Where else can you sit in an auto-rickshaw to eat, or dine with dummies of actors or get a feel of the jungle as you sip your drink? Ravi and Amar Ohri tell their innovative story
Despite their 25 signature restaurants and their pioneering themes and décor in the city, this father and son's favourite meal is dal and roti, at home. When out on a family get-together, they prefer a quiet corner in one of their quaint restaurants anywhere in the city.
Restaurateurs Ravi and Amar Ohri's favourite holiday destination spots might vary, but not their favourite spot at home — their respective meditation corners. The almost all-marble house done in white and beige is like a mini museum of artefacts collected during their travels. The main door opens to a spiralling staircase with a white Buddha seated right at the entrance.
Inside their sitting room there is absolute silence, and the only faint sounds that can be heard are the playful cries of Ravi Ohri's grandchildren. Amar feels it was inevitable that he joined his father's business, since he grew up near the family's property Basera in Secunderabad. “Our house was an extension of the hotel so walking in and out of the kitchen and seeing the chefs at work was a different and awe-inspiring feeling,” he says. “My decision of joining the industry was a personal one. Once I knew what to do, I pursued my culinary and hospitality degree and after that I did my MBA from Switzerland. Armed with degrees to run the business and monitor the food industry as it is supposed to be, I joined dad and the journey has been quite an amazing one.”Ohri's as a food chain has introduced many firsts. Most of its themes were never heard of before in the city or even sometimes in the country. Ohri's restaurants have recreated the experience of dining inside a train, or the world of Bollywood with life-size dummies of Helen, Amitabh, Gabbar and other actors, or the feel of a nukkad straight from a Bollywood flick, or a jungle, or the auro of 1857.
Ravi Ohri, with his Dev Anand wave falling over his forehead, comes across as an uncomplicated senior businessman who puts his thoughts and ideas to action right after he conceives them. So is white his weakness? The man laughs and says, “Isn't it obvious? Most of my restaurants have the white and beige combination and I make sure that the bright ones are toned down with ample use of white and glass.”
“Nobody in our family has ever ventured into the business of hospitality and restaurants,” says Ravi. “Neither did I begin my career in the industry. I was a civil engineer working in Orissa, hotels and restaurants intrigued me. I was very fascinated with the way guests were taken care of and attended to in hotels. But I wanted to give something more than what other hotels and restaurants offer. I was looking at entering the industry when the city had just two hotels. One was the Taj property and the other was the Ritz hotel, which is shut now. So Ohri's was new and everyone wondered if it would click,” recollects Ravi.
It did more than just click. Ohri's soon became the talk of the town. “We were also the first ones to start a pub in the city,” adds Amar. “Outswinger, the city's first pub, was in Basera and everything from watching cricket, football in a pub to celebrating Halloween nights were introduced.”
Ravi recollects an incident which touched his heart. “I had one of the guests of a wedding sleeping in the corridor of Basera saying, ‘Give me a room the moment it is available.' After this we set out to start Ming's Court, this too at a time when two local Chinese restaurants were doing unbeatable business. And we clicked with the people of Hyderabad, because what we offered was not just food,” he adds.
Ohri's as a brand became synonymous with innovation as it offered some of the best signature dishes, which were still very typically Hyderabadi. And how do father and son iron out differences in ideas and implementation? The two smile and Amar replies, “One handles operations and the other manages the management and when we hit a road block we huddle and consult each other.”
Ohri's is all set to begin work on its latest venture, says Ravi. “A floating restaurant at Hussain Sagar — and it will be definitely something never seen before.”