The runaway kid who runs an idli-dosa empire

From The Telegraph, Calcutta, the story of Jayaram Banan, the son of a bus driver in Udupi who ran away from home to Bombay as a boy, and now runs a chain of south Indian restaurants in the north under the brand name Sagar Ratna.

“I worked as a serving boy and then manager in small-town restaurants before moving to Delhi, where I turned entrepreneur,” he recalls. Banan opened a canteen-style idli-dosa outlet in Delhi’s defence colony market in 1986. He called it Sagar.

“The butter chicken-loving Delhi lapped up his southern fare. Apart from the Sagar Ratna chain, Banan runs Swagath for south Indian coastal cuisine. Launched in 2001, it now has 10 outlets.

“Some of Banan’s restaurants are exclusively owned, some are parnerships and some franchisees. “We plan to double our turnover and the numbers of restaurant in the next five years,” he says

For the record, even today Jayaram Banan stands outside his very first Sagar Ratna™ outlet in defence colony and welcomes guests for half-an-hour every day at 7 pm.

Vir Sanghvi wrote:

“I discovered that he has never once sat at a table and eaten at one of his restaurants. Most days he eats at the Defence Colony Swagath but takes the meals in the kitchen. I’ve known him to drink the odd whisky but he will not touch liquor at one of his restaurants. As far as he’s concerned, the restaurants are places where he is meant to serve, not enjoy.

“His dedication and drive are also exemplary. He leaves home at 9 am every morning and rarely returns before 11.30 pm, trying to visit as many of his restaurants as he can. On Sundays, he leaves at 7 am and visits all 29 restaurants in the Delhi area. There is no other way of maintaining standards, he says.”

Photograph: courtesy Growth Institute

Read the full story: Bon appetit

Also read: How V.G. Siddharth built Coffee Day cup by cup

Why Vasudev Adiga wants a COO for idli-vada-sambar

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

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2 Responses to “The runaway kid who runs an idli-dosa empire”

  1. chidu22 Says:

    “No pain no gain”, kudos to Mr Banam.

  2. A JOURNALIST Says:

    What is so great about it? Most of the Udupi hotel owners are run away kids. The greatest among them was and is Bengre Rangappa Kamath, who started the Kamath hotels.

    This Banan was at the right place at the right time. Delhi makes even an idiot a genius and an ordinary man a great achiever.

    Commenting on Banan, now a retired chief secretary to Karnataka Government once said “these north Indians don’t know what a Samabar tastes like. Even if you add some chilly powder to boiling water and give to it people, they drink it”

    Most of his hotels are third rate. Even the dogs won’t there, if he shifts them to Karnataka.

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