Anything chocolate is exciting for people like us and so it was when Chocolicious opened its outlet in Belagavi at Shukrawar peth.
The founder of Chocolicious personally replied to my query about hot beverages within minutes when I wrote to him on social media, much to my surprise. That’s when it dawned that this is someone who is passionate about his business and food. Meet Vinayak Lohokare, who opened his Belagavi outlet last month and has been on an expansion spree.
Vinayak hails from Pune and is a mechanical engineer by education. His story is not about that starry-eyed boy who does something unimaginable on his road to success. In fact, it’s been a well-thought-of journey, following his instincts.
At the beginning of his career, fresh out of engineering college, the placements were more in IT roles, much to the chagrin of someone who wanted to work in design and machines. So he ended up taking a job in just the same, although on the last day of the placement season. He moved to Gurgaon first and then to Bangalore and Pune, switching roles from production to supply chain and purchase.
He spent 5 years in that company but decided he needed to move out for better prospects. Meanwhile, he had started a small café in Akurdi (Pune) serving fresh beverages and snacks to college students nearby. He invested from a personal loan of Rs. 5 lakhs for this venture. He had not informed his parents about opening a café and they were in for a surprise. Vinayak worked all day at his job and traveled to handle the café from 7.30 to 11.30 at night. It became hugely successful, but that was also when Vinayak had to take a call about his career path which put him in a dilemma.
He was married by now, but the new company he had joined drained him of his time and so it became obvious that he must choose between a job or focus on his café which was on an exciting growth trajectory of its own. With support from his architect wife Sharmilee, Vinayak decided he would devote full time to the Café.
He also started getting franchise offers and in 2017, Chocolicious started with franchisee outlets in Kalyan, Jamnagar and Karad. It made sense to expand through this model which turned to almost 40 outlets by the time the first wave of the pandemic hit the country in 2020. After a setback of almost 2 years, Chocolicious gained massive momentum and today has over 80 outlets across India, in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Rajasthan garnering a cumulative turnover of Rs. 15 Crores last year. The outlets have a standard menu and décor and serve delicious chocolate and coffee-based drinks and snacks. He has also started a central manufacturing unit in Pune that supplies all basic ingredients to franchisee outlets across the country.
On his Belagavi visit, Vinayak tried the Biryani on recommendation and took home Kunda which he hadn’t heard about. He intends to expand in Belagavi in the days to come. He mentions that Belagavi may be considered a tier II city, but if it merits a second and third outlet, he should have been here earlier!
Swatee Jog is the founder of Eeshanya Ventures and www.mavinstore.com.
She is also an entrepreneur, author, columnist, heritage enthusiast, poet, and soon-to-be billionaire. Reach her at [email protected]