Archit’s remarkable journey from finance to hospitality and entrepreneurship has drawn the attention of Entrepreneurs Today.
A finance professional with an impressive academic background and a CFA charter, Archit Singhal has made a noteworthy transition into the world of hospitality. Holding a BCom (H) and an MBA in Finance and Business Management from IIM Lucknow, his mastery of the numbers game is evident.
He is currently the creative force behind more than 10 hospitality brands, including Cocktail Week and India Bartender’s Guild. His innovative fusion of finance and hospitality has earned him recognition, such as the 2021 Economic Times Inspiring Leaders Award for North India.
With over six years of experience in investment banking and financial consultancy, having worked with EY, BDO, and Escorts MF, Archit’s trajectory embodies a compelling story of success and innovation.
How it all began
Archit’s inspiration for her journey into cocktails can be traced back to a humble beginning in 2014 when a cousin named Amit invited him to his home in Bangalore instead of heading out to a cocktail bar. To Archit’s surprise, Amit pulled out a cocktail kit and began mixing up some fantastic cocktails right at home. When Archit questioned why they weren’t going out, Amit’s response was simple – he didn’t want to drink and drive, and he believed they could enjoy the same quality drinks at home.
Returning to Delhi, Archit observed that at most parties, the drink menu consisted of just whiskey and water or vodka and coke, with limited knowledge about other cocktails. On the food side, people meticulously discussed the ingredients in sushi. Archit decided to approach multiple liquor companies with the idea of organizing cocktail-making classes for consumers. This led to the creation of Cocktail Master Classes in the city.
As Archit delved deeper into the world of cocktails, he recognized a gap in the market – there was no dedicated festival for cocktails in India. He embarked on a year-long research project with an agency to develop the concept of Cocktail Week.
Simultaneously, he saw a similar void in the wedding industry and began organizing cocktail bars at house parties, receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from guests. From that point on, there was no turning back in Archit’s journey.
What sets Archit apart is the ability to establish and maintain a portfolio of over 10 hospitality brands, each with a unique competitive advantage.
For instance, Elixir stands out with its capability to flawlessly execute remote and challenging destination weddings in India. Cocktail Week has successfully defended its intellectual property against imitations through a robust legal team.
The QSR brand, Chai Lelo, operates with a lean and profitable model that weathered tough times. Notably, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they distributed over 25,000 COVID meals to support their staff and contribute to a noble cause. Archit’s commitment to innovation and creativity remains a constant, resulting in trend-setting ideas across all business verticals.
Since leaving his job, he’s encountered substantial hurdles. Archit shares,
“Ever since I left my job, every new bigger goal has led to a difficult task, and I always believe that to reach a higher goal, we need to take bigger risks and make failure a part of the process.”
Throughout this journey, he faced skepticism, naysayers, and financial losses. He says,
“Right from running into major losses in the initial years in our IPs or running into disputes with partners, getting negative remarks on our work, or taking bigger projects which were not possible, at every turn we have come out stronger and executed some of the biggest or most challenging project in our industry.”
Disputes with partners, negative feedback on his work, and undertaking seemingly impossible projects were all part of the struggle. However, each challenge only fueled their determination, leading them to successfully execute some of the most significant and challenging projects in their industry.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, their Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) outlets faced a dramatic drop in sales, and staff were apprehensive about working. Recognizing the need of those stuck at home, especially the elderly, they swiftly converted their kitchens into seva (service) kitchens.
Notably, Chai Lelo was the only QSR brand in India to undertake this transformation during the second wave of the pandemic, delivering over 25,000 meals across Delhi to COVID-affected individuals in just 45 days. Archit also revealed,
“We received over 10 lakh donations from across the world to help deliver meals to COVID-19-hit people. We were able to deliver the highest-ever sales during COVID-19 and retain all our staff and outlets during all 3 pandemics.”
Archit’s journey has evolved in its definition of success over time. He acknowledges,
“Initially, we thought success was about creating strong brands; after a few years, the definition of success changed to making a profitable business with a long competitive edge and recently the mission and vision of our company has shifted to serving others and creating an impact.”
They’ve initiated numerous Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, with a particular focus on women’s empowerment.
One of their significant achievements has been training underprivileged women with no prior experience, equipping them with the skills needed to excel in high-paying careers within the company.
A highlight is when a male employee tragically passed away in a car accident, leaving behind his wife and one-year-old daughter. The company committed to supporting his family, and they trained his grieving widow to become a bartender. Within six months, she had become one of the highest-paid staff members in the organization, achieving financial independence and taking care of her family’s expenses.
They are actively working on establishing each of their brands as self-sustaining entities and implementing automation and streamlined processes to enhance efficiency. Recognizing the underutilization of technology in the event management industry, they are integrating tech solutions to play a pivotal role in brand growth.
A key focus is the recruitment of senior-level professionals in various verticals, promoting collaboration with industry partners, and expanding their reach through branding, social media, and affiliate marketing.
Their plans include both vertical and horizontal integration, with recent acquisitions, such as a catering brand, aimed at creating a professional setup for food and chaat catering. Collaboration with a leading US hospitality brand to develop a tea-focused Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) for the US market is also on the agenda. In addition, they are bringing one of the largest digital library networks from the US to the Indian B2C market.
With sleepless nights, long hours, and a resolute determination, he acknowledges that being an entrepreneur is far from easy. It’s a path that demands unwavering patience and a profound belief in one’s chosen course. Over the nine years of his entrepreneurial voyage, there have been over a hundred moments when he contemplated giving up, but he persevered, recognizing that failures are an inevitable part of the process, essential for achieving bolder goals.
This journey hasn’t been without its share of personal and professional sacrifices. Archit has made decisions against the advice of family, friends, and even his own staff. He emphasizes the significance of passionately pursuing one’s dream, acknowledging that, ultimately, no one understands it better than the dreamer. The challenges, adversities, and self-doubt have been constants, but the satisfaction derived from overcoming them and witnessing the fruits of labor has made it all worthwhile.
As of late, Archit’s focus has evolved towards a more substantial purpose and cause. He recognizes the finite nature of time and the imperative to make every moment count. His message is clear: continue to explore new avenues, find a higher calling, and tirelessly work towards making a lasting contribution to humanity.