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Guided route to success

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From a traditional sweet store to a succesful enterprise, Chaitanya Muppala talks about taking on the reins at Almond House

Did you ever think that the CEO and managing director of a successful business would enrol for a University programme to give a new dimension to his business? Twenty eight-year-old Chaitanya Muppala did just that. This young Almond House CEO and MD, enrolled in Stanford’s Seed programme because he was restlessly looking for a direction that would help him guide his father’s 20-year-old business grow and scale, creating jobs. By then he already held a degree in General Business Management and Entrepreneurship from the Sauder School of Business from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He wasn’t content with that.

“Stanford Seed sends world-renowned faculty and facilitators from Stanford University and other renowned experts to provide business training to owners of small-to-medium sized businesses like us. This was the best way to give a new direction to our business, I felt,” recalls Chaitanya. Seed is a Stanford Graduate School of Business-led initiative working to end the cycle of global poverty. One of Seed’s core components is the year-long Seed Transformation Program (STP), that helps established business leaders grow and scale their businesses and create jobs.

Guided route to success

All this, however, was not in Chaitanya’s plans when he set out for Canada in 2015 to earn himself a business degree. He was sure he wasn’t coming back to run a ‘sweet shop’. He was wary of being called a halwai (a person who makes sweets). Years later, Chaitanya is now the CEO of one of the city’s biggest sweet shop — Almond House and he isn’t shy of saying, “It was an interesting proposition for me.” A year before leaving for Canada, Chaitanya began running the business for a brief period of time. “That was to understand how everything works from close quarters,” he says.

Almond House was started by Chaitanya’s father Nagarjuna Muppala — a chemical engineer from BITS Pilani — in 1989 ‘for his own survival’ as Chaitanya points out. “When I was growing up, Almond House was a home-grown, well-maintained brand. We lived on the third floor, the other floors below us housed the Almond house kitchen. It was a business that opened a new outlet every few years. After our first store in 1989, the second store was opened in 2001 and then another in 2014,” says Chaitanya, as he explains why he wasn’t planning to come back and manage a sweet shop. He explains he wasn’t looking at heading a standard traditional business like everyone else.

The switch over

“Although I literally grew up in the sweet shop, I was sure I didn’t wish to be check-boxed into one category. At that point of time, I saw nothing new that could have been done even though I was restless to give it a new twist without diluting what Almond House meant as a brand,” recollects Chaitanya. He, however, took hold of the business that he had resisted without giving up on the innovation front. He kept making new additions to meet the ‘modern Instagram needs.’ The biggest challenge initially for him was to make the brand’s loyal staff agree to the changes. “It was a learning curve for both parties. My biggest target was to bring focus on retail experience, I wanted the brand to be a customer empowering experience driven one. Be as linear as possible (no bureaucracy) and operate through functional teams.” His other goal was to ensure a proper flow of communication to everyone who works with him: “to be a global leader in spreading happiness through pure and innovative food experiences.”

After taking on the reins, he also wanted to ensure that the brand found resonance with people across age groups. “This didn’t mean randomly expanding and opening branches, it meant understanding the food preferences of the millennial, the cooler things that trend on social media while meeting the needs of sustainability and functionality,” adds Chaitanya whose biggest idea was to introduce Indulge ice cream, that includes vegan desserts and a chaat place. In his free time, travelling is what Chaitanya indulges in.

(This column features Gen Next entrepreneurs who take their family business forward.)

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 4:46:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/almond-house-chaitanya-muppala-indian-sweets-indian-snacks/article26992354.ece

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