The UK-based casual dining restaurant chain PizzaExpress has kicked off the process of starting its India operation, almost eight months after signing a 50-50 joint venture partnership with Bharti Family Office.
As a first step, a chief executive officer (CEO) has been hired for the India business, and the company is learnt to be looking at a year-end launch of the chain.
Ramit Mittal, son of Rakesh Mittal, vice-chairman and managing director of Bharti Enterprises and elder brother of Bharti Group Chairman Sunil Mittal, is spearheading the PizzaExpress project from the Bharti Family Office side. Bharti Family Office is an initiative of the promoters of the Bharti group through their personal investments. The Bharti group’s business interest ranges from telecom to media to retail.
Since Ramit Mittal, 33, is already based in Mumbai as co-founder and joint managing director of Bulldog Media and Entertainment, PizzaExpress is likely to have its India headquarters in the same city, people close to the development say. Among other programmes, Bulldog Media is known for the television serial it produced—Kya Aap Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hain — Hindi adaptation of the international hit Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader.
The first few outlets of the PizzaExpress chain are expected to open in metros like Mumbai and Delhi.
An official representing the joint venture confirmed that Vivek Mathur, who ‘s coming from the Godrej group, has been appointed CEO for PizzaExpress India. Over the next two to three months, many more senior and middle-level appointments are slated to take place.
Mathur was executive director and president (marketing, sales and innovation) at Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. Prior to that, he was managing director at Godrej Hershey Ltd and chief operating officer (marketing, sales) at Godrej Sara Lee. He has also worked with Tata Global Beverages Ltd and Hindustan Unilever Ltd. When asked about the chain opening plans, a company spokesperson said: “The joint venture is making progress as per our plans. We continue to work on developing the brand, business and team in India. However, at this stage, we don’t have anything specific to share.”
Last October, Gourmet Investments, promoted by Bharti Family Office, and the UK-based PizzaExpress Holdings had announced the joint venture to launch the PizzaExpress chain of restaurants in India. This will be the second coming for PizzaExpress, as its first India venture with the V K Modi group had failed to take off some eight years ago. The 46-year-old PizzaExpress has over 450 restaurants across Britain, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and West Asian countries.
Ramit is one of the next-gen Mittals to have already worked with the family business. While his present assignment is with Bharti Family Office, he was earlier engaged with Easy Day, Bharti’s retail venture. Rakesh Mittal’s younger son Rajit Mittal is currently not related to the Bharti business—he is co-founder and director of Tatva Renewable Energy that provides green solutions to several companies including Bharti units. Rajit Mittal, too, was initiated into the Bharti business earlier when he worked on many projects in mobile technology and retail across group companies.
Sunil Mittal’s twins—Kavin and Shravin—are both engaged in the group business. While Kavin Mittal is the head of strategy and product development at a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Japan’s telecom and internet major Softbank, Shravin Mittal is a manager with the group’s telecom business in Africa. Sunil Mittal’s daughter Eiesha is married and not engaged in Bharti group family business.
The youngest brother of Sunil Mittal, Rajan Mittal, who’s handling the retail business of the group as vice-chairman and managing director of Bharti Enterprises, has two sons—Zubin and Armaan—who are studying and still have some years before getting initiated into the family business.