Nirmal Jain

Published on: October 2013
You were a financial consultant before starting Swaad I heard. Finance and Restaurant are two different things. What triggered you to start up a restaurant? Where did that idea come from?

I am a financial consultant even now. Ideas don't come from one particular thing. We have food in all of us. We all dream to open up a restaurant someday. Lot of us. There was one opportunity where I was introduced to a person who wanted to come out of a particular restaurant and start on his own. He approached us. Lot of things were in synch, where we could share ideas on what we could do. Then we started.

Why did he approach you? Have you had a discussion about starting a restaurant with him or what was the reason?

He used to always give us that vibes of starting a restaurant. He thought we were the right people to discuss with. The restaurant business obviously has a lot of challenges, the right people will know what works and what doesn't. Then we started building the team. We got this place and then we started.

Since when is Swaad running?

From January 2013.
So, you started recently? January to September is a short time for the num-ber things you've done. How were you able to manage multiple things simultaneously?

That is what we believe in - "Everything is multi-tasking". If you can multitask, you can do a lot. Sometimes we underachieve is what I feel. If you can multitask and understand people well and make them work for you, it works!

I heard, you have 135 people working with you. How have you man-aged to lead different kinds of people and still keep them happy and make them stick to Swaad for a long time?

You need different strokes for different folks. Some people need motiva-tion, some people need the right push. With some, you need to be strict and so on. If you can act or react to that person as per his level or where he is in his career, you can make him work well.

What is the vision you carry for Swaad? Do you plan for a chain of restaurants?

Frankly, when we started Swaad, we didn't have much of a vision. Once we started, lot of things added up and we managed to bring it to this level. We don't need to necessarily go through a chain of restaurants because that needs a lot of infrastructure. There is one vision appearing now that we need to get into catering in a big way - for corporates, wedding,functions and so on. We don't need to put in a lot of fixed assets in these or invest in infrastructure, since they're perishable.. So, we need to grow in catering space, and obviously that could lead to the Franchise route too. We need to look into what Franchise we can have not only in Bangalore but in other cities soon.
How many of you are partners at Swaad and how is it working with them?

We are four partners here. They keep giving me a lot of inputs on whether we are moving in the right direction or not.

In a business, what is better according to you, is it a multiple people leading or a single person leading?

Even if it is a single headed organisation, it won't run well if he doesn't have multiple people around who feels that it is their own business. It is impossible to run a business without such people around. We are trying build at least 7 to 8 people in the managerial level, who feel the ownership of the business. You are four partners. What is the role that you play individually?

Major role is played by me. I cannot call them sleeping partners. Because there are some sections like finance and other things which they handle individually. We consult each other for all important decisions. We do it together. We share all our contacts with each other, which is very important. Collectively the contacts have really become huge. We all are born and brought up in Bangalore. Our collective contacts means a lot of strength to business. I am more into the management of people. Human management, financial management, resource management, investments etc are what I take care of, along with which expenses are to be incurred and which not and similar decision.

Isn't it risky to have taken the step of starting a restaurant without having any similar experience before? What made you take that risk?

If you believe, it can happen. Degree of risk is definitely more in starting up a restaurant. That's what we are here for. Nothing can be done without taking risk. I am basically from a business family. May be I don't have an experience in this stream but I have business in my blood. That madness of doing something on my own has come from my family background. We are trying to get that structured business into practice. We are half way through in getting the corporate structure that we want.

Business demands more time than a regular corporate job. So how is it an advantage here?

Business definitely consumes a lot of time. But as time goes by, the time you have to give decreases. You can delegate more.

Do you get frustrated? If yes, how do you handle the same?

At times yes, I do get frustrated. But it doesn't last for long. Frustration can be even at the managerial level.

How do you rectify and ensure that your employees are not affected by the same? Because that might disturb the whole structure.

