Anjana has always been an enterprising person with expertise in Visual Merchandising, Retail and Team Management. She started her career in Visual Merchandising with an American Sportswear Company called Steve & Barry’s. Later, she moved on to being a Manager – Visual merchandising at Aditya Birla Retail Limited. Gradually she climbed the ladder of success in the Visual Merchandising industry working in several roles at different organizations.
Currently she is the Director at Blue Pepper Restaurants Pvt Ltd. She is responsible for the management of the company and promotes the success of the company. It is a chain of restaurants with professionally trained culinary team and service staff from hospitality background. It has built an immense reputation for itself in the financial capital of India, Mumbai.
Please provide a brief overview of your product/ service.
Blue Pepper Restaurants Pvt Ltd has three brands under its umbrella.
- Downtown China (Chinese cuisine) – The yummiest Chinese getaway
- Khaana Peena (Indian cuisine mainly Lucknowi & Avadhi styled) – Mouthwatering cuisine with a North Indian twist
- Coconut Leaf (South Indian cuisine) – Traditional delicacies of South India
Every cuisine is the best in its own kind and we ensure to stick to the basic norms of selling our products under each brand. Like, in this format we will not sell any Chinese dish or any South Indian dish under Khaana Peena or vice versa.
What inspired you to build the above product/ service?
The company Blue Pepper Restaurants Pvt Ltd has been formed by my husband, Amit Gulrajani, along with my father in law, Vinod Gulrajani in the year 2011. Mr. Vinod Gulrajani has always been in the hospitality industry since many years and both he and Amit are food connoisseurs at heart. Amit grew up learning and loving food. Their passion for food extends from street food at South Bombay suburbs till the posh restaurants at Lower Parel and Bandra. Amit started his career as an IT Graduate from National College, Bandra and came into the restaurant business only in 2009, when he really started liking and understanding the food and hospitality sector. Blue Pepper was born in 2011 and is a result of an in-depth research on cuisines and simply because good food always attracts great people.
With a strong background in Commercial Art from Nirmala Niketan College in South Bombay and having a 10 years’ work experience in Visual Merchandising with top companies like, Aditya Birla Retail, Future Value Retail Ltd., Cheil India Pvt. Ltd, etc., it was a very easy move for me to create Blue Pepper with my husband. Hence, my involvement with Blue Pepper was right from its inception and it was easier for me to build my home brands as I was learning a lot from the companies I was employed with. The entire brand identity was designed and created by Amit and myself, along with all its marketing thoughts and retail strategies. Both Amit and I started enjoying and loving this business and gradually we realized we belong to this industry and we indeed, have the skill and the expertise to grow Blue Pepper to the next level and even beyond. It has been an inspirational journey for both of us all throughout and we are still being inspired by other food brands in the industry.
What is your life mantra?
We believe in growth but at a pace that can be steady and controlled. We do not want to forge ahead so fast that we cannot control our pace and come down even quicker than we realize. Along with growth, we aim to achieve perfection in all areas of restaurant business. We further aim to achieve highest level of efficiency in customer satisfaction by providing high food quality and maintaining exemplary service standards. Our mantra would be “Let’s grow slowly and steadily but with perfection!”
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now?
The initial stages had various kinds of expected and unexpected challenges, like arranging the right kind of manpower for each brand, the enormous funds required to set up the outlets, the right location to kick start the business, the constant change in the customer behavior and their different insights towards taste of various cuisines, the huge number of competitors serving similar cuisine, and many more. The most challenging part would be to get the right location in the city of Mumbai and its suburbs as per our concept.
How did you overcome those challenges?
Confidence and perseverance along with faith in ourselves helped us overcome all the challenges. Of course, teamwork, selection of right third party vendors, marketing and strategical thinking made us overcome each hurdle till now.
Share some details about the investments that you have been able to fetch for the business until now.
Blue Pepper had an excellent turnaround in 2015. We were able to sign five franchisees in a span of 10 months. This was indeed a great achievement considering the enormous competition in this industry. We were able to launch all these outlets successfully and only one outlet awaits to be launched at Xperia Mall, Palava City along with the mall inauguration. We are anxiously awaiting the launch of this mall.
