Jayanti Kathale, the Founder, CEO of Purnabrahma – the biggest Maharashtrian Cusine Vegetarian Restaurant believes that success is not a destination but a journey by itself. Her motto is not to sell but to connect; food is never a commodity for her, but its Purnabrahma – the food is the Creator himself. At present Purnabrahma has 11 branches across the world and is still expanding. This software engineer-turned-restaurateur who is always seen draped in a nineyards saree carries her culture wherever she goes and has made sure that she serves not only food but also that exquisite culture along with it. We invite our readers to know more about this passionate entrepreneur and her journey to become the CEO of the biggest Maharashtrian Cuisine Restaurant chain in the world.
- Purnabrahma the name itself brings home an image of prosperity, divinity and completeness. How did serving food become a passion for you?
I come from a background where food was considered holy and sacred. While our grand mother fed us, she also inculcated the value of food in us. Before we start to eat our food we have to chant a small prayer. The word Purnabrahma comes from that same verse. She also had certain methods to teach us the value of food. If we finish what we had in our plate she will give us money as a token of appreciation and if we don’t we have to cleanse our plates by oursleves. I have employed this method of giving enough value for food in my restaurant’s policy.
2. How did this shift happen? From a safe and secured job, what made you dive into more risks, uncertainties and responsibilities.
Once, while we were coming back from Australia to India for good, it happened that we forgot to mention in the menu card that we are vegetarian. So for 27 hours we have to survive on croissant and butter. I was a feeding mom at that time, due to lack of food me and my baby suffered a lot. You know how it is when a mother in a woman gets poked. The fire in my belly was so strong that the seed of the Purnabrahma was sown then and there. The lack of food thus became a blessing in disguise for us. So know that in every moment of negativity there is a possibility.
3. What were the initial struggles when you ventured into your passion?
As I said we were in Bangalore and I was missing my food that was in my genes. No where you could find an authentic Maharashtrian restaurant. Marathi cuisine has endless varieties and is more than a vada pav or poha. I travelled extensively across Maharashtra and did a thorough research. It took three years to bring 185 food items to design the menu. Purnabrahma had its beginning at Koramangala Bangalore and then it was just a 400 square feet hall with 23 seats and the jump to 5700 square feet was only in 8 months; exponentially high in manpower, finance and mind-set. You have to believe in your dreams, you have to plan your dreams and execute it to the correct way and to the correct line of the business.
4. You support women a lot. Could you please elaborate?
We women are already empowered, but what we need is an empowered mind set and cooperation from other family members be it male or female. We need people who walk with us and cooperate with us. For example my daughter has long hair, so when I travel who will plait her hair? My husband has to do that. By doing this he has helped himself not me.
While looking for chefs, we consider the local ladies first. Also when we invite franchises we insist that at least a woman should be there as a partner. More than 75 percent of our work force are women. We should be able to chase our dreams and to boost our self-esteem and to be more independent we must work. Also we have come up with the idea of home chefs: If you wish to be a part of our team you can register on our site. There is a selection procedure and then we will train you. Once you master the skills you can open a store with us in our site .
5. What are the major challenges that you had to encounter while going ahead with the restaurant plans?
The first challenge that came to us was that the people did not know anything about Marathi Cuisine. So we have to go through the South Indian nomenclature first and make them understand. For Example that Obattu in Karnataka is same like Puranpoli in Maharashtra.
Second thing was the glamour associated with the food. Look, pizza is not known to everyone but they go by its glamour. So the next challenge was the glamour for that we came up with an idea. We used the hash tag, Glamorous Marathi Food. So technology was put it into use there too.
The third was the availability of the chefs. How can I send Maharashtrian chefs all the way across the globe? We always choose local people as chefs preferably local ladies. Though we don’t know each other’s language we covey it with gestures and I should say love is the best medium of communication.
6. How do Purnabrahma reflects the culture?
We give emphasise for both food and culture. For example as per the tradition when we celebrate we light lamps, so when you celebrate with us arathi will be done and lamps will be lit. We have a specially designed menu for children – The Balagopal menu to inculcate love for our deshi food. We help working moms by the drive through centres and there is this pregnant ladies menu too.
Taking a cue from my grandmother, we offer a 5% discount, that is your GST will be paid by us if the food that has been served is neatly finished. But we charge 2 % extra if the food is wasted.
We make sure our staff had their lunch before our restaurant is ready to receive our customers by 11AM. Also during the lock down none of our employees was out of job. We supplied food for one lakh people without any charge at that time. We started home delivery as well. We used the technology to the maximum at that time.
7. Who do you see as your role model?
I love and respect Ms. Sudhamurthi and her way of doing things. The most important thing that I learned from her is the discipline. I follow her by each step and I incorporate her behaviour into myself.
8. What is your vision for the future?
I see 5000 branches of Purnabrahma across the world that is my vision and dream.