Sweet success story

At the Adyar Ananda Bhavan production unit.  

Every day, 30-odd Adyar Ananda Bhavan vans leave the production units in Ambattur carrying tons of sweets and varieties of savouries. All these may not be on your list of favourites, but what will surely get your nod is, some 95 per cent of them have been made entirely by machines. The plant's stainless steel contraptions pound and sift powders, mix, press and fry mixture components, extract oil from murukku, which to my eye looks quite free of it. Smaller wonders roll rosogollas and chum-chums, others shape and cut burfis and halwas. Laddus drop out of chutes, as if by magic. Frying vats maintain oil temperature through digital meters. Heat escalates, the alarm goes off, cook opens or bypasses the valve to cool it. It's a mammoth, centralised operation. Training is centralised, recipes/measurements standardised. Each of the 36 branches in the city uploads its requests into common software. At night the branch manager checks availability of product and stock and makes sure bags of mixed ingredients reach rooms where they are needed. Milk comes at 3 a.m., boiler for 1,000 litres of oil starts at 4 a.m. The chutneys are made at the outlets, with small domestic grinders. At 7 a.m., hungry customers troop in to eat and take away.

It all began in a Rajapalayam farmer's family. Father Thirupathi Raja ran away to Madras when he was 10, cleaned tables, learned cooking, went to Bombay, worked in a mill and a provision store, but returned to Rajapalayam to start a sweet shop and grow sugarcane. The crop was destroyed in a cyclone and Raja came to Washermanpet in Chennai in 1979 with a recipe to sell sweets/mixture in individual paper-folds. He was now married with two boys whom he involved in his business. In 1988, he opened the “corner” shop on Lattice Bridge Road junction. It was a big success. Sri Ananda Bhavan morphed into Adyar Ananda Bhavan. And the brand was launched. At 60, Raja finally saw profit.

His sons Venkatesan and Srinivasa Raju have to be persuaded to continue the story. “Go around and see what we do,” they say. Srinivasa Raju answers the “secret of success” query with, “It's the taste, right proportion of ingredients and price.” It's also the location of shops — the one on MG Road, Adyar is a hit with passers-by — with attached parking lots to let eaters linger on. Venkatesh visits Ambattur every day, tastes the stuff, stops production if he isn't happy. “Customer feedback is taken seriously,” says Raju.

Customers asked if they sold kuzhippaniyaram/poli/jelebi and demanded “hot, fresh” food. They would buy and go next door to eat it so “we had to open a restaurant”. An experimental one opened in Puducherry , the sweet-seller became restaurateur. “We popularised the open-kitchen concept,” says Raju. The Pondy experience emboldened them to serve Kannadiga sambar with dosa in Bengaluru. In Chennai, “We were one of the first to bring masters from the North to make Rajasthani/Bengali sweets and chaat. They were instant hits.”

“What next?” Idiyappam/kurma, adai-avial, mini-kozhukkattai and kadamba dosai. Adyar ice-cream became a sister concern, no-egg bakery products and other items in vacuumed packaging began to be sold. The company registered 62 outlets, in Bengaluru, Delhi, Puducherry, in all Tamil Nadu districts. Batch-wise data is updated, products are bar-coded. HQ knows production time, date, which batch is made by whom, the shelf life. “We branched, experimented, but kept at the core business of selling food in various forms,” says Raju.

Future plans include ready-to-use pastes, pickles, powders and vadagams and global marketing. “Our new Austrian machine with thermal control does mixing, frying (1,000 kg savoury/hour) and squeezing out oil. The factory is moving into new premises for total automation. We'll sell our own brand of coffee and milk. The aim is to be one of the best in the industry,” says Raju.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 10:22:38 AM |

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