There is nobody in this world who wants to lead a frugal life. Though we all dream of being successful very few of us actually get to relish the taste of success. Many of them give up dreams midway due to lack of perseverance or loss at some point or some distractions. But none of these negative factors defeated Prem Ganapathy as he pushed himself to do better and hence he succeeded in becoming a great Indian entrepreneur and businessman.
Today, he is the founder of the restaurant chain Dosa Plaza. With a meagre initial investment of just Rs.100, he expanded Dosa plaza into a broad spectrum of a restaurant chain with 45 outlets in India, New Zealand, Oman, and UAE. Above all, he is a good human being.
He was born in Nagalapuram in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu. He completed class X following which he left for Chennai to find himself a job. He then did multiple jobs in Chennai before going to Mumbai in 1990. He was stranded there with no money and no idea of the local language. However, he started working in a bakery with the help of a Tamil family.
After gaining some healthy knowledge and experience in this field, Ganapathy made up his mind to stand on his own legs. So, he started his own food business in 1992, selling idlis and dosas in a handcart opposite the Vashi railway station.
Five years later, he rented a shop and started experimenting with different varieties of dosas and in 2003, he launched his first outlet in a mall in Center One Mall at Vashi. In 2012, Dosa plaza has 45 branches in 4 countries serving more than 100 varieties of dosas. This is called the true meaning of ‘Success’
Even as Ganapathy faced ups and downs in his life, he was determined to do something on his own. He shared his experience in the initial stages of his life in Mumbai. What started as a bad start turned out to be an extraordinary journey for him.
“I was lured to Mumbai, only to be robbed. It was an inauspicious start to my entrepreneurial journey, but it turned out for the best.
I belonged to a poor family from Nagalapuram in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin district and had to abandon my dreams of higher studies to support my parents and seven siblings. I headed for Chennai, but only managed odd jobs, which fetched around Rs 250 a month that I’d send back home.
One day, an acquaintance offered me a job promising a salary of Rs 1,200 per month in Mumbai. I knew my parents would never approve of my decision to shift base, so I left for Mumbai without informing them. It was 1990 and I was just 17 years old. The acquaintance robbed me off the Rs 200 I had, leaving me stranded at Bandra.
I hardly understood the language and did not know anyone in the city, but returning wasn’t an option since I was penniless. So I did the only thing I could: I decided to stay on and try my luck.
The very next day I got a job washing dishes at a local bakery at Mahim for a salary of Rs 150 a month. The good bit was that I could sleep at the bakery itself. In the next two years, I picked up odd jobs at various restaurants and tried to save as much as possible.
In 1992, I managed to save up enough to start my own food business, selling idlis and dosas. I rented a handcart for about Rs 150 and ploughed in another Rs 1,000 to buy utensils, a stove and basic ingredients, and set up shop on the street opposite the Vashi train station,” he added.
“The same year, I brought in two of my brothers, Murugan and Paramashivan, who were younger than me by two and four years, respectively, to help with the business. We were very particular about quality and cleanliness, and unlike the people running other roadside eateries, we were very well-dressed and wore caps.
I got the recipes for dosas and the sambhar from my native place, which attracted a lot of customers. Soon enough, the business was booming and we were generating a net profit of around Rs 20,000 every month.
We even managed to rent out a small space at Vashi, which doubled as our living quarters and a makeshift kitchen, where we would prepare all the ingredients and masala every day.
However, it wasn’t smooth sailing. We faced the risk of the cart being seized by the municipal authorities as handcart food stalls do not get licences to ply their trade.
In fact, our cart was seized several times and I had to pay a fine to have it released. Thankfully, the harassment ended when we saved enough to open a restaurant.
In 1997, we leased a small space in the same locality by paying a deposit of Rs 50,000 and named it Prem Sagar Dosa Plaza. We paid a monthly rental of Rs 5,000 and also hired two people.
The restaurant was frequented by college-goers, some of whom became good friends. They taught me how to use the Internet, which helped me get new recipes from across the world. Soon, I began to experiment with dosas, rolling out offerings, such as the schezwan dosa, paneer chilly, and spring roll dosa. In the first year, we introduced 26 innovative dosas.
By 2002, we had managed to create more than 105 dosa varieties and our outlet had become very popular. However, I dreamt of opening a shop in a mall and even tried to get a place in some of the suburban malls. I was repeatedly turned down as space was reserved for branded eateries like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.
My luck turned the day Centre One mall decided to open up in our vicinity. Its management team and staffers had often dined at our restaurant and enjoyed our fare. They suggested that we set up an outlet in the mall and we happily complied.
Our dosas won us publicity and people began approaching us with franchise requests. We agreed, with the stipulation that we would supply the dosa batter and other ingredients. The first franchise outlet opened at Wonder Mall in Thane, in 2003.
We’ve been getting several requests from people who want to set up Dosa Plaza outlets in other countries. We have three outlets in New Zealand, two in Dubai and are looking at opening some in Muscat this year, along with 10-15 more restaurants in India.
These will add to our current tally of 43 (including franchisees) across 11 states. The business I started with a seed capital of Rs 1,000 has grown into a Rs 30 crore company and we are aiming for a Rs 40 crore revenue for this year,” he was quoted as saying by Economic Times.