I've been a journalist for over a decade, working across newspapers and magazines. At Forbes India, I write and edit stories on varied themes. I am a sports buff — turning to the back pages of the newspaper first— and keenly follow current affairs, pop culture and new trends at the intersection of politics, business and culture. Being an inveterate foodie, I often end up writing about it.
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Chirag Chhajer | 29
Co-owner, Burma Burma
Don’t turn up your nose at the mention of vegetarian Burmese food. Chirag Chhajer can bet all of the ₹1.5 crore his and his friend Ankit Gupta’s families invested in their first restaurant that the flavourful broth of the samuza hincho (samosa soup) will make you forget the missing meat. “Pieces of meat or fish don’t enhance flavours; spices do,” says Chhajer. (Gupta missed our cut-off by six months.)
Chhajer can brag, for Burma Burma, his no-non-veg, no-alcohol restaurant, not only broke even in 14 months, but expanded to three cities—Mumbai, Gurugram and Delhi—(a fourth soon in Bengaluru) with a revenue run rate of ₹25 crore. With recipes from Gupta’s family (his mother grew up in Myanmar) and frequent trips to the country, Chhajer’s fare goes beyond the usual khao suey, while making authentic vegetarian Burmese dishes fashionable. Rising footfalls at the first restaurant in Fort, Mumbai, in its very first week in May 2014 made him switch from being an all-day diner to a lunch-and-dinner format, shutting the kitchen for a break in between. All this without publicity drives, discounts, and keeping the menu off digital platforms. “I want diners to come without pre-conceived notions,” says Chhajer.
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Anoothi Vishal, columnist and food writer, says, “Burma Burma has navigated the tightrope between being a restaurant with an unusual story and serving comfort flavours. Their model has been successful even in the NCR, which has a big non-vegetarian base, proving that well-made food always has takers.”
Chhajer isn’t looking for either capital or franchisees, but is open to a strategic investor to take the restaurant overseas. “The concept has matured well here. Now, it’s ready for any market in the world,” he says.
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(This story appears in the 16 February, 2018 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)