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Prem Ganapathy: Once a poor man, Today he owns Restaurant Empire

In early 1990s a young poor boy called Prem Ganapathy is left stranded at Mumbai station. A man, who had lured him to Mumbai with the promise of a good paying job, not only deserted him but also looted all his money. Left penniless and hopeless, the young boy had all the reasons to take a return ticket to his native place in Tamil Nadu. But the pressure of feeding his poor family of seven siblings weighed heavily on his mind. On that hopelessly vulnerable day, Ganapathy made his way through the crowded Bandra station to find a job somewhere in Mumbai city and thereby give a respectable life to his poor family.

Today Prem Ganapathy owns restaurant empire that is worth Rs 30 crore

Flash forward to 2018, that young poor boy is today a highly successful entrepreneur. Running a chain of restaurants across the world, today Ganapathy is owner of a hotel empire that is almost worth Rs 30 – 40 crores. A once poor boy, who was left to mend his way in a brute city like Mumbai, eventually managed to find his own destiny. But the journey from a penniless boy to owning Rs 30 crore restaurant empire was certainly not smooth sailing one.

So how Prem Ganapathy started the mission impossible?

After doing odd jobs at several local restaurants, Ganapathy managed to save enough money to start a small food cart outside Vashi railway station in Navi Mumbai. His cart sold idlis and dosas, the quintessential South Indian dishes that still garners universal love across India. Although his idli & dosa cart was competing against several competitors, his cart managed to standout for several reasons.

These reasons were as follows:        

  • Quality, of course, was the primary reason that helped Ganapathy’s stall to stand out.
  • Unlike other food stall carts, his cart was clean and hygienic.
  • Ganapathy strived to give branded appearance to his cart by ensuring that he and his workers are always well dressed. They even ensured that they wore standardized caps.

All these winning factors that were consistently executed made Ganapathy’s dosa stall an instant hit with the people. Soon enough his food cart started generating a net profit of around Rs 20,000 every month. Thanks to this profit, he rented a shop that doubled up as quarters for workers a makeshift kitchen, where they prepared battered dosa/idli batter and other ingredients.

But Ganapathy’s Dosa Business faced hiccups from authorities

As mentioned above, Ganapathy’s entrepreneurial journey was not a smooth sailing one. Every entrepreneur, after all, has to go through huge challenges and this man’s journey was no exception. While Ganapathy faced lot of business related changes, but the biggest challenge that his business faced was from municipal authorities. Since most roadside food carts don’t run on valid licenses, they always stand the risk of their businesses being pulled down by authorities.

Ganapathy’s food cart was also targeted by authorities on number of occasions, leaving him with no option but to pay huge fine. These fines, however, used to offer him only short term respite and also inflicted huge loss on his business.

But Ganapathy was too gritty a person who would get mauled down by such minor challenges. In fact, this man from a small village in Tamil Nadu sought to overcome these challenges by dreaming big. He now wanted to open a small restaurant that would not only help him escape municipal penalties, but also help to grow his business further.

So in 1997 Ganapathy and his team started Prem Sagar Dosa Plaza, where people could enjoy delicious dosas & Idli like they did in any other restaurant. As was expected, Prem Sagar Dosa Plaza again proved to be a huge hit with the locals. Not only did Ganapathy managed to keep his loyal customers intact, but his new customers grew in leaps and bounds.

How Internet helped to grow Prem Sagar Dosa’s menu?

Now Ganapathy was so hungry for success that he wanted to latch on all the possible opportunities to grow his business further. It turned out that he didn’t have to wait too long for this opportunity. On one fine day Ganapathy’s eyes were left transfixed on amazing photos of dosas that one of his customer was checking out on his smartphone. He enquired about these photos with great sense of curiosity.

The answer that he got left him awestruck. He came to know that there were wide varieties of dosas that virtually no restaurants were offering to the customers. Most of the restaurants including his own restaurant was serving standard popular dosas like masala dosa, sada dosa etc. Ganapathy realized that if Prem Sagar Dosa could dish out such rare and unique dosas to customers then it will prove to be a huge turning point for his business.

This eureka moment made Ganapathy addicted to internet as he tried to learn the recipes of these interesting dosas. He and his team really worked hard to achieve mastery over the recipe of these dosas. Slowly and steadily these dosas were introduced on trial basis. After receiving overwhelming response from customers, they were permanently made part of the menu. Ganapathy and his team now could serve more than 125 varieties of dosas to customers. Something that no other local restaurant was able to pull off. Not surprisingly, Prem Sagar Dosa’s popularity was now reaching new heights.

And then came the real turning point

As Prem Sagar Dosa’s popularity started spreading rapidly, Mumbai was witnessing shopping mall boom. Huge and sprawling shopping malls were opening up across the metropolitan city and Ganapathy couldn’t help but spot amazing business opportunity in this. He was very well aware of the huge footfalls that these malls were attracting and this made him desperate to try his luck in these malls.

As luck would have it, he got an opportunity to start plush dosa restaurant inside the famous Center one mall in Vashi. This dosa restaurant was started under a new name ‘Dosa Plaza’ and was attracting huge crowd from day one itself. Dosa Plaza proved to be another feather in the cap of Ganapathy.

A sneak peek inside Ganapathy’s plush Dosa Plaza restaurant.

But he was hungry for more success now, clearly exhibiting typical trait of diehard entrepreneur. Hence he opened Dosa Plaza’s first franchise outlet in Thane, a suburban city located in the outskirts of Mumbai. This in many ways was the first step towards building chain  of restaurants under the brand name of ‘Dosa Plaza.’

Today this chain constitutes of 43 (including franchisees) across 11 Indian states. Dosa Plaza also has three outlets in New Zealand and two in Dubai.

From a roadside stall to successful owner of chain of restaurants, Prem Ganapathy has shown that where there is will there is always the way.


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