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Unusual Businesses Professionalised

Monday, August 06, 2012

 ‘What's the use of running if you are not on the right road’… is the famous German Proverb that explains the logic behind decisions taken by a few men to fulfill their dreams and go behind that one ‘big Idea’ which they come up with. In pursuit of these they throw away perfectly ‘normal’ professions, jobs and comfortable lives and in the process also risk being labeled crazy by families and friends. Mayura Shanbaug finds out what drives this breed of professionals turned ‘entrepreneurs’ to do what they do, and strive to make it big, no matter whatever it takes…

From The US To ‘Kathi Kababs’

Satish Shewale ,
Kathi Kabab Corner

It took just six months into his normal job for Satish Shewale, Industrial Engineer from the United States to discover that he is not meant for it. The love for the food and restaurant business pulled Shewale on to a journey which nobody in his family and friends had envisaged for him. “When I was doing MS in the USA, I also used to work in restaurants on weekends, like other students to supplement my income and studies. However, it created a liking of a lifetime for me,” says Shewale.  

The liking took shape across many ideas over the 14 years that he spent in Uncle Sam’s country. “I worked for lot of fine dining restaurants in California, started small breweries, opened bars, saw them shut down, I did everything that can be done over there,” he says. “I have gained a lot of experience working with the chefs there and honed my skills,” he adds.

With his vast experience Shewale moved to India in 2001 to work as a consultant in Lounge and Restaurant business. He was consultant for famous lounges like Athena, Karma etc in India. His work also took him to various corners of India, helping him understand different cuisines, cultures and markets. “While in Calcutta I came across Kathi Kababs and got an Idea to start the fast food joint in my hometown Mumbai,” says Shewale.

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it,”… said   famous physicist Albert Einstein. Following Einstein words and getting dubbed as crazy by his family and friends Shewale started working on his big idea. “I wanted to cater to the, middle and working class population of the country because that is the real market.  I want people to come to my outlet again and again. I wanted to provide them clean, hygienic and quality food at reasonable prices,” he says.     

And thus was born the first outlet of ‘Kathi Kabab Corner’ in Mumbai’s Lower Parel area with an initial investment of Rs 1,50,000. “It was a low investment business and we became cash positive in the first month itself,” states Shewale.  “I picked up a team of 10 local people and trained them with the flavours and recipes giving them employment in turn,” he says. Shewale also made some changes in the Calcutta recipe of Kabab and created a mix suitable for the local palate. “Our speciality is ‘Kathi Kabab Chicken Roll’ which we sell for a very reasonable price, I want people to come back to my outlet again and again for its taste, hygiene and affordability,” he adds.

Within one year the business has grown to 3 outlets in the city, with lots of franchisee enquiries and PE partners ready to put money. Inspired by Vithal Kamat of the famous Kamat’s group, Shewale wants to take baby steps to reach to his goal. He plans to open two more outlets in the next one year and gives five to six years to see his dreams getting fulfilled. “I want to see my brands name with the likes of Mc Donald in coming years, “he says.      

Banker Brands ‘Vadapavs’

Venkatesh Iyer ,CMD, Goli Vadapav

It took one comment from the outgoing CEO of Kellogs - who tried for ten years to capture the Indian Markets before leaving India for good – saying   “kuch bhi karo Hindustani aadmi to desi hi khata hai,” for Venkatesh Iyer an investment banker who had 20 years of experience in corporate consultancy, franchising chain and retail chain models to start an ethnic food retail chain in India.

“In a country of 100 crores plus population, even if we could target the 50 crores population (tier-1, tier-2, tier-3 cities and small towns) we saw a minimum   Rs 500 crores opportunity,” says Iyer Who received support from his friend Shivdas Menon and started the first outlet of Goli Vadapav in   a 150 sq.ft  place in Kalyan with  an investment of Rs 1 crore in 2004.

Why Vadapav? B’coz….its fast food … 50 vadapavs can be served in 5 mins ….. But you can’t service 50 masala dosas in 5 minutes nor 50 grill sandwiches. Vada pav is finger food… no plate, no spoons. It’s a mobile food. Try that with any other food. Before we zeroed down on Vadapav, we had thought about idli’s, but somehow that idea didn’t last long because we felt it didn’t have the attributes of a vadapav… “Anything between bun sells”, he says. Mumbai has a typical lingo in…puddi...Item... rapchick... goli , the munna bhai lingo, that’s why we called it goli vadapav.

