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Jumbo King Vada Pav - A Recipe for Success

Faculty Contributor: Seema Gupta, Assistant Professor
Student Contributors: Ankur Bhargava, Anuj Pradhan, Mayur Kapur, Pranay Shetty

In a space dominated by foreign giants, a small local player Jumbo King Vada Pav tries to make his mark by a judicious mix of creativity, identification of the right customer and efficient use of the resources at its disposal. The critical question is: can it grow to become the market leader in this category? The article analyses the various aspects related to brand building and brand positioning in the given context and looks at the role to be played by different media channels to achieve the desired marketing results.

With the rapid growth of fast food chains, catering outlets and food joints across the country, the Indian fast food industry is slowly witnessing a rapid turnaround from being a small, indigenous and an unorganized practice to a multi-billion, lucrative and highly specialized business. Alongside the likes of McDonald's, Subway and Pizza Hut, a large number of Indian food chains are ready to give the foreign giants a run for their money. A prominent name in this category is Jumbo King Vada Pav. Given its unique value proposition and strong local positioning, it can quickly become a tough competitor to other food chain franchises, Indian or otherwise. It needs a strategy to optimally utilize its resources to achieve effective results in terms of customer attraction, increasing sales, advertising and proper use of media. This article provides an integrated marketing view of the various strategies suitable for a fast food joint like the Jumbo King.

Jumbo King - The Journey So Far

Jumbo King began its eventful journey to brand the vada-pav on 23rd August 2001. Deriving inspiration from the western fast-food model and applying it to Indian cuisine, Jumbo King was launched with the intention of addressing the constitutional right of the common man to have access to hygienic food at affordable prices. Today, Jumbo King is the largest seller of vada-pavs in Mumbai, and the first company to launch a marketing campaign built around Mumbai's most popular food item1.

Jumbo King currently has 43 stores, mostly in Mumbai and other towns in Maharashtra. Around 150,000 vada-pavs are sold every day in Mumbai alone2. The realization is clear - there is still a lot of untapped potential in the market, and expansion is a must for growth in the future. However, taking the concept of selling vada pavs outside the city of Mumbai is a big challenge. Moreover, increasing awareness and sales even within Mumbai alone poses significant challenges. Hence what is required is to find a distinct gap in the market, target an expanded customer base, reposition accordingly and send out the message as creatively and effectively as possible.

Competitive Positioning - Filling the Gap

While players like McDonald's, Haldiram's, Nirula's etc have focused on a lifestyle positioning with a view to attract middle class families, other players like Pizza Hut, Dominos etc have tried to attract customers with their proposition of quick service and a large product variety on offer. A price conscious but pleasure-seeking middle class Indian consumer has certainly taken up this new wave of fast food in good spirits. On the other hand, Jumbo King has till now targeted the middle and lower class commuters and workers mainly in Mumbai and has positioned itself based on the attributes of price, quantity and local taste. To grow exponentially and expand into other markets, it is essential to target the right type of customer. In today's changing scenario, students, professionals and daily commuters have become prominent customer segments and Jumbo King cannot afford to overlook them, given their high propensity to consume snacks.

Repositioning involves identification of the right customers, in addition to the existing ones and also understanding what the customers really want from the product. In Jumbo King's case, the new target group of professionals, students and commuters makes it imperative to emphasize quick service, cleanliness, taste and affordability. At present, it is observed that most of the food chains and outlets, Indian or otherwise, are banking on the extensive variety on offer and the ambience of the joint. There is hardly anything specifically adapted for people who are constantly on-the-go. Moreover, few outlets target medium and low income groups significantly. Hence an association needs to be developed between Jumbo King and travelers which will position it as the obvious choice for daily commuters and the medium-to-low income groups. This will significantly garner more leverage when it comes to expansion outside Mumbai since positioning on price, hygiene and service is a good bet to build on in a new market.

