Pakistan enters $1 trillion cloud kitchen market as pandemic rages on

This undated file photo released by Hotpod shows a chef reviewing a food order. (Photo courtesy: Hotpod)
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Updated 08 November 2020

Pakistan enters $1 trillion cloud kitchen market as pandemic rages on

  • Estimates suggest the global cloud kitchen market can reach $1 trillion by 2030
  • The business has found traction in Pakistan due to growing demand for online food delivery and rising real-estate costs

KARACHI: Pakistan entered the $1 trillion global cloud kitchen market amid rising coronavirus infections this year, generating significant interest among restaurant owners as the world was forced to rethink its passion for dining.
A cloud kitchen restaurant, also known as dark kitchen, ghost kitchen, and satellite or franchise restaurant, is a delivery-only concept. It receives orders from multiple brands and retains their unique taste while preparing food.
“The concept was conceived during the outbreak of COVID-19, and it was also during this period that we decided to introduce it in Pakistan,” Abdus Samad Rashid, founder and CEO of Hotpod, Pakistan’s first cloud kitchen, told Arab News on Saturday. “Cloud kitchens help food brands discover themselves digitally. The coronavirus situation has also acted as a steroid to the idea which was already gaining popularity due to the mounting costs of restaurants.”
Cloud kitchens are expected to create a $1 trillion global opportunity by 2030. At present, more than 13,000 of these facilities operate around the world, according to Euromonitor International, with 7,500 in China and 3,500 in India.
Backed by Singapore-based High Output Ventures and strategic local investors, the Hotpod introduced cloud kitchen concept only two months ago, enabling restaurants to expand their network through a managed kitchen infrastructure with minimum capital risk, zero hassle, and effective customer service.
“Cloud kitchen is a new concept in our market,” Rashid explained. “These are hidden kitchens that serve food at lower rates since they reduce the operating costs of restaurants significantly. It also makes it possible for them to offer services in new geographies by simply maintaining their digital presence.”
“These kitchens not only promise greater economies of scale to different brands but also generate more employment opportunities, increase tax revenues, and enable home chefs to set up and operate professional food chains,” he said.
Hotpod plans to establish about 50 cloud kitchens in the next four years across the country and hopes to branch out in the Middle Eastern markets.
“We started with two kitchens and are trying to add one every month,” he informed. “Pakistan is a growing market and we have witnessed it during the pandemic. Our intention is to expand in the Pakistani market first before moving to the Middle East and North Africa. Dubai and Saudi Arabia will also be our preferred markets.”
In Pakistan, there are more than 100,000 food outlets across the country. The food and beverage processing industry is also the largest in the country after the textile sector, accounting for 27 percent of the value-added production and 16 percent of employment in the manufacturing sector, according to Pakistan’s Board of Investment.
Adeel Hashmi, Chief Growth Officer at Hotpod, estimated that the potential of cloud market in Pakistan was roughly about Rs7.5 billion ($47 million) per year. He added that major drivers behind the success of cloud kitchen business included high demand for online food delivery, rising real-estate costs, and coronavirus infections.
“Cloud kitchens are the future of the restaurant business, especially after the pandemic. When 50-year-old people and children below the age of 15 place online orders, it implies a big change,” Hashmi said. “Our volumes in terms of transactions and brands have doubled since we started the kitchen in September 2020.”
Hashmi said the cloud kitchen was currently serving nine local brands and targeting at least 20 businesses per kitchen.
“Opening a new restaurant requires an investment of millions of rupees,” Hashmi noted as he highlighted how cloud kitchens could help new entrants in the market.
Stakeholders say the concept can cut down costs and increase outreach of restaurant businesses, especially amid COVID-19.
“This is a good concept and more people should focus on it. The idea helps reduce input costs and enables food chains to cater to a much larger segment of customers,” Tania Faheem, partner of 3 Sisters Cuisine, a homebased eatery that caters to online orders, told Arab News.
The market size of Pakistan’s food industry is estimated to be somewhere near Rs20 billion per year, while the global food and beverage market size is thought to be $7 trillion, according to various sources.

Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

Updated 29 November 2020

Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

  • PSM management argues the company’s accumulated losses reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June
  • The termination of 4,500 contracts is believed to be the biggest layoff from a single entity in Pakistan’s history

KARACHI: Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) employees are going to challenge in court the company’s recent decision to terminate the contracts of thousands of workers, union representatives said on Sunday.

The management of the state-owned company on Friday handed letters of termination to some 4,500 employees, arguing that PSM’s accumulated losses had reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June, when the government decided that 9,350 workers would have to be fired for the dysfunctional enterprise to be revived.
“PSM has terminated 4,500 employees in the first phase of government’s plan to lay off 9,350 employees ... The employees have refused to accept this termination they have registered protests and have decided to challenge this decision in court next week,” Mirza Maqsood, President of Voice of Pakistan Steel Officers Association, told Arab News.

Located 40 kilometers from Karachi, Pakistan’s largest industrial complex with a steel production capacity of 1.1 million tons has been dysfunctional for the past few years. Its operations were suspended in 2015.
“Neither the Company has funds to revive the Mills nor are funds available from any other source to revive the Steel Mill. In any case, revival of the mill would require, firstly massive investment and secondly, entail a period of at least two years,” reads a PSM termination letter seen by Arab News.
The layoff was defended by federal Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar, who on Saturday said the terminated employees would be given compensation of Rs2.3 million on average.

“Since the closure of the mill, the government has paid around Rs35 billion as salaries and Rs20 billion as arears to the employees,” he said.

The discharge of workers is said to be one of the biggest layoffs of employees from a single government entity in the country’s history. 
 Karamat Ali, executive director at Pakistan Institute of Labor Education & Research (PILER), said the PSM layoff in unprecedented.
“No such number of employees have ever been fired from a single government institution,” he said.
The decision was also opposed by the provincial government of Sindh, which vowed to support the affected employees. 
“This is wrong and injustice. They (the federal government) must adhere to their earlier stance and commitments of turning the state institutions around with the help of their champions. I am with the employees,” Sindh Labor Minister Saeed Ghani told Arab News.
Mumrez Khan, convener of a representative body of employees, pensioners, suppliers, dealers and contractors of PSM, said that no serious efforts have been made by the federal government to revive the mill, claiming that negligence had caused losses even higher than those cited by PSM management.

“The accumulated losses have swelled to $12 billion on the account of closure of plants, revenue to the government and imports of steel products,” he said.