An exclusive interview with Viraf Sarkari, MD, Culture Gully- Kingdom of Dreams
Popularly acclaimed as India’s first live entertainment, theatre and leisure destination Kingdon of Dreams at Gurgaon, Haryana has been entertaining people across demography and culture for years. Besides the other popular shows like ‘Zangoora’, it has a unique themed food and entertainment hub by the name ‘Culture Gully’ which represents 14 states themed restaurants spreading across 100,000 square feet area and is the arts, crafts and Food Boulevard. Viraf Sarkari, MD, Culture Gully- Kingdom of Dreams speaks candidly to Restaurant India about the success of the properties.
What was the inspiration and objective in setting the Culture Gully?
Culture Gully was set up with a main objective to showcase India & its varied and diverse culture. Spread over 100,000 sq ft area it offers an exciting experience of a busy Indian street showcasing India as a delightful destination to savour the best of local cuisines, sample many of India’s renowned handicrafts and enjoy live performances by traditional artists. Culture Gully was developed to be an ideal destination to give a glimpse of our heritage and culture to all the tourists travelling through India & the National Capital Region (NCR) of India. We perceived a vacuum and felt the need for a world class centre for entertainment with the ability to attract high profile tourists from various continents to boost the tourism of the country and showcase the rich cultural heritage of India to the world and residents of the country.
How have you selected these particular themed restaurants and live kitchens from a set of 14 states of India?
We selected the restaurants on the basis of the popularity of their food and cuisines. The number was of course decided by the universal appeal and popularity of food each state offers.
Maintaining a large 100,000 square feet area of open place and serving food to patrons is all-together is a difficult task on daily basis. How do you do it?
Yes it is a large space with a key challenge to maintain the authenticity of the food that is served here along with the quality of service. Each pavilion has its own kitchen and its own team of chefs. The chefs are brought in from the very state that the Pavilion represents and are a storehouse of recipes passed down from generations. To maintain the authenticity the ingredients for the food of each Pavilion are sourced from those very states. We engage in strict quality control and have an in-house microbiologist who conducts an audit regularly. We have a huge team of 140 chefs who are engaged in the various kitchens of each Pavilion. They are controlled centrally by the Executive Chef. We do not source out the pavilions to outside vendors. The quality of food right from the ingredients to the final product on the table is all managed in-house by KOD teams and hence the quality control is managed and maintained.
What arrangement you make to ensure integration in all the level of operation?
We have extremely strong in-house teams which bring with them years of rich experience in hospitality industry. This helps to establish sound processes and systems to ensure the operational integration.
Brief us about your target group for Culture Gully?
Kingdom of Dreams as a destination offers leisure and live entertainment options at a scale that has never before been witnessed in India. It is an exquisite showcase of the rich Indian heritage, art and culture with the technological wizardry of today. These factors appeal to all the strata of society. The destination targets all categories of visitors whether Indian or international. For the domestic visitor it is a place to take pride in. For the international traveller, it is a destination where he or she gets to experience India in one evening. For all it is a ‘Must See’ and ‘Must Visit’ destination to experience the beauty and richness of Indian heritage, art and culture in its exquisite glory.
As of now, how many visitors have visited Culture Gully? What is their cultural and demographic characterisation?
Since the time of the launch we have had a footfall of over 2 million visitors. They have come from all corners of India as well as the globe. The visitor comes to Kingdom of Dreams to experience the best of Indian culture and cuisine. Kingdom of Dreams being a spectacular world of unparalleled imagination which brings a blend of India’s culture, heritage, art, crafts, cuisine and performing arts buttressed with the mind-boggling technological wizardry of today is both a world class entertainment hub and a mesmerising tourist destination. Hence it appeals to everybody.
Among the 14 states of restaurants you have, which one is the mostly visited till now?
Lucknow and Punjab Pavilions are hugely popular. However each of the Pavilions has its own loyal clientele too. There are some who will come to sample only the various kinds of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dosas for example, which are served in the Chennai pavilion. There are also instances of families who have spent their entire day in Culture Gully only to sample a host of dishes from the 250 on offer!
What is the average footfall of Culture Gully during weekdays and weekends?
Average weekday footfalls stand between 2,000-2,500 and weekend footfalls goes up to 3,000 to 3,500.
What are your future plans for Culture Gully?
We plan to extend it to include more state pavilions and also plan to add some more entertainment options for the visitors.