HOTELGIRI

Nikhil Ballal

Tell us something about your childhood?
SG-I lived with my parents and five
siblings in a small village near Karwar. My
father had a tough time in maintaining the
family. So at an early age I was compelled to
help him in his business. He was involved in
seasonal businesses. During village-fair he would put up
an eatery stall, used to prepare and sell marriage
accessories (mudavlya) and in summer he used to sell
Goti Soda.

So you always wanted to become an hotelier?
SG-No. I had never planned to become an
hotelier. Infact I always wanted to join military.
Once there was a huge procession organised by our
villagers to felicitate aParam Veer Chakra
awardee from our village. The honour and love
showered by our villagers to this awardee mesmerized
me completely. This inspired me take up career
in forces. After my tenth standard I went to Banglore
to take admission in a military school. But
unfortunately I failed in the fitness test. This
didn’t shatter my hopes to drop my ambition.
I decided to start earning and simultaneously
also work on my physique.
As I had no money I started looking out
for a job which would take care of my two
time meals. And that place was indeed hotel.
So, this is how I entered this industry.
Tell us something about your first job.
It was a great learning experience. I use
to wash about 500 utensils daily. The
crockery used in the hotels was so fragile that
sometimes it in the process of cleaning them
they would break. Fir managers kaanke niche
maarte the. (Manager would give us a tight
slap). I got many of those during my first job.
(laughs). Physical and verbal abuse was a
daily affair then. I used to cry alone and felt
like running away home.

So when did you happen to come to
Mumbai?
SG-My uncle use to run a paan shop in
Thane. When he came to know that I was
working in Banglore he sent me Rs50 and
called me in Thane. He gave me a job in
SwachhUpharGruha. I used to do all kinds of
work in this famous eatery of Thane. My day
would begin at 4. I used to sweep the entire
hotel followed with preparing tea, jillebis
and shira. There used to be a heavy rush at
our joint in the morning.
I use to retire by 8 every night only to
catch forty winks before the milk containers
arrived a little after mid night. 100 litres of
milk I used to boil which fetched me an extra
income of Rs 20!
After working here for few months I got a
chance to work in Gurukrupa hotel as a
waiter! I was so delighted that I asked my
parents to offer Rs5 from my money order to
our deity. (smiles). The lure of tips made me
take up the job of waiter.

Then why did you left Gurukrupa?
SG-During those days some customers
would misbehave with the waiters. I had a
terrible fight with one such customer sensing                                                                                                                                    trouble my manager sacked me from the job.
I worked in an eatery in Bandrafor few
months until I was again recalled by my
manager of SwachUpharGruha. This time they
were ready to pay me 10 times more the
salary at which I had left. I joined it and
started working with Vasudeo Anna Naik who
is my ‘Godfather’ in this industry. Under his
leadership I learnt the tricks and trades of this
industry. This was the turning point of my
career. His teachings changed my life
drastically. I owe him everything that I
achieved.
After gaining some experience I decided
to take up an industrial canteen.

How difficult it was to run a canteen?
SG-I was hardly 20 then when I took the
charge of this canteen. It was the worst phase
of my life. My workers were not ready to
accept a new manager (which was me). They
wanted the earlier boss to take over. More
over the nagging industrial workers also made
my job more miserable! At the end of a tiring
day I would to go to Kopineshwar Mandirto get some peace.                                                                                                        But it became extremely difficult which eventually made me quit the
contract. I again went to Mr.Naik and started
assisting him in his managements at various
hotels.

So when did you become an hotelier
then?
SG-After working with Mr.Naik for few
years i finally started my chai tapri( kiosk)
besides SwachhUpharGruha on Dassera in 1981. I am
the first person to introduce ‘vaatichaay’ in Thane. On the
day of inception I served free chai to all the retailers
on station road. They loved my chai so much that
immediately I started getting orders. I use to sell
about 400 ‘vaatis’ daily. I enjoyed a monopoly
for a year until few more chai tapristarted in the same
lane. My business dropped down drastically. So after
selling chai till 7 in the evening I would put a
sandwich bakda( stool)on TalaoPali. After selling the
sandwiches I would carry the bakda on my head and
walk down home.Just like my father to earn extra
income I started doing multiple businesses. I also
use to sell and repair chatris during rainy
season too.( smiles).

When did Amruta happen?
SG-After earning little I finally bought a
place in B-cabin and started a hotel in the
name of my daughter. In my businesses I
always strived hard to give something
different. During those days there were many
hotels selling pavBhaji but ourpavbhaji
became popular in a short span of time. I am
the first one to put fresh green peas in
PavBhaji! Today Amruta and PavBhaji have
become synonymous in Thane.(smiles)
Your Fishland has also become very
famous. What is your success formula?
SG-People say for every business location
is very important. I disagree. I feel more than
the location it is your attitude that actually
helps you grow your business. No one was
ready to buy this place which is ten feet
below the road level. Before Fishland, one
hotelier tried doing business but he failed
miserably. When I decided to start a hotel in
this place people called me a fool! But that
didn’t change my decision I knew I would
serve best fish which will get me customers.
And it did! Also my success formula is – Galle
se jyada kitchen aur customers
pedhyaanhonachahiye ( You should focus more
on kitchen and customers than on cashier).

What would you appeal budding
hoteliers?
SG-Dreams don’t work unless you do. I
have accomplished my dream of becoming a
successful hotelier. Today I have five hotels
under my belt and all are running successfully.
There is no substitute to hard work. Follow your
passion, be prepared to work hard and
sacrifice, and, above all, don’t let anyone limit
your dreams. Don’t start anything without a full
proof planning. Lady luck smiles only if she
finds our planning faultless.

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