In Hyderabad's posh Jubilee Hills, two lanes away from KBR Park, people are flocking to the brand new Ram's Dosa House. The customers arrive in their stylish BMW and Audi cars, but patiently wait for their order, most of which costs less than Rs 100. The wait, they say, is worth it.
Ram Kumar Shinde, the man behind the restaurant is all smiles. This is his second branch. His first one was a roadside stall called Ram ki Bandi at Nampally. Seven years ago, he was scrubbing dosa batter off a large tawa as he washed the dishes. Today, there is still a sense of disbelief at the back of his head as he looks admiringly at his restaurant.
From rags to riches
One of the first late night eateries in the city, Ram ki Bandi is rated 4.2 out of five on Zomato’s ranking. The juicy butter dosa with the trademark coconut chutney has made sure that people visit despite his erratic timings of 3 am to 8 am.
(Ram Shinde. Image - Sanjay Borra)
Ram's bandi or cart, has been around since 1989. It was bought by his father when he was around eight years old. "Even as a kid, I used to tag along and see how the dosas and idlis were made and served. Seven years ago, I got the bandi and I set it up at Nampally." Today, the location of his bandi pops up on a simple Google search.
Ram's story is one of resilience and perseverance, and a lesson for every budding entrepreneur who thinks about quitting on the face of challenges. "Initially when I started, I had my fears that maybe I won't be able to make it," he says. Like his father, he wanted to continue the business and took over the stall despite having an MBA.
For the first few years that he set up his stall, he did not get a lot of customers. “The little money we had slowly started depleting and I was worried that maybe I had taken the wrong path. There were days when I hardly made a few hundred rupees. I invest more than that to run the stall,” he says.
Ram then asked his family to help him out with the stall and his brother-in-law agreed. More members of the family later joined in to help the stall. “Still things were getting worse. I had thought about quitting many times but I was determined at the end of the day that I could still make it work,” he says.
Ram lost so much money, he hardly had money to make ends meet and could afford only to eat one or two of his own dosas when his stomach grumbled. It was then that he had an idea.
"People can get a good dosa in many places so why would they come to me? It was then that I decided that I should do something about my dosas," he adds. Then came the cheese and the butter and the paneer and slowly his reputation grew.
"I was one of the first places in Hyderabad where you could get pizza dosa. I thought about the recipe myself and then saw a little while later that other people were also making it. That's why my pizza dosa is slightly different," he says
"I only get good brands like Amul for my cheese and butter. I want to make sure that people are satisfied with the quality of my food," - Ram Shinde
Ram opened the new branch on March 11 and it has already got a great response. Three months on, the place looks like it will never run out of business. "Already a lot of VIPs and big Telugu actors are coming. People are visiting with families and you see a lot of youngsters sitting on weekends," he says.
The new restaurant was not something which he had planned for a long time, he decided to do it on an impulse. "I thought about taking my food to more people. I had to save up a lot but I'm very proud of the new restaurant. It is completely air conditioned and has all the facilities," he says.
Ram has always shyed away from the spotlight as he does not advertise anywhere. "Young teenagers come and take selfies with me. That's all the advertisement I get," he quips. Ram still wakes up at 2am and pushes his stall to Nampally at 3am. He is also found at his restaurant from 8pm to 11pm.
"I hardly get any sleep but it doesn't matter. I'm happy that people enjoy my food," he says.