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Summer 2010 Table of Contents

Bringing Doughnuts to India

Tejas Kapadia finds success making a distinctly American food, and will soon send profits to charities

| From Alumni Notes | By Dan Packel

Tejas Kapadia had no experience in business or in the food industry when he founded Mumbai’s American Donut Shoppe. Photograph by Dan Packel

When Tejas Kapadia — armed with a law degree, several years of courtroom experience, and no history of working in the food industry or running a business — decided to introduce doughnuts to the Indian market, he wasn’t exactly prepared for dealing with the challenges that quickly arose. But three years after he founded Mumbai’s American Donut Shoppe, Kapadia is poised to meet his original goals: franchising the operation, channeling the profits to philanthropic organizations in India, and returning to his law career in the United States.

Such a move was not on Kapadia’s radar when he graduated from BU with a dual major in biology and philosophy. But at the age of twenty-nine, he decided to take a risk. “If it works out, I can help a tremendous number of people,” says Kapadia (CAS’99). “If it fails, at least I tried.”

Born and raised in New Jersey, Kapadia had been coming to India with his family every two years from childhood into adulthood. He thought that starting a business in India seemed like a hands-on way to generate revenue for charity projects.

“Tejas isn’t the type to ask someone for something,” says his brother Hemish, a partner in the business, who handles the accounting and finances from his home in the United States. “He’d rather start it on his own.”

During several of his visits, Kapadia noticed the growing popularity of Western food in India. “Pizza was already here,” he says. “Subway was already here, and there were some other established brands. My idea was to develop a novel Western food concept.”

Doughnuts were definitely new territory, and they lent themselves to mechanized production. After completing a monthlong pastry-making course in New York and visiting trade fairs across the United States, Kapadia purchased a doughnut machine and brought it to India.

After a rocky few months — Kapadia grappled with recalcitrant property managers, licensing issues, and a fire — his first shop opened in early 2007 in Mumbai, but without much success. Initially, customers thought the doughnuts were medu vada, a savory South Indian snack that also happens to be doughnut-shaped. They were disappointed to learn that the morsels were something new and different.

What changed things, Kapadia thinks, was the influence of Indians who had been to the United States or who were otherwise familiar with the concept of doughnuts. Kapadia had tinkered with the American recipe, making all of his doughnuts without eggs. A large segment of the Indian population is vegetarian, and many avoid eggs as well as meat.

Now Kapadia is set to expand from his current four outlets, all in malls around Mumbai, to as many as twenty-five locations around the city. “There’s no such thing as a typical day,” he says.

The next stage for Kapadia is researching the organizations that would best benefit from his contributions. He has identified two areas: development of a bone marrow registry for India and South Asia, his brother’s primary interest, and education projects, his own focus.

“The problems of India stem from lack of education,” Kapadia says. “When kids become adults, they don’t have the educational background necessary to pull themselves out of the situation their parents are in. If we can improve education here, it’s possible that people can slowly improve their circumstances and break the circle of poverty.”

Kapadia says he will likely resume his legal practice in the United States within the next two years. He’s realized there’s a big difference between working toward the ultimate goal of social uplift and the day-to-day hands-on work of a legal practice.

“When you do charity and are making donations, no one is necessarily coming up to you and asking for your assistance,” he notes. “But in the law, when a client approaches you, their stress is palpable, and you can alleviate it. It’s a satisfying feeling. I genuinely miss it.”

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Comments

On 11 September 2011 at 6:37 AM, Samuel Victor Dsouza (SHA'03) wrote:

I used to work with tejas kapadia for his restaurant, production kitchen and as a head chef for 9 months . now i am seeking for his email id. i would be glad to recieve his email id. if possible. thank you.

On 21 July 2010 at 7:36 AM, Shiney James (CAS'99) wrote:

Tejas, this is a really great accomplishment. I am excited to see the world get a little bit smaller with the introduction of different cuisines. I know that donuts are known to be a bad food choice, but everything in moderation is healthy. We are all seeking that balance in life. I hope all is well!

On 20 July 2010 at 10:52 PM, Elisabeth Scaffidi wrote:

Ok, number one, this article is not only displaying the strong versatility of Mr. Kapadia's ideas, but it also explains the success of such a simple idea. India suffers from A LOT more then "type II diabetes" & the mention of it is absolutley useless when commenting about the success of a, what I believe is a "genius" idea. Not to mention the invalid response toward an someone who believes in the good of others and charity, Tejas Kapadia is the prime candidate to be the CEO of the next chain "fad" that will continue to golablize our planet further. As far as I'm concerned, seeking the ethical flaw in every good deed is the typical response of the ignorant, & at the end of the day will always lose the battle. PS, congratulations Mr. Tejas Kapadia on your success. A simple idea really does go a long way. I'm sure you'll stumble upon a special recipe that targets the diabetic individuals, which will ensure your business sucess in India!!!

On 20 July 2010 at 10:32 PM, Tony wrote:

So instead of imposing arbitrary morality based ethics on a successful business plan, why not understand the concepts of supply and demand. Indian diabetes cases has nothing to do with donuts, but with the general dietary choices made by each Indian, same as Americans and any other country. Great job on the donut shoppes. I hope you open one up in every major city.

On 15 July 2010 at 7:59 PM, Nelly (CAS'99) wrote:

Great job Tejas! It's nice to see that you haven't lost your sense of adventure.

On 14 July 2010 at 11:00 AM, Chandra (GSM'08) wrote:

The business concept and his intentions seem good. But I think he could have chosen a different business than donuts business. As we know India is the Diabetic Capital of the world, where more than 80 million people are currently suffering with this disease. This donut and other American "sweeteners" aggrevates the problem. Although he is planning to donate his profits to charity, but when he franchises, the franchisee won't sit idle not to market hit donuts. He rather will push very hard to sell his donuts to everybody, ranging from kids to ealderly.

On 13 July 2010 at 5:06 PM, Suma (SMG'05) wrote:

I have to agree with Tara above; India really doesn't need any more fried stuff smothered in sugar. I get the concept of introducing a product in a market that loves all things American, but the approach is a bit skewed. Adding the "donating profits to charity" angle just ends up being weak. Want to help charities? Volunteer your time working with them in the field rather than building another business. Now that's an American concept that's worth sharing.

On 13 July 2010 at 3:25 PM, Tara Basile (SED'97) wrote:

Although I admire Mr. Kapadia's dedication to his pet charities, I am disappointed that his means of execution is through fat-and-sugar-laden hunks of fried dough. We are in the midst of an obesity crisis where we have the first generation of children who will not outlive the ages of their parents; we have changed the name of Adult-Onset diabetes to Type II purely because there are so many children who are coming down with the disease; and we have high school aged kids going through by-pass surgery. What America does, so does the rest of the world (think: McDonalds) and this trend is no different. Call me a stick-in-the-mud, but the last thing the world needs is another donut.

On 5 July 2010 at 1:34 PM, Vinay (SMG'02) wrote:

Hi, the story seems interesting. But how is Mr Kapadia's business today. Where in Mumbai is this Donut shopee ? Me and my daughter are big fans of Donuts and would like to go and taste them. Do let me know. Thanks

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