How this Cardiff graduate left an advertising career to whip up Thanjavur delicacies for an appreciative Mumbai
When her mother passed away a few years ago, Gitanjali Ramji came face-to-face with the ugly truth that life is unpredictable. She realised that she should focus on things that make her happy and to not postpone anything.
Gitanjali had finished her MBA in International Marketing and Change Management at Cardiff School of Management, UK, and while she had a lucrative advertising career going for her, she did not see herself in it five years down the line.
This got her thinking and Gitanjali realised that she had always been passionate about food. During her MBA days, Gitanjali had worked part-time at McDonald's in the UK, where she was handling the front-end till. This had given her an exposure to working at a QSR and restaurant set-up and she instinctively knew that this was what she wanted to build. The idea was to do something that brought people together and made them happy.
Soon after quitting her job, Gitanjali set up Tanjore by Angie, a vegetarian restaurant specialising in cuisine from the district of Thanjavur in the State of Tamil Nadu. The restaurant was set up in Mumbai in December 2014.
Tanjoreness into the business
A Welsch friend of mine, Kimberley, used to call me Angie as she had a challenge in calling out my entire name, when I was studying in UK. The name 'Tanjore' signifies the tradition and 'Angie' the quirkiness. The food we serve is something that is available either in a Tamil Brahmin community wedding or in a south Indian home, adds 30-year old Gitanjali.
Having grown around her mother, grandmothers, aunts and cousins cooking a lot, Gitanjali learnt to cook by the age of 15 using family's recipes.
She started this restaurant with three employees, are Priya Shinde, Namrata Pawar who form a part of two as customer service staff, and Kishore Jadhav, who is the Head Chef, with 20-plus years of experience in food. Gitanjali adds that she got most of her support from family and friends, to set up the restaurant.
Fighting an uphill battle
Apart from getting the operational details in place, like the right location, ambience, talent, training, and finance kitchen order creation, material procurement, petty cash budgets, accounting and taxations, what Gitanjali found challenging was breaking into a segment that is predominately male-dominated.
The restaurant business is generally male-dominated. For a first-time woman entrepreneur, and for someone who doesn’t have male partners, getting people into the business is a challenge. People are uncomfortable talking to a woman, but it is slowly changing, she says.
Tanjore by Anjie’s current revenue model is primarily anchored in walk-ins and delivery orders, in a ratio of 60:40 respectively, through its restaurant in Colaba. It has tied up with Swiggy to expedite delivery orders.
“One of the key aspects I have realised about the restaurant business is the differences is seasonal needs and diversification. Achieving the right balance between delivery orders and walk-in sales is all that is needed in this business,” says Gitanjali.
It is interesting to note that with the foodtech space, the dining-out and the restaurant business too is fast growing. According to a report by the National Restaurant Association, a growing trend of ‘eating out’ has created a $48-billion industry in India.
The report went ahead to state that casual dining and QSRs today account for 70 percent of the organised segment, while bars, clubs, lounges and pubs form 12 percent and cafes eight percent, leaving the remaining 10 percent to fining dining lounges and restaurants.
Since its inception, Tanjore by Angie has made a revenue of Rs 4 million, and serves over 100 dishes every day. The first year was spent on setting up the business. This year, the focus has been on marketing the restaurant.
In the future, Gitanjali aims to create a portfolio of restaurants specialising in authentic cuisines, to help people reconnect with their roots. She is now looking for investor funding to scale up Tanjore to another three restaurants across Mumbai, and also look at international presence in locations like Singapore and Malaysia.
“Family-owned and secretly guarded recipes handed down through generations bringing in authenticity specific to the Thanjavur region is what sets us apart from competition. Our mission is to make people realise that each region has its own flavour and that what Tanjore has to offer is healthy, authentic food that is true to its roots,” adds Gitanjali.