Hot Breads’ Mahadevan sees the World as his Oyster
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey in the foodservice business and how it has progressed over the years till now.
Actually, I started my career not with the food services industry but as an Assistant Professor in the University Of Madras in 1979. As a normal day job I taught Marketing to management and accounts students. But my fi erce ambition to be a part of the hotel industry drove me to satisfy this urge. I took up a part-time night job with a hotel in the city where I started working for four hours at night to learn more about the industry. At the hotel I juggled many roles – I was a trainee, a bell boy, a receptionist: everything. So, while I was a professor during day time, I also moonlighted as an apprentice with a hotel in the evening.
I left my teaching job and moved to the F&B sector full time in 1982. Along with a partner who I had met when I was working with the hotel, we started our fi rst take out – a Chinese take-away at a restaurant in Chennai. I opened
my kitchen with Rs. 60,000, and it opened at 5 p.m. and closed at 11.30 p.m. That was the time Chinese food was a craze among the people.
One day, one of my customers who was building a commercial tower asked me if I would be interested in taking up a place there. That was how my first restaurant Cascade opened. We served Chinese, Thai, Malay and Japanese cuisine. An interesting thing about the restaurant was the way i chose to do up its interiors. Through the good books of my neighbour, who was painter MF Hussain’s son, I reached out to Parmeshwar Godrej and sought her services.
That was in 1986.
In those days, the interiors of restaurants specialising in Chinese and Oriental food were mostly done up in red and green. I told Parmeshwar Godrej that I wanted my interiors in all white and blue and wanted it to have a very
different look and feel. Eventually, it became a major selling point of my restaurant and people just loved the look.
From then on, I have not turned back and the business has multiplied ever since. Another turning point came some three years later when I launched my Hot Breads venture. The idea was born during one of my trips that I used to make
to Singapore for sourcing the ingredients like Chinese sauces. The dinky looking bakeries I saw during those trips fascinated me and caught my fancy and I decided to build one back home.
In 1989, I started Hot Breads with Rs. 11 lakh. People thought I had gone crazy and many questioned my move. But I had ideas of my own. I was not looking to sell just bread and basic bakery Today, I work with 252 partners across 18
countries and there are 476 eateries that I am connected with across the globe. In India I have three companies and internationally each partnership is a separate entity. stuff. I had my eyes on selling more exotic fare: curry buns, pastries, pizzas, burgers, etc. Bread was only to be an inducement for piquing people’s interest and make them wonder as to what novelty the bland staple could hold in my shop. +
I ensured that people did not return disappointed. I created some exciting concepts. We took a bun, fi lled it with curry and made it a curry bun. We fi lled chicken tikka inside a croissant. I got the idea to make these things ndian after I saw what the Japanese did to their bakery items. People used to crowd in our unit at Alsa Mall
in Chennai. Our curry buns are a big hit even in faraway Paris.
From day one, we started making profi ts as the concept was unique and the product tasty. It was a perfect cocktail. We broke even in the fi rst year itself and never looked back. In the third month itself, people from Kochi and Bangalore came to me to start Hot Breads units there. Soon, I came to be known as ‘Hot Breads Mahadevan’!
In 1994, I opened my fi rst international outlet in Dubai, which became my staging post for further forays Internationally. Only last month, I opened my most recent international outlet, a south Indian restaurant in Melbourne-Australia. As of today, we have a total number of 268 outlets in India and 145 units across the world under.