Dosas In Delhi And Other Culinary Crossovers

On the reasonably pleasant day, Virag Joshi is beaming. And the weather has everything to do with it – in hot Delhi, tired of heavy Punjabi food, Delhiites are wolfing down dosas and puliogare in the seven Vaango outlets in Delhi. Down south, Bangaloreans are slurping down all-American ice cream sundaes in the Swensen’s parlours. As the head of DIL, he oversees multiple F & B brands – the company has the master franchisee rights for Costa Coffee in India and is the largest franchisee for Pizza Hut and KFC, with Swensen’s being the latest and sweetest addition. The homegrown Vaango is the first of several in-house brands.

Sandhya Mendonca is Managing Director & Editor in Chief at Raintree Media Pvt Ltd & GVP India

The man who’s led the growth of DIL’s 310 plus outlets across India is upbeat about the growth of the brands. The company is investing `100 crore in opening Swensen’s ice cream parlours across India in the next five years. He plans to roll them out in Hyderabad and Chennai next year before spreading out to the rest of the country.

The morning that we met, the headlines were morose about the economic outlook – India’s growth had become sluggish, dipping to a nine-year low of 5.3 percent in the March quarter. “What’s making you grow? If people are still coming out to eat, tell me where the money is coming from?” I ask him. “Eating out will not stop and the Indian mind-set is such that we want to have a good time when we come out. The frequency of outings could reduce – instead of eating out four times a week it would come down to thrice a week. But when people do come out to eat they will eat as much as ever,” he says with quiet satisfaction.

I ask him the question that bothers me about fast food outlets and coffee shops, “Why are the portions so huge? Why are Indians being served American sized orders –the ‘up-sizing’ is already causing the same obesity-related health problems here as in the US?” Joshi’s explanation hinges on the Indian psyche, “Firstly, Indians want value for money – we charge a premium but we give portions that make people happy. Secondly, Indians love to share – people come in and order and sample, so there’s enough for everybody.”

He ought to know; he’s been a F & B professional throughout – first with the Taj Group of hotels before moving on to Dominoes Pizza’s as their first hire in India – here he rose from regional manager to become the COO. When he left, the chain had over 120 outlets in India. He’s been the CEO & President of Devyani International Ltd (DIL), an associate company of the 3000 crore RJ Corp, for ten years now.

It is a good growth and I examine his style – he is no human dynamo; rather he has a quiet and almost restful manner about him even when he calls across to a subordinate to find out some information for me. “Is your job stressful – having to manage so many brands must be tough?” I ask. Joshi says that each brand has a CEO who has complete authority to act. “I delegate and empower people, though I keep a check. I don’t believe in interfering. I do a lot of coaching and mentoring and I especially like to involve the spouses in the career plan of my staff. We have a Learning & Development Head and we do a lot of sessions on EQ.”

That must help keep attrition down, I comment and he says that in his ten years, barely a couple of people from senior management have quit. “The fact that we have a steady team has helped the company’s growth and we encourage growth within the company – a delivery boy has risen to senior management with us.”

He travels abroad once in two months and across India quite often. High on his reading list while travelling (he manages to visit all the outlets at least once a year), are books on empowerment. He is currently reading David Novak’s Taking People with You.

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