In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India, Nirupa Shankar, Director, Brigade Hospitality talks about her hospitality venture.
Growing up, Nirupa Shankar had always dreamt of owning a restaurant since her college days. There was no pressure from the family to join the real estate business. “I had a chance to do what I really wished for,” smiles Shankar who always thought that owning a restaurant would be a fun thing in her life. For her, opening a restaurant came as a fashion rather than a career making step. “I liked creating place with a fun environment. Then, with time hospitality followed by real estate came high into my life which eventually helped me in being where I am right now,” shares Shankar. Excerpts from the interview:
What’s the whole idea behind your first restaurant venture?
The concept came through my travel experience. I visited a lot of cities where I noticed that each and every city is having a skyscraper where a restaurant is established. This really amazed me and made me think of doing something similar in India. I always felt that it would be the perfect place to view the city from such height. Once the World Trade Centre came up, we found that a lot of people wanted to come and see the city view from the top. That’s when I thought that it can be a popular destination among the people. The inspiration came from all the major cities in the world like New York, Boston etc. I wanted this place to be something different and that’s how High Ultra Lounge was born.
How it all began?
Initially, I decided to involve international players into this. I had to contact a lot of celebrity chefs from Las Vegas, New York to come and manage it. But at that time, I was having somebody from Dubai who was interested in this. The international players weren’t so interested as they believed that the main business starts from the midnight, Bengaluru that time had the closing time of 11:30 p.m. After that, I approached the major Indian operators who found this to be a little risky as the location was a bit away from the major known places and was not even having any restaurants in its nearby area. I then came to a conclusion that if everybody else is finding it to be risky, then I’m going to do that on my own. I had a belief that it can happen and it will work. World Trade Centre being the tallest spot in South India, we wanted to have a restaurant there. I wanted to re-create something different which Bengaluru was not having. I hired a chef from Miami followed by a bartender from Dubai. We came with a great team and a great location for party lovers. We had a full moon night and many other concepts which were not familiar among the local crowds. I actively managed it for about two years, after which I involved the management team to step in.
How is the response?
It’s doing very well. When I was handling, I focused more on food and the event which was going on. Quality of the food and service was another thing which I was concerned about. I wanted to bring more of Japanese items but with the change in management team, they preferred more Indian items. We basically believe in progressive Indian food system. Lot of crowd and local people can be witnessed at our venture which works fine as it’s the management call. We are trying to come up with new concepts which can certainly add to our key towards success. It’s been four years since we established this and now we want to revamp things. We are in process of revamping the interiors along with the menu. It’s surely a time for change as it’s the only commercial place in this area for now. The biggest learning I got from this is that it made me understand the total F&B component.
What will be your contribution to Brigade Group as you are not solely looking into the restaurant and food business?
I am basically focusing on hotels. We have five hotels by now and are having seven more under construction. We are looking forward to have dozen or more hotels in our bag in the couple of years to come. We are constantly revamping our restaurants by bringing in some new concepts. I recently launched an art café as they are very vibrant. We added the art component which is like a museum where you can find original arts by local artists all across India. The place is really cool because you can have a sip of champagne looking around the original arts from across the country watching the sunset. Apart from the hotels, I also oversee the office place and malls for our company where malls are also having 20-30 outlets of food and beverage s. I also do innovation for the company working with many startups trying to see what technology they can bring and can be used for a better business.
What can we see happening at Brigade in terms of both entertainment and experience?
I would actually combine those two. Whether it’s residential, mall, office place or hotels, our tagline is to build positive experiences. I just think that whatever you create, it’s not just about the physical thing that you can touch and feel it’s about the vibes and experience you create. A place can still be a flop having best chef, staffs, flooring and DJ equipment if you don’t have a good vibe at your place. I just believe in creating positive vibes. When you enter a restaurant, either you have a positive or negative feel to it. That’s where I’m working on by providing the positive vibes. I always create concept for my business and then I give it to somebody else to manage as we are looking forward to go along a long way.
What is your view on the overall industry growth?
I believe that the xfactor is really very important. I just love what is happening at the restaurant spaces in India. Everyday a new concept is coming which is innovative in their own way. I am really admiring how people are trying to create a buzz with their ventures which is worth appreciating. It’s a very exciting time to be in the F&B industry where there is so much more to do. I would love to see more Spanish, Mexican outlets which can provide a lot to this industry in India.