Creative Strategy - Making the Difference

Identifying the right advertising objectives before embarking on a creative strategy is crucial to the success of the entire marketing plan. This aspect becomes even more critical when one is dealing with a repositioning due to previously entrenched perceptions of the brand. An essential feature of the product (vada pav) which should be considered is that it doesn't need a person to ask the question again and again - "Should I buy it or not?". People buy vada pavs whenever they feel hungry and don't think twice about it. Hence to make something unusual out of the ordinary, the strategies of advertising should include highlighting the benefits of the product in creative ways, running an awareness drive to attract new customers and projecting vada pav as a snack which can change people's lifestyles.

Identifying the right advertising objectives becomes even more critical when one is dealing with a repositioning due to previously entrenched perceptions of the brand.

In Jumbo King's case the advertising objectives are mainly twofold - building the category need for snacks as an alternative for proper food and building brand equity for Jumbo King. The 'Indian fast food' category needs to be popularized among the target audience as a convenient way of having a hygienic snack when in a hurry. In what is largely an unbranded market as of now, Jumbo King has a unique opportunity to create a brand identity for itself similar to that of McDonald's in the US. Creating such an identity would entail associating the brand with local flavor, fast service, convenience and travel.

As an example of a brand identity creation strategy, one can consider suitable modifications to the company's logo to make it look more stylish and convey the impression of speed, while retaining a number of elements manifest in the old logo. Another exercise can involve developing brand taglines to be delivered in regional languages (Marathi is the obvious choice in the present case). Catching the attention of commuters, most of who are in a hurry, is not an easy task and therefore identifying bottlenecks (which require commuters to wait e.g. elevators) where the message can be effectively delivered is crucial. Even in modes of delivery both traditional and nontraditional modes of advertising should be employed.

Traditional Advertising

For a brand that is small, largely regional and warrants a small budget, the most effective means of reaching out to the public is through the print medium. Small billboards, placed in strategic locations where commuters wait (like on buses, trains, ticket counters, petrol pumps etc), can be most effective in pushing the consumer towards an impulse purchase. Slogans like "When your tank is full, why let your stomach go empty?" and "The law says you can't drink and drive, but who ever said anything about eating?" can effectively be used by Jumbo King at petrol pumps and traffic signals. Again catchy statements like "Isn't it time for your stomach to get a top-up too?" can be used in front of mobile shops and general stores.

Bigger billboards and posters at railways stations and on trains and buses reinforce brand identity. They can appeal at an emotional level to the consumer regarding the spirit of the city they live in and tie that in to the brand. A possible campaign of this type for Jumbo King will emphasize the intimate relation of the food chain with Mumbai city and its people and will aim at binding the spirit of living in Mumbai with the brand that signifies speed, affordability and pride in eating a local snack.

Non-Traditional Modes of Advertising

Indian snacks are not exactly renowned for health and hygiene. Since Jumbo King belongs to this category of food items, PR campaigns could be an effective tool in dispelling any such concerns that a consumer may have. Newspapers, magazine articles and press releases talking about the quality of food at Jumbo King and its stringent adherence to hygienic standards can go a long way in changing customer perceptions about the category and the brand. PR campaigns talking about the entrepreneurial stories of the young founders of initiatives like Jumbo King can give a lot of publicity to the concerned brand and this comes at no cost. Other innovative means of reaching the consumers like printing out city maps or train/bus timetables (with information on Jumbo King's outlets) for commuters and distributing them can be employed.

Being a low involvement product with a target customer group that is mostly 'on the go', the challenges of reaching this segment are many. Designing a really great advertisement and putting it on TV or a big billboard on the road in all probability will not translate into sales. Creative advertisements must be complemented with equally creative ways of placing these advertisements so that they are noticed. Jumbo King is about speed and convenience and hence locations and objects which are associated with these attributes (like bus-train time tables, guides, road signs etc) should be used to integrate ideas with their execution as a part of the Jumbo King identity.

