The modern lifestyle with fast-paced business and communication is driving significant transformation in almost all sectors, the food industry being no exception. The evolution of the food world has been driven by innovations in food preparations, variety, variations, tastes, flavours, service, packaging, etc. On the brighter side, some passionate entrepreneurs are dedicated to enhancing the food concepts themselves.
Pizza, a popular Italian round-shaped food made in wheat dough topped with vegetables or non-veg toppings, cheese, and several other tastemakers, is one of the fastest-growing fast food worldwide. However, despite the advancements, timely deliveries, crust thickness, taste, and consumer delight have been the long-prevailing factors.
GOPIZZA, the South Korean pizza brand, has revolutionized the interest in the most favourite fast food. It prepares pizzas with relishing, delicious taste, and the unique preparation style gives them an oval shape with mouth-watering toppings and flavours. The company has also been leveraging the trends of technology like robotics and AI that ensure consistency in the quality of food and service. The company is headquartered in Bangalore (Indian Office) and is spearheaded by its CEO, Mr Mahesh Reddy.
In an exclusive interview with CioLook India team, Mr Reddy shares valuable facts while unfolding his professional journey, inspirations, brand USPs, and the challenges faced and countered, further briefing about the business and the organization’s vision.
Below are the excerpts from the interview:
Mahesh, kindly tell us about GOPIZZA, its vision, mission, and core values.
GOPIZZA was created in 2016 by 27-year-old Jae Won (Jay) Lim from inside his food truck in South Korea. His idea was to serve scrumptious, one-person-sized pizzas. On that theory, pizzas would be a satisfying meal for a reasonable price when consumed in this new form.
Due to the enormous demand for these oval-shaped pizzas, Jay opened his first GOPIZZA in South Korea in 2017.
This location quickly gained a reputation for being affordable, having the ideal serving size for one person, quick service, and even distribution of cheese and toppings across every slice of pizza – thanks to its technology.
Brief us about yourself and shed some light on your professional tenure.
I, chaired GOPIZZA as the CEO in June 2020. My track record of managing Pan-India businesses is exemplary within the QSR industry. With 23 years in the industry and over 17 years of experience with Cafe Coffee Day, I am glad to have played vital strategic roles regionally and nationally across India.
What was your inspiration behind venturing into the F&B industry?
I got into the F&B sector during a time when becoming a doctor or an engineer was all the rage. QSR and Retail were not even available as a prominent course at the time. Hotel Management was the only professional course in that hospitality sector, so I dreamed, worked extremely hard, and convinced my father to allow me to venture into this field.
Meeting new people, communicating and building connections was always my strong suit. I was always ready and willing to learn new things from meeting new people because that is what makes us better people, especially a better leader.
My inspiration to be a part of this industry started when I was 17 and investigated college programs. My neighbour at the time was already a front office manager in the hospitality industry doing brilliantly for herself and her family.
I remember hotel management being all about the blazers and 5-stars hotels like Taj and Oberoi. To be honest, it was my dream to be a part of their program too, but I believe the launch of QSR programs in India paved the right path for me and led me to where I am today.
What are the USPs that make you stand out as a leading F&B firm?
Our USP comes from our creative pizza operations. From the dough that is used at every GOPIZZA outlet, to the ovens, topping tables and even robots, we invented them all. We can manufacture pizzas more quickly and efficiently than any of our competitors across various countries, credited to our technology. This enables us to expand swiftly while upholding the requirements of quality.
We are Korea’s top-selling personal pizza brand, and by 2023, we aim to be Singapore’s third best-selling pizza brand.
Though India is a sizable market, we anticipate ranking among the top three pizza brands here by 2025. Our primary USPs include these three main features: affordable prices, rapid service, and personal-sized pizzas.
What kind of modern products and services do you provide to your clients?
More than 30% of GOPIZZA’s headquarters personnel are experts in researching and developing a wide range of technologies. GOPIZZA has a Future Lab (for artificial intelligence and robots), a GOPIZZA Parbake Innovation Centre (for dough research and development and production), and a GOPIZZA GOVEN Tech Centre (for GOVEN R&D and production).
