Pune, a cosmopolitan mix with social intellectpune Updated: Aug 16, 2017 11:58 IST
Ravish Arora is director, Inn-Venue Hospitality and a top chef from the city.(HT Photo)
I was born Dehradun, which is surrounded by the Shivalik hills. As I grew up, I always prayed that no matter what, I would like to spend my entire life there. The weather, the serene surroundings, proximity to nature and a large Cantonment area always had an impression on me . I joined the Institute of Hospitality Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition (IHMCTAN), Mumbai; decided to be a chef and got selected by the Oberoi School of Hotel Management. After a two-year stint at the Delhi Oberoi I got transferred to Mumbai.
After five years at the Oberoi, till 1991, I moved to Pune with my wife Sandhya and daughter Charvi, to join my brother in the construction business, as the salaries in hotels were abysmally low. My son Jai was born in Pune in 1992. However, fate had something else in store. A chance meeting with Rajendra Kelshikar, then general manager at the Blue Diamond, got me back in the hotel profession as the executive chef within a year. That’s where my true journey in Pune began.
I started living my childhood dream again. The weather, the Sahyadari hills, the Cantonment area, proximity to Lonavala , shopping at Main Street...
Schooling was the closest one would get to Dehradun. Peaceful existence of all communities and space for all religions more than impressed us. Open grounds, picnic spots nearby and the opportunity to play sports again after being caged in Mumbai, it didn’t take much to decide as a family to make Pune our home till eternity .
Blue Diamond, the only true five star hotel in Pune then, was hub of the corporate and the social events scene in Pune .It brought me face-to-face with personalities like Baba Kalyani, B G Shirke, S L Kirloskar, Rahul Bajaj , DR KB Grant, Arun Firodia, Lila Ponnawalla, S B Majumdar and more many distinguished achievers from all walks of life. Interaction with them , meeting them on a regular basis and their appreciation of my work gave me a self-confidence which probably is still part of me till today. This helped me move up in my career.The hotel owners then, the Kirloskars, pleased with my performance gave me the additional responsibility to manage the entire F & B department of the hotel.
As the time was passing (1995 to 1998), Pune was also changing in terms of its landscaping, population mix and information technology startups. New manufacturing industries and automobile companies were being setting up. Pune was becoming more international and so were the guests at the hotel. By 1997 the international hotel chains Holiday Inn, Le Meridien had started making headway in the city and being a stand alone property, Kirloskar wisely decided to sell the Blue Diamond to Tata’s Indian Hotel company. It became Taj Blue Diamond overnight on October 26 ,1999 .For Pune’s entire population there was no bigger breaking news. I was among the few fortunate ones to be absorbed by the Taj management. However after a brief stint with them, I decided it was time to exploit the experience of 15 years and be my own boss. I was 37-years old then.
I teamed up with my colleague Rajendra Kelshikar to form our current company Innvenue Hospitality Management Pvt Ltd in the year 2000, now in existence for 17 years .The effort and goodwill earned during our years at Blue Diamond was the real asset . More importantly, our team was formed with our colleagues from the Blue Diamond and till date they happen to be our core team and real strength of our company .
It started with buying out Bakers Basket from the Kirloskars. Soon the Ruby Hall coffee shop followed which we still operate. After that, the outdoor catering and our brands like Polka Dots, Incognito, Oopsadaisy, Fabiano and The Pavillion.
Pune has been good to us. At every step people in Pune have supported and trusted us in all our endeavours.Though considered to be the toughest market in the country, we have survived and done well .
The cosmopolitan mix and the social intellect has always embraced change with open arms and I can say we have been the beneficiary of the same in our field .Pune happens to be the home to maximum number of restaurants in a city in our country.
The competition is fierce. One has to be on the top of his game to succeed in terms of the product, knowledge and trend.Though it gives more opportunity to exploit your talent now than earlier.
Today, Pune is bursting all over. Lack of infrastructure, traffic jams, crying for its own Metro rail and with all the vices of a mega city, but would I like leave the city? The answer is a firm NO . Its grown on me and my family. I am probably more Puneri than most.
First Published: Aug 14, 2017 23:35 IST