Media Planning - Showing the World

Both the traditional as well as non-traditional strategies for advertising offer great opportunities for creative marketers to show off their skills in convincing people to buy their products. Preparing a catchy and innovative advertising campaign is no easy task and a well prepared creative plan can work wonders for the company and its products. But that is just one side of the story. A marketer may have done an excellent job in identifying the target audience and preparing an excellent commercial for them, but what use is all that if it doesn't reach them? That is where an effective media strategy comes into the picture. One needs not just be creative and different in terms of preparing ads, but should also be adept at executing those well prepared ads to perfection.

Media planning is all about determining the media habits of consumers in the target group and formulating how this knowledge can be exploited to reach the target group effectively. For a budget conscious brand like Jumbo King, it becomes even more important to have a judicious mix of media since targeting all media channels (TV, print, radio etc) can be prohibitively expensive. Different media channels can have different impact on the customers at different costs -

Print Media

This can be a very effective medium for the franchise since it has the maximum reach among the target audience. Since Jumbo King is a budget-constrained and predominantly regional brand, local language newspapers and magazines can be cost effective sources of advertising.

Television Media

Television is a very popular source of entertainment amongst students and professionals and this popularity can be tapped by Jumbo King for reaching these people who form a substantial portion of its target audience. Again regional channels will hold the key for Jumbo King since they are cheaper and not averse to advertising 'insignificant' products like vada pav.

Radio Media

Jumbo King can also make use of FM radio channels to send across their message, cheaply and effectively. FM radio is a very popular entertainment source for commuters and professionals and hence the message can spread across far and wide at minimal cost.

Internet Media

Since Jumbo King aims to target students and professionals, internet can be a very important medium for advertising in the future. Strategies such as blogs, banners, websites etc can provide good publicity to Jumbo King with minimum cost incurred and also create an interactive environment for customers to provide their views about the company and the product.

Another important part of the media stratagem is to evaluate expenditure by competitive brands. This provides an idea of the relative performance of brands corresponding to the spending done. In the present case, Jumbo King's competitors like McDonald's, which have large budgets, can afford to go for Continuous/Pulsing strategies (advertising regularly or with very short breaks) on TV. But for smaller players like Jumbo King, it is necessary to carefully choose the advertising media and formulate a proper timing strategy, also taking factors like future growth and expansion into consideration.


Devising a marketing plan for any brand requires a combination of consumer insights, creative thinking and strategic execution. An integrated approach needs to be reiterated to effectively bring out the intended message to the target consumers. In Jumbo King's case, it is of utmost importance to position the brand along parameters such as affordability, local taste and quick service since these features can differentiate it from the existing competition. The target audience should incorporate the new breed of potential customers like students, professionals etc which will play a key role in determining the success of brands in the future.

Creative techniques assume a very important role for upcoming brands like Jumbo King since they are looking at getting new customers and expanding to new markets. Innovative ways of disseminating messages can work wonders in such situations. Again, media planning is an integral part of any creative strategy and for Jumbo King to reach to maximum number of prospects; the sources should be picked judiciously. In a nutshell, brands like Jumbo King have a lot of potential and given the right mix of strategy and advertising, such brands can achieve phenomenal success in the future.


Seema Gupta is an Assistant Professor in the Marketing Area at IIM Bangalore. She holds a Ph.D. from M.L. Sukhadia University, Udaipur (2001) and an M.B.A. from R.A. Poddar Institute of Management, Jaipur (1993). She can be reached at

Ankur Bhargava (PGP 2007-09) holds an Integrated M. Tech. in Mathematics and Computing from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi. He can be reached at

Mayur Kapur (PGP 2007-09) holds a B. Tech. in Mechanical Engineering from Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology (TIET), Patiala. He can be reached at

Anuj Pradhan (PGP 2007-09) holds a B. Tech. in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay (Mumbai). He can be reached at

Pranay Shetty (PGP 2007-09) holds a B. Tech. in Information Technology from National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK), Surathkal. He can be reached at


Marketing, Advertising, Jumbo King Vada Pav, Media Planning


  1. Jumbo King's Official Website, Last accessed on October 30, 2008.
  2. The Telegraph, 'Hot Potatoes', Last accessed on October 30, 2008.
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