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Startup 2018-01-08

Selling ‘Zehreeli Chai’ to Owning Benguluru’s Wacky Pub

In conversation with Restaurant India, Pravesh Pandey, Big BrewSky talks about creating a nightlife destination.

By Deputy Features Editor
Selling ‘Zehreeli Chai’ to Owning Benguluru’s Wacky Pub

Pravesh Pandey wanted to own a restaurant from the tender age of 12 when he spent his days delighting his friends and family with recipes inspired from his mother’s kitchen. Pravesh whose parents believed in formal education always thought that their child would go to medical or engineering school. Luckily, he didn’t get admission into IIT, and continued to cook up a storm in the kitchen. “I’ve been setting up food stalls at festivals since I was 14 years old and I knew that one day I’d be setting up my own restaurant,” remembers the young restaurateur who is running Bengaluru’s trendiest nightlife destination.

Prevesh ended up choosing Hotel Management with a dream of being an entrepreneur and started his first café ‘Nukkad’ at the age of 24 along with his best friend.  “I still remember the cool winter mornings and evenings, when a queue of tea lovers would form outside Nukkad to get their cup of Zehreeli Chai, a special blend of two finest selected of Assam teas,” smiles Pandey who is now serving freshly brewed drinks at his pub.

Tell us about the Eureka moment.

Fifteen years ago, (after my two year stint as a small size café owner) I realised that to become an entrepreneur one needs a serious set of competencies along with character. I knew it would be an uphill climb but my calling to entertain people pushed me to work in larger cities. With international exposure to the world’s best restaurants and cafes (thanks to my job with a cruiseliner), and support from my family, I moved to Mumbai to dive into the bustling nightlife industry. One day, I happened to meet Mr. Tham, one of the industry's most influential players. It was he who had a huge role to play in my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Over the course of my career and post my successful associations with Jay Singh, Sanjay Mahtani, Nirupa Shankar and then Riyaaz Amlani, my regimen gave me more powers to create and curate. While the money that I was making was good, I kept thinking back to the days of my business of selling unique experiences – the zehreeli chai. The excitement and anticipation of people waiting for us to open our shop’s shutter. It was then time to get back to a space of creating my own memorable experiences. In the winter of 2016, I joined hands with Ajay Gowda to create the largest F&B destination in India with perhaps the biggest brewery in Asia and a heavy influence on performing arts to make it a complete entertainment place. I joined Big Brewsky as an entrepreneur and I am ready to create history. 

What was the whole idea starting your own pub as you were already working with one of the top group?

My personal understanding of customer loyalty and their experiences was slightly different from all other chains of restaurants. In the spree of expansion no one had time to work on creating bespoke experiences. For me customer experience is the biggest battleground for brands. I needed my own space to implement this and create those experiences which increase customer lifespan with a brand. My idea was to shift the focus of guests from living on Instagram to actually experiencing the brand in a subversive way.

What were the challenges faced?

The biggest challenge was to pull together a team of talented and competent people for a brand that was not yet established.  For me, people are the soul of my brand. Someone has rightly said “A company is known by the people it keeps”. I am now fortunate enough to have some of the most talented people in the country who believe in my dream and they are the part of this jungle.

How do you see the nightlife business growing in India?

India today, stands as the biggest consumer market in the world. With the population soaring to 1.5 billion by 2030 and an anticipated 38.4 % urbanisation index, the need for drinking and dining out is growing rapidly. With an average monthly dine out rate of 5-6 times per month, India is quickly catching up with other Asian cities where the nightlife business is thriving.  Double household incomes, growing socio-economic conditions, nuclear families opting to dine out, international exposure to cuisines, access to newer music scenes are all contributing to the growing nightlife experiences. 

How about designing your restaurant?

We have created an environment offering large spaces which carry a synergy created by people. It's all about transporting people to a surrounding that inspires and stimulates your senses. Our designs are conceptualised and curated keeping in mind this vibe.

How do you change yourself and your brand with pace of time?

For any brand to stay alive, it must evolve. It is critical to constantly innovate and create new experiences for patrons in order to win their hearts and keep them coming back for more.

What is your expansion plan?

We have conceptualised and executed two breweries and kitchens and which have been growing successfully by delighting our patrons. As an organisation we are focusing on expanding Big Brewsky to 5 microbreweries by 2021.

Kamala Mills incident was thought provoking for the industry. What safety measures should restaurants and bars adhere to avoid such calamity?

It is deeply heart-breaking to see such incidents. Following are the preventative safety measures which we take to avoid and handle such events:-

  • Ensure that there are necessary NOC from the fire departments and the standards are adhered to.
  • Appropriate grade designed fire extinguishers mounted in the most critical areas like kitchens, entry and exits, DG areas and especially gas banks.
  • Frequent drills engaging the staff to handle such emergencies is non-negotiable and should be practiced religiously. Prompt raising of fire alarms, marshalling of first aid and fire-fighting efforts in the event of fire.
  • Establish a systematic and orderly evacuation plan with proper signage.
  • Escape routes/ fire exits should never be blocked. Elevators, AHUs and access control systems should be shut down immediately.
  • ERT- Emergency Response team- always have a set of qualified and courageous staff within the team to manage such emergencies. 
  • Periodic inspection and testing of the fire-fighting equipment.

What’s your contribution in changing Bengaluru’s nightlife scene?

Nightlife culture is an integral part of any city’s identity and we’ve been able to carve out a niche for the brand by building a habitat of sorts in the middle of a bustling city. We’ve had success with creating that special little mind space by fostering a sense of community. Our bar is managed by some of the best mixologists in the country who churn out some game changing cocktails. We plan our event calendar with the intention of creating a culturally rich place where various performing artists come together and perform with local talent. We are now in the process of developing a cultural hub for Bangaloreans where art, music, entertainment merges together with upscale food and beverage offerings. This space will provide a platform to a larger set of patrons to come together and enjoy the re-defined nightlife which once made them proud.

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