As I said before, it is all about human management. It is all about understanding why a particular person is reacting or acting that way. Be it frustration, be it anger, be it lethargy among the staff, it's the case everywhere. But it's you who needs to put yourself in their shoes and respond. You need to ask yourself - "Is it something that I need to understand?", "Do I need to sit and make him understand?". "Is he in need of my time?", "Is there something that I need to solve?" and so on. Patience is very important here.

You said feedbacks and suggestion play a very vital role. Have you ever faced a situation where you considered a wrong advice/suggestion and repented?

The more number of people you have, the more number of suggestions and view points you get. At the end of the day, it is your call as to whose suggestions to take and whose not or have your own view.

How did you build the base? What were the things that you had to do before starting the restaurant?

Lot of ground work involved in this. Almost three months of relentless planning, understanding where we are heading, what cuisines to have, what place to choose, what chairs to choose, infrastructure, staff selection, target market - all these were on the papers before starting. Number of parameters were involved. Basic goal was to set it up. Once the goal is in mind, everything happens one by one. Knowing where to say 'yes' and for what to say 'no' is important. It is easy to say yes and difficult to keep up to it. In business it is difficult to say 'no', but very important it is to be able to do so. We did a lot of ground work, we walked through these roads, took a survey and visited restaurants around to find out the rates and tastes.

Have you ever regretted the decision that you took of opening a restaurant?

I wouldn't say regret. Because regret is not the word. I think it was more of frustration and pressure of running it smoothly. People are not easy to manage. There are many unskilled people. We initially have to build a strong rapport in order to sustain them. Managing them, replacing them and things like that are on going challenges.

Can you share a few statistics with us of the number of walk-ins that you had initially and the number of walkins that you are having now?

We had a grand opening ceremony, wherein we invited big politicians & film stars. Before starting, we publicized the launch, just like any normal business would do. We opened at 4pm on a Sunday. For our surprise, one person couldn't handle the cash counter. I myself had to jump in to the counter to handle it. All four partners were busy handling the same. It was good. When a restaurant opens in the vicinity we all usually feel like visiting the same day. There was a rush literally. It hardly came down. We have the graph maintained well. We haven't seen it going down any time. We are growing at a good pace.

When you are working for something day in and day out, you get attached to it. Principal of any business would be not to get attached emotionally. But that doesn't work. Practically it doesn't happen like that. We get attached to it. Here we work 365 days. There is no Saturday off or Sunday off. Nothing. We work from 7am to 11pm daily. Work starts at 4 in the morning and ends at 12-12.30 in the night. So we tend to get emotionally attached to this.

What's special at your restaurant compared to the others around you?

Menu for children - 40 to 50 percent of them come with their children ranging from 3 to 14 years of age. In restaurants, kids definitely enjoy. Children's menu makes them feel special and it's like giving importance to their choice as well. Kids are definitely a great market. If you make them feel special, they would want to come back to the restaurant. When kids want to go, parents can't say no to them. Con-stantly we add up new things. We keep checking the trend and try to do things accordingly.

We are in the phase of building our brand. We have to maintain the quality, keep the spirits up, keep the taste up, keep the service quality up. Brand needs to get recognized. A brand cannot get recognized on a large scale without time. What-ever we do, even if we do mass publicity, if we have to get registered in a person's mind, we have to serve good quality food. We are trying to keep the standards high enough. Once that happens then there is a road to obviously increase to either more outlets or franchises, stabilize at one place, have a brand and then look for more branches.

I sense no ego in you, in spite of all your achievements. Can I know how?

It is very important to be egoless. A lot of people who are working with me here are much more experienced than I am. If I carry ego, firstly I cannot be a good leader and I can never grow anywhere. I need to shed my ego and learn from them.

Your message to budding entrepreneurs:

Risk taking is the core part of entrepreneurship. You need to take calculated risk. You need to understand the business, you need to know what kind of risk you are taking before going ahead.

Do you think anyone who has a fire to make it big can become an entrepreneur or is it mandatory to hold an experience before starting?

It has different sides to it. If you have enough resources, you can take risk limiting those resources and can get experienced meanwhile. If you don't understand, it is always better to take mentorship. For me, my father is my mentor.
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