At 27, Vijay Abhimanyu Rajendran brings to the table the energy of a youngster, streamlined by a level of maturity that’s well beyond his age. He started with one stand-alone restaurant in Bengaluru when he was just 20 years old and today, eight years hence, owns fifteen restaurants across three states in India and has massive expansion plans for the next year.
RITZ meets the tireless entrepreneur who is driven by the ambition to make a difference in everything he does.
Vijay Abhimanyu is the young entrepreneur behind the Billion Smiles Hospitality venture, a fast growing hospitality chain with interests in three different business verticals – QSR, casual dining and the catering space. Vijay has successfully created well respected brands like Southindies, bonSouth and UpSouth, spread across Bengaluru, Pune and Himachal Pradesh. He has been spearheading this venture from the age of seventeen, thereby becoming one of the youngest entrepreneurs in the country. The vision of creating a scalable hospitality venture caught his imagination while assisting his father trying to convince his larger family to change their approach to the hospitality industry by professionalizing their management and working towards a larger vision.
“Energized by a successful beginning, the company is on a rapid expansion drive, with plans to open over 250 restaurants in cities across India and overseas within a span of six to seven years. The future will also witness the company foraying into other unique hospitality ventures. Billionsmiles aims to build a scalable business in the food industry with high quality offerings. It is a venture with new economic values with a strong focus in building value for all stakeholders – customers, employees and shareholders,” explains Vijay.
This year the brand bagged the title of best South Indian restaurant from the Times Food Guide Awards for both Bengaluru and Pune and this is not their first accolade. From its year of inception Southindies and then bonSouth have been consecutively raking in awards from many credible culinary and restaurant award sources.
“Everyone was entrepreneurial in my family, that’s what pushed me to start something on my own. My father always used to say that this economy will be built and driven by entrepreneurs and we will build India into one of the top three nations, in spite of its governance. That entrepreneurs will drive the country’s growth is something that is evident from the last fifteen years. In the mid 2000s consumer retail consumption driven business had reached a significant scale. Foreign fast food chains were expanding, opening hundreds of outlets across our country. This ignited a passion in me, as a business the space seemed right, opportunity seemed fantastic, the timing seemed perfect, so the idea really appealed to me. At that point, my dad decided to back this venture and the initial seed money came from the group holding company Billionways and I started Billion Smiles Hospitality,” he explains in detail.
Vijay’s dream is to build a world class, highly scalable hospitality venture. Founded in 2007, the company owns three brands – Southindies, an upscale casual dining South Indian vegetarian restaurant chain, bonSouth, a casual dining South Indian non vegetarian restaurant chain and UpSouth a highly scalable South Indian vegetarian quick service restaurant chain. Currently the company operates fifteen restaurants across Bengaluru, Pune and Himachal Pradesh.
“We were from an IT background and running a restaurant was new, so we made it a professionally run business from day one. But core competence and capability in South Indian food was a challenge so we got Ventatesh Bhat who previously worked with the Taj and Leela group of hotels to bring in the core competence with regard to cuisine. We wanted to specialize in this and take South Indian food to a new level as a casual dining brand and monopolise the fine dining South Indian dining space which was vacant,” Vijay tells us.
Having succeeded beyond his dreams in eight years since the brand’s inception, the man recently took some time off his hectic work schedule to tie the knot last month, but made sure he was back to work the following Monday after his wedding! “There’s never a spare day when you’re building a business from scratch,” he tells, confiding that he’s yet to make time off from his schedule to whisk his wife away on a honeymoon.
He obviously lives by the mantra that hard work is the only formula to success, and going by what we’ve seen of him and his restaurants flourishing in the city, we agree with him completely.