"Now, Dal Moti Mahal in a packet!" – The Hindu

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Its claim to fame is the invention of the tandoori chicken and butter chicken. But ironically enough, when Moti Mahal, the iconic 90-year old restaurant brand, launched its ready-to-eat processed foods at a glittering function here on Wednesday, there was no chicken on the RTE menu.

Instead, the five dishes available in Moti Mahal’s RTE are Dal Moti Mahal, Chana Pindi Masala, Aloo Zeera, Sabz Moti Biryani and Butter Gravy (without onion and garlic). The range is priced between Rs 69-99 for a 300 gm packet. “When we did our market survey, we found that people are wary of buying non-vegetarian convenience foods,” says Mr Monish Gujral, Managing Director, Moti Mahal Delux Management Services. “That’s why we have the butter gravy – the customer can add the chicken or paneer,” he adds. Isn’t Moti Mahal a rather late entrant to the RTE category? “Yes, it’s a late entry,” admits Mr Gujral, “but we have been so busy opening new outlets and concentrating on restaurant expansion that this has got delayed,” he defends. The chain which had just four restaurants in 2003, now has over 100 in India and abroad, growing rapidly through the franchise route.

Also, according to Mr Gujral, although the Indian RTE foods market size is poised to double by 2014, it will continue to remain a secondary market – typically most Indian households still order from a restaurant nearby with convenience foods still an emergency back-up option. However, he feels, it’s the NRI market which will keep the RTE packets flying off-the-shelves. “People take six months supply of packaged foods for their children studying abroad,” he says.

The packaged foods will be initially retailed through the Moti Mahal outlets as well as an online portal motimahalreadytoeat.com.

Once talks are finalised, it will also be available at departmental stores as well as local grocery stores. Right now Moti Mahal will start with 25,000 packets of RTE foods a month though it has a capacity to produce a lakh packets a month. Over time, the menu will also be expanded to include a spinach dish, malai kofta and Paneer lababdar, says Mr Gujral. Future plans include launching a range of spice mixes, including Chicken Tikka Masala , Chana Masala and Dal Makhani Masala, as well as doubling the number of restaurants from 100 to 200.

First chef from India to be invited to Le cordon Bleu to demonstrate in Paris. Monish is credited with the trailblazing turn-around of Moti Mahal, from being a small but iconic presence in Delhi, to becoming a multi-national corporation that is well on its way to defining how the world eats Indian food. A traditionalist, Monish has remained true to the signature dishes that made Moti Mahal a legend, while reinventing the dining experience into one that is exciting and avant garde to suit modern sensibilities.

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