Pizza drone stunt in India creates buzz

It may be a clever publicity gimmick but a cool video of a homemade drone delivering pizza in Mumbai gets plenty of earned media

Who said you need deep pockets to get decent publicity? A young Pizza restaurant owner in downtown Mumbai persuaded his friend, an automotive engineer, to assemble a four-rotor drone and successfully delivered a pizza to a nearby resident of a plush rooftop apartment on the 11 May.  In less than a week the YouTube video of this PR experiment scored more than 550,000 views and received worldwide press coverage.

"All of us had read about Amazon's plans of using drones. We successfully carried out a test-delivery by sending a pizza to a customer located 1.5 km away from our outlet on May 11," said Francesco's Pizzeria chief executive Mikhel Rajani, 26. Rajani, who comes from a family of textile merchants, said the drone saves time and costs. "What we have done now will be commonplace in the next four-five years," he says. Indeed Mumbai, notorious for its congested streets, would be ideal for such a service to take off. If only local regulation caught up with technology and allow such gadget flights. Under the current municipal laws hobby planes and other little flying machines can fly only up to a maximum altitude of 400 feet above sea level. A typical commercial drone comes with a price tag of about $2,000 but with economies of scale that could come down drastically. Rajani’s pizza drone runs on batteries and so it can carry only a couple of pizza boxes up to a limited distance. But he is confident of being able to deliver up to 8kgs of pizza slices with a more powerful 8-rotor engine.

Whatever the technical or regulatory limitations Rajani has, for now, proved right yet again that good PR is not about hiring smart agencies. It is about executing a smart idea that gets attention. At the time of filing this report the relentless order calls at Francesco’s showed little sign of easing and Rajani's cash register is still ringing. Not bad for someone with no PR training. Pizza anyone?    

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