A successful food entrepreneur today, with a turnover of over Rs 18 crore, Debasish Majumder recalls when he did not have money for his mother’s surgery or even Rs 200 for his wife to buy a new pair of shoes.
The owner of Momomia, in Guwahati, which was started in 2018 with Rs 3.5 lakh from a 110 sqft shop, Debasish has a rather inspiring story to share.
Speaking to The Better India, the 34-year-old says, “Growing up in Habra in West Bengal, I was always made to believe that as a child from a lower-middle-class background, studying to become a banker, engineer or a doctor would be the best thing for me. Internalising that, I grew up to become a banker.”
Debasish remembers the day he got his first job as an office assistant in a Guwahati-based company — 26 November 2005. “I also remember my first salary was Rs 1,800. But after the first day’s work, I went home and told my mother I wanted to quit. It was at her insistence that I persisted and grew from that first job,” he recollects.
Giving wings to his dreams
As an office assistant, Debasish says that a lot of his time would be spent running errands. During this time, he would look at all the glass cabins and hope to be seated in one of those. He says, “I went up to the general manager and told him about this dream. I wanted to be seated in one of those cabins, with air-conditioning and work on my own computer. It was a small dream but I worked towards it.”
Four years later, in 2009, when Debasish resigned from the company as a chief accountant, he did it from one of those very cabins. He rose from being an office assistant to the chief accountant. He also pursued a career as a banker and was drawing a good salary as well but he adds, “Even though the money was good at the bank job I was not satisfied with what I was doing. I wanted to become an entrepreneur.”
‘I quit my well-paying job six months after my wedding.’
He says, “It was one of the toughest decisions I ever made. I was newlywed and decided to give up my well-paying job to pursue a passion. Surprisingly, my mother and wife were very encouraging and did not for once doubt my decision. On the contrary, they backed me up.”
Ritashree Majumder, Debasish’s wife says, “Debasish is a very honest person. I was confident that if he set out to become an entrepreneur, he would succeed. And if by chance he did not, I would still have supported him.” She continues to say that life would be boring if one did not take such risks.
Having known him for over nine years now, she admits, “There was a time when he could not afford to buy me a pair of footwear. Today, if he chooses to he can buy an entire footwear store,” she laughs. “It doesn’t take too long for life to make a 180° turn. Of course, we made some small sacrifices along the way to enjoy the larger benefits today.”
The first business that Debasish started was in 2017, which was an ice cream shop. “That did not take off and I made a loss of almost Rs 10 lakh at that time. It was a huge loss. Even then my mother and wife supported me,” he says, adding that the idea to start a momo joint came to him when he was visiting an outlet in Guwahati where he felt he could serve better momos.
With a loan of about Rs 3.5 lakh with an interest rate of 10 per cent, he launched Momomia in 2018, a year after he shut down the ice cream shop. “I had to ensure that the location was prime to ensure a good footfall. That also meant higher rental rates,” he says. Nothing came easy but Debasish persisted with the idea.
“I started operations with a team of three others. On days when they didn’t show up to work, I would cook, clean, serve and deliver. Eventually, when I approached investors I was told that my operations were too small to be considered,” he says. The first year was tough, with monthly sales just about touching Rs 1.5 lakh. Just when the business seemed to be picking up there was political turmoil in the state, says Debasish.
“The National Register of Citizens (NRC) issue was gaining momentum in the state and even before COVID-19 lockdown was announced we were experiencing a lockdown of sorts,” he says. The pressure of returning the loan amount was also growing. Ultimately, Debasish convinced the money lender to allow him to make small payments as and when he got the money.
“I have harboured thoughts of self-harm. I have wept on my wife’s lap. I have felt dejected and incapable of carrying on. I have had several moments of despair where I almost gave up, not just on the business but also on life,” he says.
However, Ritashree was a constant supporter who never let the negative thoughts take over. She was certain that there would be better times ahead for them.
Soon, business picked up and Debasish shares how on 14 February 2021 the first franchise store was opened in Haridwar. “That first franchise model worked so well for us that in a year we had opened up 55 such franchise outlets in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh,” he says.
Today, Momomia provides employment to over 200 people across 50+ outlets. Many of these people are able to send their children to school for the first time while some others have, for the very first time, been able to save some money after all their monthly expenses.
Meanwhile Momomia’s customers can choose from 100 different kinds of momos.
Debasish says, “Mostly only chicken and vegetarian momos are available in the market. I changed that and introduced a variety. We offer pan-fried, tandoori, Schezwan, fried and the regular steamed version.”
While a plate of veg momos costs Rs 50, one of the most expensive dishes on the menu is the Prawn Schezwan momo which is priced at Rs 130 a plate.
Debasish, who began his career as an office assistant, had just his dreams to fuel his journey. His story is one of perseverance and hard work that ultimately paid off.
Click here to access the official website of Momomia.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)