Zorawar Kalra: The culinary artist

Food entrepreneur Zorawar Kalra plans to create 'the best restaurant company in the world'

I love a good story, be it through advertisements, movies or an entrepreneur who dared to think differently. I believe in bringing in fresh perspectives -- to a corporate profile or a Facebook post -- like new wine in an even newer bottle. I graduated with a journalism degree from the Xavier Institute of Communications. My weekend rituals involve watching Bollywood movies and reading up on style trends.

Zorawar Kalra: The culinary artist
Image: Illustration by: Chaitanya Surpur
Food entrepreneurship was an inevitability for Zorawar Kalra

Food entrepreneurship was an inevitability for Zorawar Kalra, 39, an MBA from Boston’s Bentley University. After all, his father is Jiggs Kalra, the ‘Czar of Indian Cuisine’. In just three years, Kalra Jr’s company Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd has nine restaurants across five brands, including Masala Library and Farzi Cafe. Here he tells ForbesLife India how he plans to create ‘the best restaurant company in the world’

Creating art
I am a creative person, but not a chef, and that’s how I wanted to build this restaurant business. I am more inclined to be a conductor than a musician. But I work with my chefs to create a lot of dishes. And I develop restaurant concepts to cater to multiple customer segments and price points. So it is a blend of artistry and technicality which is our recipe to build sustainable brands. Once you enter the restaurant, it’s pure art.

Desi focus
My fundamental goal has been to put Indian food on the global map. That has been my primary fascination. We have modernised it with Masala Bar and Masala Library. Indian food is the most sophisticated [cuisine] in the world... we may experiment with other cuisines, but Indian food will always be the core of our business.

Perfectionism
I want to create the best restaurant company in the world. But we are not going to open restaurants just to meet deadlines. We will open only once they are perfect, and perfection takes time. For example, Masala Library in Delhi has been delayed by six months because we were doing food trials, but once it opens, it will change the game. We want to grow, but with a lot of integrity. Our journey is like a game of golf, where we want to do better than ourselves every day and beat the course, instead of the opponent.

Aggression
I am an aggressive leader from a business perspective. We will touch a run rate of Rs 200 crore this year [they claim to be at Rs 120 crore in financial year 2016], within three years of starting our company, and that is unheard of in the Indian restaurant business. I am result-oriented and it may lead to pressure on employees. But absorbing pressure well is what is required of a professional. The cream rises to the top. Our teams have imbibed the pressure and that is the cornerstone of our success. But we are also very quality conscious and will not grow at the cost of consumer experience.

Father’s lessons
My father is a walking encyclopaedia on Indian and international food, and will not move out of the kitchen till he has got it right. We try doing the same thing with extensive research and development. I call the shots on the business side of things, but he is very closely involved in the culinary part. There are challenges in every business, but if you enjoy your work, they are just minor hurdles along the ride.

In this series, we talk to entrepreneurs and celebrities, artists and musicians, about what they need to be who they are

(This story appears in the July-Aug 2016 issue of ForbesLife India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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