Selling water to fishWhen Niven Amatya returned to Nepal after living abroad for several years, he realised that given how ubiquitously popular momos were, the dumplings could be his ticket to success if he played his cards right.
When Niven Amatya returned to Nepal after living abroad for several years, he realised that given how ubiquitously popular momos were, the dumplings could be his ticket to success if he played his cards right.
Customers already had a taste for momos and they were easy to manufacture and serve; the only thing that was missing was a consistently quality product that was married with great customer service.
That is how Bota Momo was born in May, 2016. Starting out with a single storefront in Kumaripati, today Bota Momo is fast becoming a dominant food and beverage brand in Kathmandu with four different locations and two more on the way.
Selling momos to Kathmandu’s residents might sound akin to selling water to fish, but Bota’s unprecedented success has forced customers and industry insiders alike to stop and take notice.
In this interview with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Amatya talks about how his company ensures consistency in quality, about employee retention and why having a strong system is paramount for any business to succeed. Excerpts:
In such a short span of time Bota has become a well-recognised brand in Kathmandu. What has been the secret to the success?
It isn’t a secret that people are crazy over momos. More than other food items, it is always momos that people want—as a snack and as a meal. So, the decision to start Bota Momo was instinctive. When so many Nepalis are in love with momos, we knew that if it came paired with consistent quality, great taste and amazing service the business would do great as well.
Bota’s ultimate goal is to provide customers with three things—service, quality and cleanliness. Before kicking off Bota, we opened our central kitchen to streamline the production and make it systematic. When we opened our first outlet in Kumaripati, the response was overwhelming. People were actually queuing up for our momos. If it wasn’t for the team’s determination and dedication, opening four outlets within 18 months would have been next to impossible. As long as there is a system and coordination, everything runs smoothly. It is the system that should drive the whole organisation.
When working in the food and beverage industry, precision is paramount—even a small mistake can have years of blowback, undoing everything that has been done. How do you ensure that your product and services are consistent in all of your four outlets?
Food industry as a whole is quite delicate. If you slip, your entire business can go down the drain within a few minutes. However, to maintain your brand’s consistency, it is very crucial that you ensure quality control. In our industry, we work with various suppliers and it is absolutely crucial that we perform quality checks on not just our facilities but theirs as well. At Bota, we make sure that we don’t compromise on our values, rules and procedures. To sustain your brand, you need to follow the guidelines to the letter.
Different locations need consistency, which needs a strong system in place. How do you make sure that the system works exactly the way it is supposed to?
It is essential to follow a system when you’re running a business. At Bota we strictly follow a hierarchical system. We have people from the management and the head chefs who ensure that the quality of every food item is consistent before it gets dispatched to our outlets. We have two-pronged quality assurance system—first the products are checked by the managers and then the chefs. If you look at Bota’s central kitchen, there aren’t any variations on the momos, patties or our rolls. As long as the system is strong, I don’t think inconsistencies can occur, apart from the occasional ones cause by human error.
The food and beverage industry has a lot of staff turnover. How does Bota Momo ensure that it retains its staff?
At Bota we have more than 200 employees. It is true that this industry has a lot of turnover, but fortunately for us, we have not faced such issues so far. Turnovers happen when people aren’t happy and when organisations do not understand the value of their employees. But at Bota we know the value of our employees and work towards making them happy. To retain our staff, we offer them different incentives apart from their regular salaries. This is a morale booster for those who want to grow further. Apart from that, if a chef plans to leave the organisation, we already have staff that are in line to be trained to replace them. Making momos is not a rocket science at the end of the day. It is the system—strict guidelines, constant appraisals and encouragement—that is the key. In our case, whether it’s a dishwasher or a helper; everyone is equally respected within the organisation.
Your brand depends on quick and friendly service. What are your customer service mantras?
Smile. Smile is a simple language that everybody understands. Many of our employees aren’t experienced and that’s the best tip you can offer to a beginner. At Bota, we ask our employees to smile and maintain a smart body language. A smile can change a customer’s whole day and it helps maintain the image of the brand.
Any advice for those who want to kick start their own businesses?
Nepal has a lot of opportunities for those who aspire to begin something new and innovative. If you grab the opportunity, anything is possible. No matter what, be confident about what you do. Even if you own something small, be happy and confident about it. If you’re confident, that’s the mark of a successful person. Also, it’s good to be hard working but if you don’t have skills to convince or persuade people, it may all go to vain. Being able to carry yourself in public and to network with others is crucial if you are to succeed in life, whether that is with your own business or with any other career.