Prem Sagar Dosa Plaza, a quick-service restaurant chain offering hundreds of varieties of dosa, the popular South Indian snack, has come a long way from its humble start.
In the late 1990s, its 33-year-old managing director, T. Ganapathy used to serve dosas to commuters from a small kiosk outside theVashi railway station in suburban Mumbai.
Now, Prem Sagar has just raised Rs9 crore from an angel investor and Ganapathy and his dosas are all set to travel.
Over the next few months, Prem Sagar Dosa will roll out its brand in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the Philipines through the franchise model.
The US deal has already been signed for a 3,500 sq. ft restaurant in the Washington DC area, which will serve more than 104 types of dosas in addition to Chinese and North Indian dishes by June. New Jersey and Virginia, too, will have Dosa Plaza outlets in a few months as will Canada. Negotiations are in the final stages for franchisees in New Zealand, Australia and Philippines. And, ahead of this, the first overseas Dosa Plaza outlet will open in April in West Asia.
“This is just the beginning,” says Ganapathy, who arrived in Mumbai from his village in Tamil Nadu in 1990 after finishing high school.
While the franchise model is working for now, “later (we) will form joint-venture companies in various countries so that we can scale up rapidly,” says Mayur Gangar, chief financial officer and a long-time friend of Ganapathy.
Ganapathy says he can’t name the angel investor because of a non-disclosure agreement.
Not all of the chain’s ambitions are overseas. Plans are being finalized to set up a centralized kitchen in Mumbai, which will give the company economies of scale. Also in the pipeline are more quick-service kiosks in high pedestrian-traffic areas.
At the popular In Orbit Mall in suburban Mumbai, the company sells dosas worth Rs9 lakh every month, while other outlets report sales of Rs5-7 lakh .
Businesss is also sizzling in Delhi, Kolkata, Pune and Hyderabad. Offerings at 20 Dosa Plaza outlets across seven Indian cities range from the original ghee paper dosa to a fiery Chinese Schezuan variant, a spring dosa, Mexican salsa dosa and one for the health conscious, which is loaded with roasted veggies.
Ganapathy says the Dosa Plaza chain has 27 trademark-protected dosas on its menu and the list is growing.
The innovative touch in Ganapathy’s dosas has its origins in a failed attempt at running a Chinese restaurant.
When the restaurant closed three months after its inauguration, Ganapathy experimented, using his Chinese sauces and sautéed veggies as stuffing in his dosas. Before he knew it, regular customers were ordering these instead of the standard masala dosas and he knew he had hit on a gold mine.
“Ever since I discovered Dosa Plaza at my favourite multiplex, my weekly trip to the movies is less guilt-ridden because I feast on the salad roast dosa or any of the other varieties that have lots of veggies,” says 28-year-old Rachna Acharya, a regular at Ganapathy’s dosa outlet in Pune.