When S. Balaji dumped a lucrative job with IT firm TCS to run a small boarding and lodging facility in Thambu Chetti Street, his father was furious. The family’s dream had been for the youngster to take up a job, instead of sitting at the “galla” like his father and grandfather.
An untrained eye may miss Sri Rama Bhavan, a boarding and lodging facility with over 50 rooms, nestled between two nondescript shops. The teak panels and shelves remind one of scenes from the Tamil movie Server Sundaram.
Mr. Balaji, a 26-year-old, in his beige trousers and maroon shirt, does not fit in. But his mind is working furiously on expanding the hotel, making use of its brand value. “Anyone who is over the age of 50 will know of our hotel,” he said, his glance encompassing the small restaurant with 20 tables in it.
Launched in 1933 by two siblings R.N. Sivarama Pattar and R.N. Sesha Iyer, the hotel turns 80 next year. In celebration, it will serve customers at its restaurant on Sundays too, from mid-January onwards. According to Mr. Balaji the request to throw open the restaurant on Sundays came from loyal customers, some of them who have patronised the hotel for as long as 50 years.
“Several decades ago, we stopped working on Sundays as our clients were primarily office-goers. But customers who come to the nearby Kalikambal temple want to end their morning trip with breakfast here. So we have decided to work on Sundays too,” Mr. Balaji said.
At the height of Hitler’s rule in Germany, the hotel introduced coconut chutney as an accompaniment to idlis, and named it ‘Hitler chutni’. It became so famous that they were given the telegram code ‘cochutni’, which is used even today. In the 1970s, the hotel-owners forayed into pickles under the brand name 777. A keen interest in chemical analysis one the part of one of the owners, led the family setting up a laboratory to analyse food samples. The current chairman, R.N. Ramani, trained at CFTRI, Mysore and King Institute for Preventive Medicine in Guindy, to bring professionalism into the company’s preparations.
Even as Sri Rama Bhavan catered to its loyal clients without aiming to expand, it gave space to 777 products. The success of the brand has now emboldened the entrepreneurs. The owners believe in “banking on the brand”.
“We are two verticals,” said R. Srikanth, director of SGR (777) Foods. Even as Mr. Balaji aims to expand Sri Rama Bhavan elsewhere in the city, Mr. Srikanth is setting his eyes on building the 777 brand on lines similar to frontrunners like MTR.