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Bringing global street food to the supermarket shelf

Sunil Kavuri has been a model, investment banker and now entrepreneur. This is his story.

street food

Sunil Kavuri

Sunil Kavuri

Sunil Kavuri is king of the magnificent reinvention. More than a decade ago this model-turned-investment banker completed his MPhil in Finance at Cambridge Judge Business School. Today, he has reinvented himself again with his own business, Go Gafoor, which aims to bring the joy of global street food to the supermarket shelf.

“I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve done, whether it’s working as a model on TV or advising a client on their portfolio management,” says Kavuri. “My investment banking career has given me a good skillset. But I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. This is my passion.”

Why the food industry? Kavuri admits that street food is a personal passion. “I’ve travelled the world, from China to Egypt and Thailand to the USA – all of them have their own street markets and local food. It’s informal, it’s exciting, innovative and fresh.”

But he also saw a gap in the market. “There was no street food like this available in supermarkets,” he says. “Yet the British consumer is one of the most well travelled, most adventurous consumers across the world. One look at the high street shows we have a multitude of different brands and cuisines from across the world. The British like something new and they’re willing to try it.”

So Go Gafoor was born, with hand-made products ranging from Thai tuna mix to charcoal-grilled chicken kebabs. Its sandwiches and wraps, under the brand name Great Grub, are currently stocked in Sainsbury’s and Asda in the UK, and are also due to be supplied to numerous outlets and sport stadia via caterers including Sodexo and Compass.

“With this kind of business, it takes a while to get to where you want to be,” says Kavuri, who admits that the food industry has its own particular challenges. As well as the logistics of making fresh, hand-made products and getting them to outlets, there are thousands of companies out there who want the same limited space on the supermarket shelves. Small startups need to be prepared to take on the very biggest of the global brands.

“Product development takes a long time,” he says. “Then there’s finding a manufacturer. In April 2015 we launched in Sainsbury’s – that was a year from the initial meeting to getting on the shelves. This year, we’re in Asda. There’s a lot of back and forth with supermarkets. Luckily, I’ve had a lot of experience with presentations, so that kind of thing comes naturally to me. And as we’re a small company, we can be a bit more flexible, which also helps to give us an edge.”

And the future, like the food, will be global. Kavuri is aiming to take Great Grub worldwide to create international products for specific overseas markets, such as the Middle East or Australia. And opening Great Grub retail outlets could also be a possibility.

“We’re always looking forward and asking: what’s the next trend? What’s the next opportunity? What will be the next new products?” says Kavuri. “It’s such an exciting time.”

Sunil is interested in hearing from…

…Anyone! I’m a very social person. I love meeting people from all backgrounds and walks of life.