Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Karyna Bajaj: Stepping up to the plate

Pankti Mehta Kadakia
Published: Feb 8, 2019 09:39:27 AM IST
Updated: Feb 8, 2019 09:42:56 AM IST

Karyna Bajaj: Stepping up to the plateKaryna Bajaj's restaurants serve good food in comfortable ambiences
Image: Aditi Tailang

Karyna Bajaj | 25
Executive Director, KA Hospitality
Category: Food & Hospitality

Karyna Bajaj entered the restaurant business at 22, by which time her father, Kishor, had brought global fine-dine Asian-food chains, Hakkasan and Yauatcha, to India. Bajaj, a business and communications graduate with a penchant for food, oriented herself with an intensive internal programme she self-created, spending a month with each of the company’s departments. “It taught me about all the troubles and challenges from the ground up,” she says.

Soon after, Bajaj looked to break away from her father’s fine-dine format. Identifying a gap for good, home-style and affordable Thai food—“which most Indians love”—Bajaj imported Nara from Bangkok to Mumbai's Bandra-Kurla Complex. Nara, with its blue butterfly pea rice, and its 12-layered crepe cake, became an instant hit with the Instagram generation. Nara will soon open its second outpost, in Colaba, Mumbai.

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Bajaj then started another restaurant brand, this time from scratch. Like Nara, CinCin focuses on fun, home-style dining, with “great pasta and wine” at its core. “My friends and I love wine, but we’re intimidated by it,” she says. “At CinCin, we have an approachable wine programme, with stemless glasses and all wines served by the glass. No other restaurant does that, and our wine sales are great.”

In December, CinCin became the only Indian restaurant with its own wine label—CinCin Rosso—created in partnership with Vallone Vineyards, Nashik.

“What Karyna is building are unique restaurants that fill a market gap and bring a lot of originality to the table,” says Aditi Dugar, CEO and co-founder of Masque restaurant. “I see a lot of new places trying to emulate what CinCin has done.”

“The casual dining format is here to stay. People want great meals, but not always in an environment that dictates how they should act,” says Bajaj. “It’s gratifying to see Hakkasan and Yauatcha diners also pouring in to Nara and CinCin.”

Karyna Bajaj: Stepping up to the plate

(This story appears in the 15 February, 2019 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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