Their social media profiles may resemble The Rich Kids of Instagram but our 3 young cover personalities are enterprising and inspiring millennials who will stop at nothing to achieve what they set out to do. Presenting for the first-time ever, 3 of Chennai’s youngest successful businessmen on the cover of South India’s largest lifestyle magazine, RITZ.
Text: Preeti GT
Photographs: Ganesh Toasty
Location: Feathers Hotel
Styling: Sunil Karthik (Team Rehane)
Special thanks to leading fashion designer Rehane for her inputs and ideas
Hair and Makeup: Page 3 Luxury Salon and Makeover Studio, Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Chennai
Shoes: Language (One that Arun wore the blue suit with brown shoes)
Basic Instinct – Arun Prasanth
Backed by pure, simple conviction and the perseverance to achieve, 27-year-old Arun Prasanth – the charismatic young man behind the fame of TOVO, is happy being considered an ‘outsider’ yet fitting deftly amongst the successful restauranteurs of Chennai. Even a brief chat with him is bound to reveal a major personality trait that wins him all-round admiration – Arun speaks from his heart, boldly, honestly and with intense passion.
What are the odds of a 20-something youngster returning home from the UK, having graduated from London School of Business with a work ex from an ace of a banking corporation, succeed in the tricky restaurant business? A long shot is probably a foregone conclusion – that is, until you have met Arun Prasanth Bacthavathsalam. “Apart from enjoying food like most people, my only other exposure to the industry is when I chose to do my dissertation on sustainable energy. This was in relation to food waste generated by a customer rather than in commercial restaurant kitchens,” explains Arun. “Proving to my professors at the University of Greenwich that food waste was a resource and managing it sensibly would lead us towards better customer spending power and sustainable businesses, was my first challenge. A personal incident at a restaurant convinced me to take up the cause of food waste generated by customers, and the subsequent findings that I meticulously worked on remain the corner stone of my business. All I wanted to do was practically carry out what I theoretically proved!” Thus began his journey with TOVO since 2013, where less is more and where Arun is awaiting patent approval with regard to the way food is cooked in its own natural flavours and juices using a combination of heat that would make the slow-cooking process viable for a commercial kitchen. With a background that is as diverse and different as his, why venture bullishly into avant-garde cuisine such as TOVO, I quiz? “My theoretical plan that was neatly laid out led me to this kind of cooking and cuisine. Moreover I was deeply motivated by the fact that with my line of business I can innovate and contribute in my own style, to the way people eat their food. This intention backed by ethics, morals and the pure raw emotion to succeed is how passionately I connect with my business plan,” explains Arun as he wears his heart on his sleeve. It is this natural aptitude of business and fearless conviction that drove the 27-year-old to launch his first outlet, not at the young and vibrant Besant Nagar or at the escape pads of ECR/OMR but right at the heart and pulse of Chennai – Mylapore. “I literally wanted to take the bull by its horns by trying to create a sustainable modern restaurant amidst the natural, routine-loving common Chennaiites.
“A passion to innovate backed by ethics, morals and the pure raw emotion to succeed is how passionately I connect with my business plan”
Once I was able to succeed here, the next challenge I gave myself was another area of similar reputation – Anna Nagar.” All along Arun faced obstacles like any other first-gen entrepreneur. “I knew I was being exploited – bankers seeking additional guarantee, landlords authoritatively wanting more advanced payments and service providers offering only bare minimum repayment window; I accepted everything. My own family touted me as being foolishly aggressive – firstly, because I chose not to follow the footsteps of my dad and uncles, who are all highly educated and who pursue the Services at the highest level, and secondly because my business plan was avidly enterprising for a first-time entrepreneur like me, requiring an initial investment of more than a crore! Nevertheless I was convinced, I breathed the success of my venture and I believed I had it in me to steer and sustain my business. It is undoubtedly easier said than done but my conviction and will power helped me in wading through rough waters. Today, I feel fantastic to see my capabilities and potential being realised through ways that are influenced by morals and simply being just. I probably am even a tad bit wiser to understand the reason for my parents’ apprehensions initially; they didn’t want me to experience probable failure.” Now after four years and four restaurants that have a combined value of over 25 crores, sustaining through constant improvisation is the key. “My food principles are very simple – the raw materials I procure form my basic etiquette; absolutely no change or compromise in quality. While this is basics 101 that happens inside the kitchens, the product outside is sophisticated even as we constantly come up with more permutations and combinations to innovate for our customers.
“In life, you need immense patience to nurture your dreams”
I believe I am doomed if at any point I interchange these two aspects!” Arun considers his true success in the numbers that speak clearly, the very statistics of food waste that got him involved in the restaurant business – standing at an astoundingly impressive 1/8th of the average Indian restaurant! “This will continue to be my driving force to reach higher all whilst in the bid to revive the deteriorating quality of the subject of the dish, without help from other ingredients.” What does it take for a youngster like him to understand branding and the pulse of the people, we ask. Arun is wise in quoting, “The exercise is like taking care of a certain species of bamboo which takes even upto four years for the seed to pop, but once it does see the light of day, the sapling grows rapidly each day. In life, you need immense patience to nurture your dreams until they become reality,” he signs off philosophically.
Favourite value in life: Always contribute, however small – to friends, family, society and hope that you might make a difference
Fitness regime: An hour of jogging or cycling in the outdoors every morning
Other interests: Long bike rides along the ECR, cricket
Favourite hangouts in Chennai: Besant Nagar beach for cutting chai!
Memorable squad experiences: Proud to have conquered most adventure sport experiences with friends – base jumping, bungee jumping, scuba diving and the coveted Leh-Ladakh bike trip
Favourite holiday: Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
Favourite brands: Giorgio Armani and Apple
Favourite TV character: Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones
Inspiring movie for entrepreneurs: The Aviator
Favourite business quote: Steve Jobs’ “Be Foolish”
Being young is: Only an emotion