The first few years saw Iyer’s take home salary to less than a quarter of the salary he used to draw. “Brought my standard of living to a quarter of what it was… no hotel...no holidays…no parties... No gifting... Started traveling by S.T Buses or sometimes share a jeep at Rs 10 between Vashi and Kalyan,” Iyer reminisces.

However, since it was a food and cash business, the revenue started flowing from day one. Most of the revenues were used to build up a team or upgrade the kitchen from  500 sq.ft to 3000 sq.ft with modern equipments or buying a new logistic vehicle. All the revenue he earned was ploughed back into business.

The major hiccup came in the form of  the huge amount of wastages, pilferages and standardization issues of the product, since it was manually made.

 “Our lucky moment came when one of the largest and oldest American food processing companies agreed to be our supply chain partner (vista foods) with 33 plants worldwide. With this every vada started being cooked in a fully automated HACCP certified plant, untouched by human hand. Every vada went through a metal detector and an x-ray machine. With this we solved the problems of wastages, pilferages, standardization etc., and were able to supply standardized vada all over India. Our Vadas have a nine month shelf life today as it is completely untouched by human hand, we corporatised   Vadapav,” he adds. Today, after 8 years, the chain is valued at more than Rs 100 crore with 150 outlets in 40 cities, across 6 states and recognition in the Travel and Leisure Magazine as one among the worlds 25 ethnic fast food chains. Iyer who set out to put an Indian brand on the world map is almost there with recognition for his humble food from the Mumbai streets turning into a brand known all over.   

CA Offers ‘Spiritual Hospitality’

Debashis Ghosal, Director and CEO,
Daiwik Hotels

After working as a qualified chartered accountant for nearly 7 years, Debashis Ghosal decided to start his own venture of movie exhibition in the year 2000 to get some excitement of owning a company and ‘being on the other side’.

 Ghosal then started a chain of movie exhibition theaters in smaller cities of West Bengal and Kolkata called –‘89 cinemas’. “When we started the business, the concept of Multiplex was unheard of in the city. However it got a huge response and we generated decent returns” he says.

“The valuation of the multiplexes soon peaked with the rising cost of real estate. Add to it were the unjustified entertainment taxes on the Multiplexes, So we decided to exit the business at that point, because generating returns would have been difficult later on,” he reveals.

Ghosal then decided to merge it with the equally successful Inox Leisures Ltd in 2007 and quit the business altogether.  “After merging it off, I pondered on a lot of options ranging from Ayurveda to yoga, but none seemed to appeal to me. Then I finally zeroed on to something which had a great potential in the country and was also close to my heart,” Ghosal explains.

So in the year 2008, he launched a one of its kind Daiwik Hotels Private Limited, a super specialty pilgrimage hotel chain in India. “India is a very religious country, and at that time we felt that it is one of the few sectors which won’t be affected by any kind of financial slowdown. Substantiating our belief were the statistical figures that nearly 60 percent of all the domestic travelers in the country comprise of pilgrimage travelers,” he points out.

 To set the idea in motion, Ghosal tied up with Chennai based infrastructure developer Marg Ltd who would manage and operate the hotels under the brand name Daiwik, he says. “We invested around 60 percent for acquiring the land at Rameshwaram and setting up a 90 room hotel there. The remaining was raised through debt from various financial institutions,” he explains.

 According to Ghosal, they are positioning themselves in this segment as a knowledge based serviced provider. “We have tied up with a number of local guides, temples, pious leaders and priests to facilitate the spiritual needs of clients. Our hotels would also on its own be organizing spiritual discourses and satsangs for the complete the holy experience of our guests,” he states.

The immediate plan now is to set up a 130 room hotel at Tirupati. “The land has already been acquired and we have earmarked an investment of around Rs 50 crores towards the same,” he points out. The third in the list would be a proposed hotel in Dwarka which will have around 100 rooms and the investment would be around Rs 25 crore.

 He added that they are looking at setting up similar properties in Madurai, Kanyakumari, Tiruvananthapuram and Srisailam in the next couple of years under the first phase.

 Ghosal explains that India though rich in temples and spiritual destinations, does not have good quality residing facilities for mid to high level travelers. “Our competition is not with the Dharamshalas or the low budget hotels. We aim to create a brand which is recognized with good service and reasonable budget,” he adds.

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