Zorawar Kalra, founder of Massive Restaurants speaks on how he likes to innovate and stay ahead of the game.
BY NAMITA GUPTA
How did the idea of getting into the restaurant industry come? Was it a natural progression since Jiggs Kalra was also in the business?
I was driven from my early teen years, seeing my father, his lifestyle, how much hardships, passion and dedication for what he did. I found it very intriguing and interesting and it made an indelible mark on my psyche and at that young age, I decided that I want to open restaurants all across the world. Another key reason why I got into the restaurant industry was also because I wanted to put Indian food on the global palate. I had travelled the world with my dad and we had seen how Indian food was received in a poor manner. This greatly irked my father and we both had this sense of responsibility towards Indian food and we wanted to ensure that our cuisine and culture is represented in the correct manner across the world and Indian food gets its rightful space at the top of the ladder and ranks amongst the world’s best cuisines.
Were there any challenges then or was it all easy for you. If yes, how did you overcome them?
Being Jiggs Kalra’s son, I had many advantages. It helped me get my foot in the door, however the diner will come for the name only once, after which the consistency of the food and the service will speak for itself. Initially it was difficult to find the right real estate and location. The concept I was pursuing was different. Why I opened Masala Library and Farzi Café in the early 2010’s was because India wasn’t ready for that concept before that. The concept was perhaps a bit ahead of its time, but soon we got a great response and the results were fabulous.
How has the journey been since then? What have been the highpoints of your journey?
We are now in seven countries. We are all over the Middle East, London and nine cities in India. We have nine brands that are all doing exceptionally well all across. There are peaks and troughs in every business. The industry itself has gone through a lot, so have to face the brunt of it. Coronavirus has also had a big impact, but overall there has been more highs than lows. It has exciting, rewarding, adventurous, incredible and challenging at the same time.
How have you stayed ahead of the game and made people stand up and take notice with each of your brands?
I did try to stay ahead of the game. Maybe I was lucky to have very good people to work with me. We do our own thing and carve our niche. Massive Restaurants has been innovative and are the first to come with many cool concepts like modern casual format with Farzi or with molecular gastronomy with Masala Library or molecular Asian with PaPaYa. We don’t do molecular gastronomy any more. We do a quick study and whenever we see a trend coming, we either create the trend or ride the trend. We keep a keen eye on what the diners want and constantly keep reimagining, revolutionising, reinnovating and constantly keep evolving the brands. One of the key things we’re good at is understanding the trends and pre-empting trends and accordingly make changes.
How do you keep innovating everytime and what keeps you motivated?
Innovating is the biggest motivation for us. Our team is very energetic and innovative and gets bored easily. They love to jump out their bed with a new sense of vigour. Our culture of the company is built around innovation and that’s what is really helping us go forward.
How do you maintain a work-life balance? What are your other hobbies?
There is no work-life balance. It’s just work-work. But I do take out time for my hobbies like racing cars on the Buddh International Circuit. I also love making monster PCs (personal computers) that are very powerful, but most importantly I love spending time with my kids. Whenever I’m in Delhi, I make sure I have atleast one or two meals with them and go to their sporting events. They’re playing tennis and golf now, so I go with them there. My biggest stress buster is my kids, followed by racing.
You have been launching quite a few new restaurants and pubs across the country. How many are there under your umbrella now?
We have now 25 restaurants in India and 10 overseas, so it’s a total of 35 restaurants. This includes company owned and franchise – 21 are company owned and the remaining are franchised.
What are your future plans?
I want to take Farzi Café all over the globe. Masala Library is already in the world’s tallest hotel and we’re very excited about it. We are very bullish with the fact that the Indian food is at a nascent stage and if we choose the right location and right partners in various geographies across the world, then we will do justice to Indian cuisine. Within India, we are planning to open many brands across the cities. Our bar Union will be our biggest expansion stories and we will open them across the country. We plan to open Farzi Café, PaPaYa and Made in Punjab in smaller cities also.