In an interview to Restaurant India, Anjan Chatterjee of the Mainland China fame talks about creating a food empire.
Who would have ever thought that a young man working with the then most popular publication Anandabazar Patrika would become one of the top restaurateurs to change the helm of food service game in the country. Travelling through passionate journey of flavours, unravelling authentic cuisines and sharing them with the world, Anjan Chatterjee became the first restaurateur in India to raise IPO. “When we saw our company’s name flashing on the National Stock Exchange it was an absolute out of the world experience,” laughs Chatterjee, who has created Speciality Restaurants which initially started out as a tiny restaurant set up by a bunch of foodies for some more foodie friends. Today the group has over 116 renowned restaurants and eight award winning cuisines.
The Eureka Moment
“I come from a family of professionals. My father was a scientist and my brother was a doctor. But I somehow wanted to do something of my own right from my childhood,” he shares. Chatterjee was still working for ABP, when after a hard day’s work he was sitting by the sea at Nariman Point, Mumbai. He was thinking away the years which passed by and realised that he wanted to create something of his own as massive as the ABP house. “I wanted to do something similar if not so big, but still as big as I could make,” remembers the Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta owner.
Capturing the Trend
Chatterjee started off with Only Fish, Mumbai, which was later christened as Oh! Calcutta. “I would call it the number one brand and the beginning of a story,” adds the proud restaurateur, who is currently running few of country’s favourite restaurants like Mainland China, Sigree and Mezzuna all unique in their offerings and nature. As we saw that times were changing and the gentry had shifted from Gen X to Gen Y, the group came up with an all-day bar and eatery concept, Hoppipola. The group also owns the confectionary brand, Sweet Bengal which offers the best Bengali sweets in Mumbai and Haka, which is a Chinese brand targeting a different segment (ancient Chinese dishes) in Kolkata.
Standing ahead of the Curve
“There was an uncle of mine who was an entrepreneur and I always liked the stories he would tell me about his struggle and success,” remembers Chatterjee, who always dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur listening to these stories from his early teens. Lifestyle business has its own perks and disadvantages and business changes take place almost every six months to one year. “So, you have to learn, unlearn and relearn; this cycle is a continuous process and most of the time we make these changes unconsciously,” says Chatterjee who smiles remembering his initial days of Mainland China, which got tremendous media coverage and that came as a real surprise. “As far as specific expansion plans are concerned we have opened about 14 restaurants a year. If and when the time is nice for the discretionary spending to go up, we might take up the pace again. Till then I believe slow and steady should win the race,” concludes Chatterjee.