COOKING UP A SUCCESS STORY!

Nikhil Ballal

How was your childhood?
I came from a very poor family. We stayed
in a remote village near Manglore. Due to some
crisis my father had to sell off all his property.
We were completely devastated. I realised
that it would be difficult for my father to
overcome this situation and so I decided to
come to Mumbai to earn a livelihood for me
and my family. I was hardly 12 then.
SS- I managed to get my first job in early
sixties in a hotel called Hindu Café near Dadar.
I worked extremely hard to keep my job.
During those days my routine would be to toil
hard in the hotel throughout the day later take
lessons in night school at night and then sleep on
the floor of the same hotel with mice and
mosquitos.
It was really tough. Many atimes felt like
running away from Mumbai and return back to
my village. But then immediately discerned
what would I do after going home? How will my
parents support me? I had no option. I
continued working in the hotel for few years
until I got a job in a laboratory. I started loving
this job more as Sunday was a holiday and I
could study whole day.

Then when did you became a hotelier?
SS-While working in laboratory one day
my boss yelled at me and abused me for no
reason( according to me). But that day I realised
that I am in wrong profession. I am more meant
to work in hospitality industry than in any other
field.
Few days later I learnt that there is one
industrial canteen which is available on lease
and no one is ready to run it. At the age of 17 I
took challenge to run this canteen. Believe me it
was a one man army! I had to manage the show
all alone. Kitchen, purchase, stock, accounts,
service and quality all looked after by kid
ShivramShetty. It was a herculean task. But still I
would endeavour to give best quality and food
service to the workers and managers.
Since I was not having basic education of
costing and accounting I was incurring huge
losses every year.I wouldn’t understand where I
am going wrong! To maximise profits I took two
more canteens but hardly managed to achieve
breakeven( no loss no profit). At times I had to
borrow money to buy vegetables. Initially
shopkeepers and vegetable vendors gave me
these stuff but later they started refusing.
I remember I had a big order to deliver
and there was no salt in my kitchen I hypothecated
my watch and got salt from the shop. For
14 years I was struggling to make profits.

When did the upward graph of your
career begin?
SS-After serving industrialists for 14 years I
finally understood the formula of making
profits( laughs). I observed their style of
operation, execution, costing, accounting and
marketing and then was no looking back. I
purchased a property near MakhmaliTalao
which is now popularly known as Satkar. During
those days the street was not that busy as it is
today and neither there was Vandana Theatre
which would give me customers or so called
‘footfalls’ which you modern enterpreneurs say.
But I took a risk again. I knew if I serve best
quality of food Thanekars will come to me
again and again. And it happened. In no time
Satkar became popular!

What next after Satkar?
SS-I successfully ran Satkar for few years
and then opened a hotel at Kapurbavdi Naka
which we all know as Sanman. There were many
industries in that area. I speculated that my hotel
will work in this vicinity and it did! During late
nineties I would worked 16-18 hours a day. I
never shy away from doing any hotel work.
From taking order as a stewart to cleaning
utensils there is nothing which I don’t know or
which I haven’t done. Today also I wear half
sleeve shirt god knows when would I have to
wash utensils .Not joking I am serious (smiles).
It is hard to believe that the owner of plush
three star hotel use to wash utensils once upon a
time.
(Laughs). I believe any business man should
have completely knowledge of the business
which we wants to pursue. I can proudly tell you
that not only me but also my son went through the
same process and now he is assisting me to run
the show. There is no shortcut to success. I don’t
believe in luck. I feel more you sweat more you
get! It was a period when I would not be able to
attend family functions, miss evening walks with
wife, won’t find time playing time with my
children. My wife would patiently wait till
midnight for me to come home. Due to my hectic
schedule I couldn’t visit my native place for a
decade. Success comes with lot of sacrifices,
compromises and perseverance. Life is not easy
it is like a school it teaches you as you grow
older and pass into next grade.

How you deal with failure?
SS-Many people can’t deal with failure they
get start cribbing, get depressed and one fine
day give up. Do we do same thing if we fail in
any grade in school. No, right! Instead we study
harder in that grade and aim to clear the exams
with good score. I also believe in same funda. If
we fail in any project don’t give up instead
study harder and try to succeed in next grade.

How did you manage to develop a first
three star hotel in Thane- Satkar residency?
SS-Since I was running industrial canteens I
observed that there would be many foreign
visitors. They had no option other than staying in
Mumbai. There was no such facility in Thane
which could accommodate them. I realised this
demand and developed first three star hotel of
the city in 2004. Today I can proudly say that
we are giving service and facilities of international
standards. Foreigners feel Satkar
Residency as their home.

Who is your role model?
SS-I neither compare myself with any one
nor do I aspire to become like someone. I only
dreamt to make it big which I achieved.

What would you appeal to budding
hoteliers?
SS-It’s a time consuming and a cumbersome
vocation. You have to be dedicated and
devoted at the service of customers. I still
interact with the customers as a Manager not as
an owner. They share with me their tastes and
preferences. Till today I take feedbacks of
customers before I go to bed. You should have a
passion in you. Though money was my need but I
never worked for it. It was always the shabashki
which you get from your boss or customers that
motivated me to work harder!

What are your future plans?
SS-When i look back I feel great to be
owner of Satkar( near Vandana Talkies), Sanman
(Kapurbavdi naka), Satkar Residency, Satkar
Grand and Aditya (Bhandup). Now my son
Sanil, daughter Shilpa and daughter in law are
looking after these hotels. Future is bright I
would be working till my last breath!

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