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NIT Engineer Builds Automated Momo-Making Machine, Earns Rs 25 Cr a Year

Realising that there were no good momo joints in Hyderabad, Zomoz founder Shouvik Dhar innovated an automated momo machine that can make lakhs of momos in a day!

NIT Engineer Builds Automated Momo-Making Machine, Earns Rs 25 Cr a Year

What is the common thread that has intricately woven our country’s vast lengths and depths into a small yet spicy and flavour-packed delight? Here’s a hint: these are tiny pockets of goodness, generously filled with either succulent meat or vibrant veggies, and served alongside fiery red chutney and creamy mayo.

If you haven’t guessed already — it’s momos!

This popular dish captivates the taste buds of children, youth, and elders alike, evolving into an emotion for many.

Reflecting on a few years ago, these heavenly pockets of flavours weren’t as readily available as they are now. Growing up with a mother who hails from the Northeast, momos were a treat that she crafted on special occasions.

It became a family affair — my mom intricately weaving the momo design, me managing the dough, and my brother always ready to dash out for any last-minute ingredients. Our family friends would even take a break from their busy schedules just to savour the taste of my mother’s special momos.

Like any other Indian household, we would discuss elaborate business plans while delighting in the tender meat filling. The common consensus — since no one else is making it, you’re destined for huge success. But while my mother was satisfied with the compliments from friends and family, someone out there was taking the business opportunity seriously.

This notable success story in the ‘momo world’ is of Shouvik Dhar, the Founder of Prabhati Foods Private Limited and Zomoz.

Zomoz harbours a unique secret — beyond simply delighting lakhs of customers with its delicious momos, it has pioneered an automated momo-making machine. “We stand as the only brand with 100 percent automated operations at our centre. Thanks to our momo machine, we’ve been able to significantly scale up production,” Shouvik Dhar tells The Better India.

Spreading the joy of momos

Born and raised in Silchar, Assam, Shouvik developed a fondness for momos from a young age. While pursuing his studies at NIT Silchar, Shouvik had no initial plans of venturing into entrepreneurship.

“After completing my engineering, I joined DRDO as a scientist. Though I hadn’t envisioned a career switch, I felt a strong inclination to pursue a master’s course,” he explains.

Following his stint with DRDO, Shouvik decided to pursue an MBA. “After completing my MBA, I realised that starting my own venture was my true calling. Before Zomoz, I ventured into several businesses, ranging from a skill training company to a tech firm,” he recalls.

Shouvik realised that there were no good momo places in Hyderabad and decided to start Zomoz.
Shouvik realised that there were no good momo places in Hyderabad and decided to start Zomoz. Picture credit: Shouvik Dhar

Despite the success of his businesses, Shouvik desired to explore an untapped market. “Momos are a staple in the Northeast, integral to our lives. However, when I was living in Hyderabad, I noticed a lack of awareness about them,” he reflects.

“For instance, people in Hyderabad had not tasted the magic of momos! There were some vendors here and there but people did not have many good options. I could see that there might be a market there and welcome a new product,” he says.

With not a lot of competition in hand, Shouvik decided to sell his existing tech business and take the leap with Zomoz.

In 2016, Zomoz opened its first outlet in Inorbit Mall in Hyderabad. “It was our first joint. We immediately started to see an increase in the sales,” he recalls.

“I knew people who made exceptional momos, so I hired a few individuals from Northeast India and brought them here. We started the operations with a small team, and currently, we have grown to 173 people and 75 outlets across India,” he beams.

Inventing a fully automated momo-making system

Once the first outlet was opened in Hyderabad, Zomoz started gaining popularity and more outlets started springing up.

In 2017, the company was approached by a cinema chain to supply momos in all their theatres in Hyderabad, Kerala and Vijayawada. “I was happy and we readily accepted, however, in three months, we realised that our kitchens and staff are not gonna be able to meet the demand,” he says.

The automated momo machines can make up to 2.25 lakh momos a day.
The automated momo machines can make up to 2.25 lakh momos a day. Picture credit: Shouvik Dhar

The obvious choice of hiring more people was there but Shouvik decided to go for something different. “The process of hiring and training felt lengthy and repetitive to me, so I decided to innovate something new. This set me on a quest to explore different types of machines used for making food items to eventually invent my own,” he shares.

Shouvik embarked on journeys to countries like China and Korea to study their practices. “I discovered various machinery, reverse-engineered many, and ultimately developed my own momo-making machine. By 2018, the machine was up and running. Currently, our company operates entirely on automated machinery,” he proudly states.

Explaining how the machine works, he says, “There’s the outer cover and the filling. In our case, the filling goes through a meticulous process from cutting to washing. Let’s take the example of a vegetable momo being prepared. All the veggies arrive in the kitchen and then the cutting process is automated. Various machines, ranging from dicing to shredding, handle this stage.”

He continues, “After the automated cutting, the veggies are washed and transferred to a cooking wok. We use an automated cooking wok — a robotic wok, essentially — to cook the filling. Multiple woks are operated simultaneously to meet demand.”

During this phase, Shouvik explains that the focus shifts to dough processing, with the dough being prepared in a vacuum dough mixer — a specialised equipment that ensures even mixing by creating a vacuum.

Once the dough and filling are prepared, the dough is fed into a forming machine, where it is taken in, and the filling is loaded onto a filling hopper.

“These machines work automatically to shape the momos. Each production line consists of three different units, and each line can produce around 8,000 pieces in an hour. Each machine can produce 2.25 lakh momos every day. The momos come out like on a conveyor belt, moving to the other end and entering the steamer. They are steamed for approximately four and a half minutes,” he says.

Following the steaming process, the momos are placed in a pre-cooling chamber and then shock-frozen. This rapid freezing process ensures the preservation of the momos. Once frozen, the momos are packed, and they have a shelf life of about nine months.

Currently, Zomoz makes more than one lakh momos every day, and the company is earning Rs 25 crore annually.

Shouvik is planning to open 13 more outlets in the UAE.
Shouvik is planning to open 13 more outlets in the UAE. Picture credit: Shouvik Dhar

The company makes a wide range of momos including chicken momos, chicken and cheese momos, vegetable momos, paneer momos, crispy fried momos and more. Among these, 65 percent of the demand comes from chicken momos, he adds.

Yashika Rawat, a regular customer of Zomoz says, “I did not know that the momos are actually not made by a chef. Momos made by a fully automated machine sounds so absurd but I have to say that it tastes the same, or even better! My favourite is chicken and cheese momos and they always taste fresh.” 

Talking about his future plans, Shouvik says, “Tier two cities, known for their price sensitivity in comparison to tier one cities like Bengaluru, have proven to be a promising market for us. Despite the price sensitivity, our outlets in tier-two cities have demonstrated significant success. Over the next few months, or within the next year, we plan to further expand our presence in the existing cities and explore additional tier-two cities in proximity.”

Furthermore, he adds that they have collaborated with another food business to open 13 outlets in the UAE.

Edited by Pranita Bhat

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