Every step of the ‘pizza making’ process is redesigned at each GOPIZZA location to allow for a one-man operation in a small kitchen.
The patented oven – GOVEN, which bakes six single-serving pizzas to perfection in three minutes, greatly improves efficiency at every GOPIZZA location. Consumers do not have to wait long to be served freshly baked, hot pizzas anymore. Employees, too, can save time on largely time-consuming tasks throughout their day.
The cooperative robot ‘GOBOT,’ which cuts pizza, sprinkles the appropriate sauce, and ensures it does not cool down, as well as the ‘AI Smart Topping Table,’ which tracks and monitors the toppings on a pizza, are all the patented technology that ensures consistency in the quality of food and service.
The most important ingredient is our dough, so we either export it from our Parbake Dough Innovation Centre in Korea or set up our own local factory. We opened our first centre in India this month. We intend to start production in May.
What were the initial differences after venturing into this sector in India, and considering the changing industry dynamics, what are the challenges now?
India has one of the world’s fastest-growing pizza markets, with several locals adapting it as part of their commonly eaten foods. Currently, the Indian pizza market is dominated by a single player, but we believe there is still plenty of room for growth and new entrants. With our distinct positioning and rapid scalability, we intend to seize the expanding market as quickly as possible and become a pizza brand that is always at the forefront of the Indian customers’ minds. With the unforeseen entry of the pandemic, the F&B sector has experienced quite a change in the dynamics of operation and consumer practices. GOPIZZA was able to use this period within the pandemic to streamline its operations and localization strategy. GOPIZZA began growing by more than 20% per month after the pandemic began to fade in June 2022.
To tackle the differing tastes and flavours between countries, we have tailored our menu to offer locally customized options as well. Like providing Korean as well as Indian combinations for people’s pallet. Along with customization, GOPIZZA is also a large investor in technological capabilities that allow us to maintain the same quality across all markets.
Being an experienced leader, share with us your opinion on how technology is transforming the F&B industry and what advancements can we expect in the future?
We are all aware that technology will support a significant portion to the F&B industry by addressing and improving efficiency in food and beverage production. GOPIZZA, in fact, is ahead of its time, using its own patented technology to bake its pizzas to perfection. GOPIZZA believes in the digital transformation of food and beverage, whereby humans and technology collaborate hand-in-hand to ensure a great customer experience.
As a leader in the hospitality industry for over two decades, I have witnessed and experienced how technological advancements have improved efficiency, not just in terms of production rate/size but also in quality, productivity and accuracy. Technology has improved time management and motivation among employees in all sectors, from food preparation to serving and delivery.
By implementing automated systems in daily tasks and tasks requiring fine detailing, employees feel less strained by the potential for errors and complete tasks faster, giving them more time to manage other aspects such as quality, personal consumer interaction and satisfaction. These technological advancements also help consumers gain access to food information and transparency, with services, sales, and transactions made trackable in real time.
What would be your advice to the aspirants who are willing to venture into the field of F&B?
My advice for aspirants looking into the F&B industry is that hard work is key. I still remember my time in the management trainee program, how I worked hard every day, every step of the way, and never undermining any job – no matter how small it was. I would tell any new graduate to live by this too.
I would advise recent graduates to enrol into such training programs and make the most out of them, valuing the time, resources, and effort that goes into training them. I have always believed in working my way up and would advise every aspirant never to take a shortcut to reach their goals. Those who experience all the different stages, including failure, to achieve their goals are the ones who make great leaders and mentors in the future.
How do you envision the future of GOPIZZA?
GOPIZZA’s vision is – “Wherever a customer wants pizza, there shall be GOPIZZA”. GOPIZZA plans to enter and expand in markets like Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States.
GOPIZZA currently has 20 operational outlets in India. It first entered the Indian market in Bengaluru, Karnataka, and has since expanded to Hyderabad, Telangana, and Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. By the end of 2023, the goal is to have 100 operational locations across the country.
GOPIZZA plans to expand into Pune, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, and other key Tier-2 cities such as Chandigarh, Jodhpur, Jaipur, and Kochi in the coming years.