In an exclusive interaction with Restaurant India M Mahadevan, Chairman, Oriental Cuisines talks about building a restaurant empire.
Coming from the family of Doctors it was not easy for M. Mahadevan to open his own venture. After completing his education his parents sent him to Chennai with only Rs 400 in hand to look for jobs. “When I came to the city of Chennai the first job that I landed was in the hotel,” remembers Mahadevan who always had a fire in the belly to be an entrepreneur. And, when he worked at the hotel he felt he enjoys people. “I come from the family of Doctors but I wanted to be in this industry where everybody was coming and celebrating,” smiles the proud restaurateur who today runs more than 200 restaurants in over 16 countries. Excerpts from the interview:
Joining the Bandwagon
I come from a professional background and I didn’t have much capital to open a hotel. I started my first venture when I was working in the college. I just quit one night thinking that I will become an entrepreneur one day. I had the fire in my belly to be an entrepreneur. So, I started investing Rs 60000 and put up a little place in an open area and started the cafe. And, today we are running 200+ restaurants including the likes of Kailash Parbat, Saravana Bhawan and Anjappar in global markets.
Partnering for Growth
Helping others is the easiest thing because they have got their own set up. For example we are running 70 plus Saravana Bhawan in global markets. We do local market research for them and we try to help them to find the right location as they already have local partners at most of the places. To build my own brand is little difficult as everything is done by me; from setting up team, supply chain and equipments to looking out for best location. Also, I am building confidence in another brand by investing in their brands. There is hygiene, labour, excise check and the partner talking with the customer creates a great impact. So, we always prefer a local partner because of so much of the help that he brings to the brand.
Creating Unique Concepts
We do our restaurants in a very different way. When we started Hot Breads we used to make fresh breads in front of the customer. Similarly, we are coming up with Marina in Bengaluru where we will be serving different fish and the customers will get a choice to choosy from the raw fish and then it will be cooked the way they want it to be. We understand the Indian market. You learn by growing to different countries, following people there and understanding what has to be done and follow up from there. Every concept is different but we have got everything localise. The chef, the architects are all from Kerala when we were conceptualising Ente Keralam so that’s the uniqueness. For Hot Breads I travelled a lot. I went to France learnt the French Bakery and came back taught my boys how to do a chocolate cake and milkshakes and things like that. So, we have taken people who have worked with that concept. My personal favourite is Ente Keralam because I come from Kerala and any day my favourite food will be Kerala.
Living the Moment
When I entered the industry it was only to make money. But today it’s about creating employment. I was overwhelmed when I had 4000 people on board. I am today mentoring lots of concepts and doing charity cafes helping about 30 women who are burn survivor and it makes me real proud and gives me a mental satisfaction. I am contributing to society and that’s the happiness about. And, today I am not in the race of making money.
Key to Success
Determination, passion, commitment and drive are four important key to run a business. You should enjoy the people who are working with you and who are coming to you. Do scalable models which are not dependant on human judgement like bakeries, ice creams and cafes.
We are looking at partners and investors to grow our business. We are 140 plus today and are growing steadily.