Chennai’s Own Boy, Sam Paul
A ‘SamP(au)le’ of Success.
When you second-guess yourself about the choices you’ve made, the risks you’ve taken and the time you’ve spent trying to do what’s never been done before, read this. This is not the story of a man who’s touch turned everything into gold. This, on the other hand, is the story of a phenomenal man whose meticulous hard work and sheer good will, has helped him reach the zenith of success. We had a chat with Mr. Sam Paul to understand his business journey through the world of food.
You’ve taken Chennai by storm with the range of businesses that you’ve set up here. Can you tell us about your first entry into the food business?
I started Casa Piccola in 2005. It quickly caught the fancy of people in Chennai and became a happening place for people to hang out. It was a popular Hookah joint then. It worked very well for a while but after the Govt. banned hookah here, we shut it down. We opened Crimson Chakra soon after. Fine dining was the focus here. I was very particular about the quality of the food. It has picked up very well since then. Ponnusamy and Doner Kebab were other franchise models that I took over for the love of food. At these quick service restaurants, the food needs to be prepared and sold on the same day. This was a challenge in the beginning but it’s something that we enjoyed tremendously.
You have a very successful salon business and educational institutions. What drew you towards food?
The love for food. I am a foodie. Food is a passion for me and it’s very close to the heart. It may not be as successful as a service based business but the satisfaction of seeing people enjoy the food that you give, is unparalleled.
Why Haagen Dazs?
Haagen Dazs has a story that caught my attention immediately. The kind of milk used to make these ice creams is only available in France. So the factory there, imports the chocolate from Belgium, nuts from Macadamia, coffee from Peru to create the specific flavours of the ice creams. It is then imported to the rest of the world at a specific temperature. After all this, it needs to be consumed within 11 hours. The amount of effort that goes into giving you the perfect cup of ice cream is beyond imaginable. Every spoonful of ice cream is an experience of the world. I wanted my people of Chennai to get that on their plate. I wanted a lounge concept here so that it would complement the richness of the ice cream.
Tell us about Jonah’s Bistro.
Jonah is my own brand. This is close to home. I have travelled around the world and am inspired by the food that I eat. While some of my favourites are on the menu, I understand the need to have food that everyone likes and not just according to my taste. I have quite a democratic set up when it comes to food tasting. I am very particular about the quality of the food that we make but at the same time I don’t want it to drive a hole in anyone’s wallet. So we’ve made a conscious effort to keep it priced as reasonably as possible. We’ve opened Jonah’s goes to Japan in Phoenix mall and we have 2 more Jonah’s in mind. Each place has its own cuisine tailored to surprise your palate. We have different concepts for each restaurant that we’re opening up. This variety is the most exciting part of Jonah’s.
It looks like success comes naturally to you.What is your modus operandi?
I am a brand operator. My company takes on brands and operates them to get them success. I’m in the education and F&B sectors; and each industry brings its own challenges and merits. We have a very strict military discipline that goes into our work. We plan months in advance and work hard each day to make sure that we achieve what we set out to do. God has been gracious and given us the success that followed.
What are your personal favourites at Jonah’s and Haagen Dazs?
At Jonah’s, I love the California Maki roll, Hungarian beef goulash and the seafood platter. The Belgian chocolate at Haagen Dazs is my all-time favourite ice cream.
Do you have a message for young entrepreneurs who’re aspiring to make it big in the food business?
Everything depends on how well you plan. Have enough capital to carry your dream through. Draw a balance between being commercial and artistic. One cannot survive in the industry without the other. It is very important to give your customer good value for money without compromising on quality.