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Prem Ganapathy – The Dosawala

Prem Ganapathy, was stranded at the bandra station,when the person accompanying him left him and ran away. Prem had no local acquaintances or knowledge of the language.

Out of pity, a fellow Tamilian guided him to a temple and appealed worshipers to contribute money for his return ticket to Chennai.

Prem refused to go back and decided to work in Mumbai and started cleaning utensils in a restaurant. He appealed to his owner, to let him become a waiter as he was class 10 pass. The owner refused, because of regional politics and Prem bided his time till a neighbor hood dosa restaurant opened and offered him a job from a dishwasher to a tea boy.

Prem became a huge hit with the customers because of his excellent customer service, initiatives and relationship and brought business Rs. 1000 daily which was almost 3 times as compared to other tea boys. The life was good.

A customer made him an offer. He was planning to open a tea shop in Vashi in Mumbai. He wanted Prem to be his 50 – 50 partner where the owner would invest the money while Prem would run the shop. The shop started doing brisk business when the owner became greedy.

It hurt him to share 50 % of the profit with Prem and he threw Prem out replacing him with an employee.

Prem was made of a different material and he was never going to be defeated. He took a small loan from his uncle and with his brother, opened his own tea stall. Unfortunately the neighbourhood residents objected. He then started a hand cart but that also did not work out.

He found a spot and set up a south Indian stall. He did not know a thing about dosas and idli but learnt by observation, trial and error. The dosa stall was a huge hit and flourished during the 5 years from 1992-1997. But why was the tiny dosa stall was was so successful in spite of competition from ubiquitous eateries prevalent in Mumbai. According to Prem it was its hygiene, proper appearances of the waiters and fresh ingredients which stood out as a difference.

He saved a couple of lakhs of Rupees and instead of heading home he took the biggest risk of his life and opened a new shop near Vashi station and named it as Dosa Plaza. His Chinese plaza next to the Dosa Plaza flopped miserably and was shut down in 3 months.

Undaunted, Prem realized some lessons from it. He applied those lessons in making Chinese cuisine in his dosas which worked very well.

He got passionate and invented a variety of dosas with Chinese style like American Chopsuey, Schezwan Dosa, Paneer chilly, Spring roll dosa etc. The 108 types of Dosas in his menu gets him a lot of publicity.

A chance encounter with a customer who was part of the team setting up a food court in a mall in New Bombay advised him to take a stall at the food court and again Prem was ready and willing to grow and expand. His vision was to grow by better offerings and better customer service. He also went to ad agencies to create the brand identity including the logo, brands, menu card, waiters dress etc.

He started getting a lot of offers for franchising and had to find out the meaning of franchising and its modus operandi. Dosa Plaza currently has 26 outlets and 5 of them are company owned. It has 150 employees and a turnover of 5 crore. All the branches are connected and networked and there are training managers and proper manuals to maintain standard and uniform product and services.

Merit is the only criteria; all the employees regardless of the caste or region are treated equally. They are loyal and have grown with the company. The original team of cooks which was the part of the first Dosa venture is still with Prem. Currently he is also getting enquiries from US and Europe for franchisees.

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