South India is a treat for dosa lovers but to see an MBA graduate smearing white batter on coal black pans will certainly shock you. To meet this wonder boy you have to come all the way to Nampally, Hyderabad where a small hand-pulled cart or bandi sees more customers than a KFC outlet.
Thirty-year-old Ram Kumar Shinde is the owner of Ram ki Bandi and has an extraordinary story behind the popularity of this brand. In 1989, marred by poverty his father had to resort to selling dosas and idlis out of a cart which he parked at different locations everyday. His father had seen very tough days and worked very hard to give his children a brighter future. However, since he was eight, Ram accompanied his father from street to street mesmerized by the art of dosa making.
He grew up closely observing his father’s business and earned a MBA degree with the money that came from the cart (or bandi). During his college placements, he was offered a job with monthly salary of Rs 20,000 where he would sit in an air-conditioned office. It did not take him long to make a choice of joining his father’s business over the management role he was offered.
He had now joined the cart full-time and wasn’t happy with the usual way it operated. He resolved to take charge and invested a sizable amount of money to turn-around things. Alas, simply pooling more money did not attract customers and Ram began to worry over the future of his business.
It got him thinking that why would customers visit his stall while there are many other vendors selling same dosas in similar fashion. He decided to make two major changes in his business and his father supported him in it. “We were the first ones to introduce variety in dosas in Hyderabad. Ram ki Bandi now began making cheese dosa, butter dosa, pizza dosa and people loved each one of them,” says Ram.
At a time when all my competitors wanted to save more and earn larger margins, I made it compulsory that we were using only top-grade products like Amul butter and cheese.
The difference in quality was instantly noticed and the we saw a sudden increase in our customer base. Apart from innovating new varieties, Ram also changed the timings of operations. “Hyderabad was becoming a IT hub and there was nobody serving li-smacking quality food for professionals at odd hours. I completely changed the timings and started operating from 2 am to 8 am. In few days, ‘Ram ki Bandi’ gained unprecedented popularity among IT people and general public alike.
People would now take late night strolls and wake up early on weekends only to eat the scrumptious dosas. On any given day, Ram ki Bandi feeds at least 1,000 customers. The joint has also become famous online and has close to 50,000 followers on its Facebook page.
Backed by his success, Ram was motivated to take another leap. A couple of years back he opened a suave restaurant in the upmarket Banjara Hills which serves quality food at slightly higher cost and serves family crowd in throughout the day. He has employed more than 30 people and hands out a maximum of Rs 30,000-40,000 salary to his chefs.
With the business growing, his schedule has become quite hectic. He spends his evenings overlooking the business at Banjara Hills but nothing can keep him away from his carts at Nampally. Ask him about it and he responds with a smile, “This is where I started my journey and this will always hold a special place in my life and I will never stop coming here even if I manage to start 10 restaurants in future.”
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