We are now targeting for further growth through casual dine and fine dine restaurants and looking forward to stronger and bolder investors who would love to take up the challenge of growing with Blue Pepper.
How do you protect yourself from the problem of Brain Drain?
This industry has a major challenge of attrition and with multiple food chains coming up in such frequencies that it’s become extremely difficult to control this. We try to provide our staff the best pay packages as per industry standards, accommodations closely to their workplace, excellent training facilities, potential to grow within the company, and the respect they deserve for being part of the Blue Pepper family. A positive and motivating environment is all that our workforce needs to ensure they enjoy every moment here.
Another most important aspect is majority of our staff does not belong to this city. In addition, they, not belonging to this city, are always having an apprehension to mingle with the localities and hence, do not get lured to other local brands and their offers. This has indeed helped us retain a huge number of top class chefs, helpers and managers.
According to you, what are the three qualities an individual must have to achieve success?
Passion, Perseverance and of course, loads of Luck. Luck plays the most pivotal role in every individual’s life. That is my belief!
Which online tools/ services/ apps do you use the most and would like to recommend as well?
There has been a sudden eruption of online tools, apps, etc. in the food industry in the last few years. Initially when we started our journey we were yearning to spread the news of the launch and information about our products, marketing our offers, etc. but not much was available and Facebook also held a very low profile then. Today we are flooded with various kinds of social media opportunities, library of apps, etc. We use Dytel (Dyne Software) for our POS and we find it very user friendly. The team of Dytel has been very cooperative and always there for us. We have our presence in Zomato, Quikwallet, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Very soon, we are launching our own website for online delivery for our loyal customers and also our mobile app to tap home delivery more strongly. Our customers have been ordering at present through Zomato and at times directly by calling at our outlets.
Share any one habit, which you think, makes you more productive.
Being constantly on my toes and always being aware and updated regarding everything that is happening around whether it is from the industry I belong or not. I would rather say learning from each one I meet and practicing the best with perfection that I pick up from them.
Share any one habit, which you wish to change in yourself.
I am excessively ‘cool’ about everything in life and always tend to think very positive about whatever comes my way. This at times disappoints me when things do not work my way and although I know that it is good to be positive but I should also make way for some disappointment in my mind in case things do not work the way I wanted them to.
Answer in less than 50 words
Believe in yourself and believe in whatever you do. Do not be upset over failures because that is the best way to learn if you want to achieve success in life. Choose the people around you very cautiously and once you build a strong team, trust them and give them enough space to grow along with you. (Sorry, it is slightly more than 50 words)
- One mistake you believe every individual must avoid:
Blind faith and complete trust in any individual or individuals!
- One most important lesson that you have learnt till now:
Never ever, take anything or anybody for granted.
What are your plans for next 3 years?
Cautious growth in QSR format and launching casual dine and fine dine restaurants at least 2 per year. We would love to have more investors on board and also plan out one restobar format in a large scale in Mumbai suburbs. We are also aiming to launch another brand of either a Continental or Mexican cuisine.
If you get a chance to start your career, again what would you do differently this time?
I have missed the opportunity of getting a degree from a top rated university abroad due to certain factors in my life. I would love to pursue my career further in Retail and Visual Merchandising from abroad. I wish I had the time to do this even now.
What are your top three getaway destinations?
Mauritius, Hawaii and the city of Melbourne.
Although it has been 3 years since Amit and I have actually gone on a vacation except for short trips to resorts and hill stations close to Mumbai.
Share a quote that inspires you the most.
People say, “Everything happens for a reason.”
That “reason” is: To decide what you will do with what you have right now. Not what you thought you’d have, not what you were promised but didn’t get, not what you hope to have one day, but what you have right here, right now. The more you can keep attention on that, the greater the creations within your life will be. Make the most of every moment.
- Doe Zantamata (Author, artist and photographer)
The above quote is the reason I believe in short term goals and not long-term ones. If I fulfill all my short-term goals, I will automatically succeed in fulfilling my long-term ones.