“IMT Ghaziabad does not teach you to be an Employee or an Entrepreneur. It teaches you to understand and create systems…processes.”
Gaurav Jain,Founder, ‘Mast Kalandar’IMT, Ghaziabad batch 2000
When Gaurav Jain passed out of IMT, Ghaziabad in 2000, he knew that his life was made. He had landed a comfortable corporate job as a business development manager at Planetasia in Bangalore. He finally moved to Wipro in 2003. By 2005, Gaurav had steadily risen up the corporate ladder to become a Strategic Marketing Manager. He was all set to become one of those solid, senior management professionals who belong to the upper middle-class, which IMT, Ghaziabad consistently produces. To complete this picture, he was married to Pallavi, who was a business analyst with TCS. Nobody knew that there was a major bone of contention festering in the mind of Gaurav Jain…. nobody suspected what was to follow.
“Four years after passing out of IMT, Ghaziabad, while working for Wipro in Bangalore as a strategic marketing manager, my biggest challenge was not on the job-front. You see, I could barely make tea for myself, which meant that I had no alternative but to eat out regularly. Bangalore had enough restaurants serving north Indian fare, but they were either unhygienic, or expensive, or too spicy for daily consumption. There was a glaring shortage of simple, affordable, authentic and hygienic options.”
The idea took firmer roots, every time he ate out, till it turned into a conviction. His grooming at IMT, Ghaziabad told him that he had to corroborate his conviction with real data… that’s when destiny intervened. During a work assignment in Sydney, Australia in early 2005, he discovered that a lot of successful restaurants in Australia dished out simple, home-made food as opposed to lavish or exotic fare. His conviction turned into a passion… and his passion rubbed onto his wife, Pallavi.
“I came back and quit my job. But my biggest asset and advantage was the unconditional support of my wife, Pallavi. She quit her job as well, and joined me in setting up the place. True, we didn't have a regular income to run the household, but now there were two heads working on Mast Kalandar.”
So, here they were - two people, who had quit their plush corporate jobs, and put all their savings, worth 18 Lakhs, into a business venture for which neither of them had any prior training or experience. Not the ideal start-up strategy by any stretch of imagination. ‘Too risky’, you’d say. But when your heart, soul and ‘stomach’ are thrown into an idea, risk is all you need!
Gaurav realised that the best way forward was to get back to his IMT, Ghaziabad days.
“For the next 11 months, I was back doing what we would’ve done on a project in IMT, Ghaziabad – researching, thrashing out the business model, deciding on the intricacies of running the place, enlisting vendors, finalizing a large, spacious and comfortable location, and the brand name. I had a name for my restaurant - Mast Kalandar. But since my days in IMT, Ghaziabad I’ve never underestimated the power of a survey. I held a small survey amongst my friends and family, giving them a number of options and called them back after a week. Interestingly, most of them seemed to remember Mast Kalandar!”
“IMT, Ghaziabad does not teach you to be an employee or an entrepreneur. It teaches you to understand and create systems… processes. It was this teaching from IMT, Ghaziabad, that helped me set processes and understand everything about the working of a kitchen - from the sourcing of ingredients and food storage, to the menu, to everyday operations. We finally opened Mast Kalandar in February 2006.”
Mast Kalandar started operations in a 3,000 sq ft rented space on the Banerghatta road on the outskirts of Bangalore. It was 2006 and the place wasn't as developed, but it worked out well.
With no money for advertising, the Jains relied on word of mouth. Within one year, Mast Kalandar not only broke even, but opened another branch in Indira Nagar in the city. The turnover after the first year of operations was Rs 25 lakhs. Today, Mast Kalandar has an projected annual turnover of 50 crores, has 600 employees, and operates out of 35 outlets in four cities – Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune.
Mast Kalandar serves a mixed vegetarian cuisine – from Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi - as a vegetarian place attracts both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The food is cooked fresh every day. The raw food is transported in imported temperature controlled boxes, which can preserve freshness for up to 10 hours. Authenticity is paramount in sourcing of ingredients; papads come from Rajasthan, pickles from Meerut and Jaipur, the jaggery is sourced from Uttar Pradesh and curry masalas from Kumaon.
“It wasn't until 2008 that I paid myself a salary, but I knew all the way, that I simply had to persist… something which was drilled into us during our years in IMT, Ghaziabad.”