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Let me ask you something! Imagine yourself working at one of the prime positions with a leading Television channel. You’re at the acme of your life-position. You are 48, and have a family to look upon. Inspite of the fact that everything is going in a perfect harmony, will you quit your day job and start-up something from scratch?
For those who would not do so (or at least recommend others not to quit their day jobs), let me share a small piece of story.
It was a day long exhausting journey, where I was travelling back from one of my business meetings and wanted to halt somewhere to eat something refreshing. Passing by across more than ten hotels and restaurants, something caught my attention. There was this fluorescent-green textured board, near the highway, saying “Iti – The speciality Bengali Restaurant.” It had a caricature of a Bengali man, which portrayed that the food was extremely delicious.
The moment I entered the restaurant, I was invited by Mr.Purnendu Bose, the Founder of Iti. I took my seat at the corner table and took the first bite of ‘Veg.Chap’, one of the menu items – believe me it was AWESOME! I stood up, took my plate and went at his table, where I spotted him working on a laptop. For those who don’t know him, Mr.Purnendu was the Ex-COO at SaharaOne, and one of the key persons to launch Hungama TV channel.
Since then, I became more curious about him and pulled out my pen and notepad. Let’s know more about him and entrepreneurial journey so far.
What was the first spark, that made you quit your day job and start iti restaurants? How did the idea of Bengali food chain come to your mind?
To cut a long story short, I had an ambition of migrating from employment to entrepreneurial venture at around 45 years of age. This would be of something I thought I am intrinsically good at. Initially it was a step in the media industry where I have spent last two decades of my career. I got into the search for fund for my own media project and was constantly travelling to meet investors. While I was in Kolkata on that mission, I frequented a specialty Bengali restaurant chain outlet which was close to my meeting venue. There i realized that there are not good options of reasonably priced, specialty Bengali restaurant chain here in Mumbai or other cities outside West Bengal with a significant & affluent Bengali population who really missed out on Nostalgic taste of authentic Bengali food. Bengalis are known for their culinary passion and no matter which part of the planet earth they live in can walk extra miles for their ethnic food fare. Bengali foods that have evolved over the centuries both ingeniously and through assimilation of many foreign culinary specialties are a big draw not for its distinctive tastes and flavors alone but also for simplicity and subtlety in cooking styles. Yes, I’m a carefully self groomed food connoisseur, especially of authentic and exotic Bengali Food.
When you made the decision of starting up your own venture at the age of 48, how did you tackle the opposition from your family and friends?
Honestly speaking I have not had any opposition. On the contrary my family stood by me and backed whatever decisions I have taken in my life. In that field, I am possibly lucky enough to have supporting parents, wife and son.
What is the USP of your food chain?
Iti in Bengali literally means “The End”. Through our brand name the message conveyed is “end to the search for authentic Bengali Cuisine”. Iti is a destination that showcases the best of both East and West Bengal cuisine. Bongs are known for their appetite for food that is as intense as their love for culture music and films. There is a famous saying that compulsions can drive a bong out of Bengal but nothing can take the Bengal out of a bong’s heart. Our USP is founded on this emotional quotient especially about nostalgic food from both sides of Bengal with a single objective of serving the foods they miss when they go out of Bengals that in turn will be a sort of celebration for them. The real kick is in the preparation of food in strict adherence to traditional recipes so that the customers feel that they are having home cooked food- something in the way their mother or grandparents used to cook. This I believe makes the immediate nostalgic connect. We offer around 97 unique authentic recipes from both sides of Bengal.
Within a span of just few months, you’ve already started three restaurants in Navi Mumbai and Mumbai region, where do you see yourself in coming 5 years?
Thanks to overwhelming response from Bengalis all across Mumbai which has enabled us to open 3 branches in last 15 months, from the time when we opened our first outlet in Vashi. Today we are serving to more than 5000 Prabashi (migrated) Bengali families every month in Mumbai. We intend to continue to roll-out primarily company owned and operated restaurants. We have the appetite and drive to establish fifteen Iti Bengali Restaurants in Mumbai over the next three years and then move onto a national and international business-scape in the next phase of expansion.
“Management is core to every individual, organization & society.” Give your views on it.
Management is inseparable right from cradle to crematorium for any individual, organization or society. Judicious management of resources is required to sustain oneself save growth and advancement through high pitched competition. Deep and large management bandwidth can lead to very high success rate, which enables to make optimum use of available resources, both material and human. Management is a sheer necessity not a fashionable rhetoric.
What is your philosophy towards work?
It’s simple: work until I drop that inspires people around me to do the same.
According to you, what are the challenges for Entrepreneurship today?
Business and industry can be different but the challenges are the same. They are for innovation, opportunity, existence & growth, which entrepreneurs today face as they attempt to attain their goals set.
Do you think today’s economy is conducive for a new venture to start upon?
The essence, spirit and direction of the economy has been pro-market since industrial revolutions. Only paradigms shift in relation to the political bias. Now when you’re looking for a new venture you’re competing in a world where the competition isn’t just the outlet down the street, but anybody working with similar idea anywhere in the world. It is good as it demands more from me to be competitive in equal terms first and then to attain the all important leading edge in the business we do. Possibly I have to work hard more as some of them have more local economic advantages as compared to those in our country. But that should not be eyed as deterrents, on the contrary as challenges to test yourself.
Share with us the most enjoyable moment you had experienced on work.
There is not a single one, there are many. But I can share a recent one. A couple of days later I opened our Vashi Joint I came across a couple on their morning walk. Seeing Iti the lady stopped and a bit grudgingly told her husband “See our luck. It has opened here when we are told to be calorie-conscious.” I was really amused and felt a bit bad about them at the same time. Also the moments when some guests gave me a look of disbelief knowing me the owner of iti. I am grateful to my parents for my unassuming unlike-businessman look.