I always knew the restaurant business will do well in India, but we were more than lucky Yum! Brands ended up in our lap. It was thoughtful of Sandeep to have offered me the franchise. He was handling Pepsi Restaurants then. They had just opened a couple of restaurants and were looking for people… I remember Sandeep said it casually, “Why don’t you give it a shot?” I jumped at the chance, but the debates at home, my goodness! Bauji was dead-against getting into a business that served non-veg.
Defying Bauji was tough – he was always my sounding board. There was no need for a mentor, friend or guide, Bauji was there for everything. Whether I felt troubled or needed advice, he was the one I turned to. But the arguments we had over the restaurant business! I couldn’t understand why he was thinking the way he was – business is different from personal choice. We were all vegetarians…I still don’t eat meat. But we can’t stop others from eating it! So many restaurants serve non-veg food…if we did not take up the opportunity, somebody else would. But his argument was: is this the only way to make money? I just could not see his logic. He could not see mine. I was in no mood to relent or let go of a business opportunity that came on a platter. He was disgusted…
I knew there was no way he would visit any of the restaurants but I was hoping he would at least greet the Yum! chairman when he came home for dinner. He simply refused to come out of his room. In fact, whenever he came across anyone at Pepsi, Bauji would tell them, “Please sell this business for Ravi and give away the money to charity.”
That was the one thing I did that Bauji didn’t want – he was never happy about it. Should I have backed off? I still don’t know…but it will always be a chip on my shoulder.
He lived his life by his principles. He had the conviction to refuse an offer from Hilton to buy out our house and turn it into a hotel. Hilton would have paid any price – Prithviraj Road was some location. But Bauji said, “I am ok with it, provided it is a vegetarian hotel.” Hilton wasn’t amused, obviously.