The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The bridge, the river and kids' play. Brilliantly captured by Sujay Kumar Das.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The middle class brand that charms the mind

I got hooked to this brand in my first job, which was late nineties. At that time it was young too.  One of its outlets was near our office and I used to be one of the two volunteers among the new batch of trainees who would love to go there to fetch refreshment for the Sales team after a hard day on the field. I am a savoury person and it didn’t take long for me to get familiar with all items in the savoury section of the outlet.
Monginis still leads the cake shop space at ease in Kolkata and its suburbs in the economy segment and the reasons aren’t hard to gauge. It delivers value for money, which includes a reasonable quality. It started long after Kathleen and was followed by new entrant Sugar n Spice in a few years, but it left the former far behind and the latter still has a long way to go before it becomes a challenger. Sugar n Spice, interestingly, is often visible near Monginis, but it is still struggling (or is it really trying?)  to come close to the quality that Monginis has been consistently delivering.
Yes, Monginis is far behind a Cakes or Kookie Jar in cakes, but who cares? There’s no competition as such, as they operate in mutually exclusive spaces. And as a matter of fact, there are customers who like both kinds of brands. I am one, for instance.  The choice depends on the occasion, mood or budget.
Being a loyal customer, what I feel, based on my observation of more than a decade and a half, about what makes Monginis tick is that it completely understands its audience- the middle class Kolkatan and suburbanite- what they like and how much they are happy to pay for it. The factors that contribute to its consistent leadership include a knack for constantly refreshing its range (That is adding new products and dropping products which aren’t finding patronage), right pricing with nominal revision time to time (Its chicken patty is sold at Rs 20 and I can’t remember the time when it was revised from Rs 18) and excellent penetration. If you are in proper Kolkata, you aren’t probably very far from a Monginis outlet.

Few of my constant favourites are the very basic chicken patty, chilli paneer roll and Date Walnut Slice (which is capable to impress those who swear by premium cake shops). Over all these years of my patronage I've tried almost all savoury items, liked most of them and ticked off some that I have found to be falling in quality. Among a little expensive items, I like Chicken 65 roll (Rs 35), as it satiates my craving of something very spicy and non-veg in the afternoon. I don’t really have a weakness for its cakes, as I don’t have a sweet tooth and generally stick to its savoury section. However I love its baked pudding (named Manohara Baked), garnished with nuts. Of late Monginis is adding premium products to offer its customers a wider choice and among them are Chicken 65, Olive Chicken Sub, Fishwich (a fried fish sandwich) and various mousse. The sub is a favourite, but Fishwich didn’t work for me. I felt it could do with less of soggy French fries and a bit of more fish. Liked the butterscotch mousse.

I have a friend with who I regularly exchange notes on our Monginis recommendations. One of his favourites was potato cheese sandwich which they no more sell. One such favourite of mine is chicken salad roll which I sorely miss.