar to this strategy followed by most of the international brands. Most of the international fast food brands start their pricing-range from as low as a few dollars, but we know the bulk final bill amount we pay while leaving the outlet. In truth, it’s no rocket science. Boasting of the same
the confidence of those international brands, Café Crème adopts this strategy with the Kuka’s price starting from as low as Rs.25! The company backs this strategy with several bumper offers. In addition, it had also established brand partnerships with a bunch of Marathi movies (like Boyz, Deva, & Bandookya-Ranangam), national award-winning short films (like Selfeee & Mayat) and famous entertainment shows like MTV Roadies.

“Though we have a good presence across the social media platforms, we are not completely focused on them. Instead, we largely focus on making our existing franchises & end-customers happy by touching their pulse. That’s the rationale behind our franchise owners repeatedly opening more franchises,” adds Kunal. Making customers happy at every visit takes constant innovation and precipitating their taste buds regularly with new flavors. Café Crème’s R&D has been remarkable on this facet, as it ensures that a new variant of Kuka is introduced every three months.

For instance, one of the latest additions to the Kuka family is Royal Kuka – a unique mouthwatering treat amalgamating chocolate paste, crush, crunch, shake, chocolate, ice cream and much more. On the other hand, by aligning with the feedback from the non-chocolate lovers, the company has also introduced Tropical Kuka, made completely out of fruits. It also pays attenti onto revamping the Café’s interior in accordance with the changing trends.

"Café Crème’s eminent marketing strategies have also been a crucial aspect of ensuring traffic in its outlets"

Its Time to Go Retail
The five-year old startup has been on amazing growth curve ever since its inception, recording 90 percent growth in this financial year with around six months yet to go. En route to the future, the company has disruptive plans, launching a new retail brand within the next few months being the predominant one among them.“Without much delay, our new retail brand, Occasions – different variety of chocolates will take the shelf spaces in stores near you. Our franchise owners will be our distributors, so that the new product will add on their income source,” concludes Kunal. With a blueprint to launch a new fast food brand and active plans to go abroad in the coming years, Café Crème is setting its wings on fire.

Key Management:
Kunal Kashikar, Founder & Managing Director
Kunal, with his rich experience of over 15 years in the Food & Beverage industry, aims to extend a unique café experience to the Indian youth across the country. The quick growth of Café Crème outlets can be credited to four years of his dedicated efforts in traveling to various places, experiencing & researching about bringing a revolution in the cold coffee segment.

Offices:Pune (Headquarter) & present across 20+ cities

•Kuka and its variants
•Chocolate Drinks
•Ice Creams
•Fresh Crème Shakes
•Chocolate Sandwich
•Chocolate Shots