It was a hot summer evening in Pune, I set out to look for a take away to treat aai- baba to something yum to celebrate a new milestone for mum who was recovering post surgery. Not willing to walk too much I was pleasantly surprised to see this brightly lit signage and a small crowd of youngsters on their bikes outside this place called Dum-a-Dum Biryani
I walked across to this cheery and brightly lit take away, the fiery and tempting aroma of kebabs wafted around the place.
The place was clean and tidy and the tiny kitchen was buzzing with activity. I ordered a Lasooni Murg kebab and Tangdi Kebab and waited outside, watching the busy main road and the steadily building traffic. Just a few turns away is the Mumbai Pune expressway via Chandani Chowk. A primarily residential area in Pune, it has several educational institutes and IT companies Hence the large student and IT crowd hover around this tiny take away. This young set night disappears by night and mingles with the resident locals and it’s only in the evening when one sees large groups of youngsters with their modern bikes zipping around that one can actually estimate how much of Pune is a composed of this transient population.
This flurry of activity outside Dum-a-Dum keeps engaged in observation and it’s only when I hear my name being bellowed from the counter inside that I snap out of my reverie.
On an impulse I decide to talk to the very busy manager and ask him if the owner would be willing to give me a few minutes as I was curious to know about how Dum – a – Dum came into being.
He readily parts with a name and mobile number and I am suddenly very excited, well after all this would be my very first interview, IF the owner agrees.
Luckily for me, one phone call and a few messages later, I am all set to meet Mr.Rakesh Rajendran, the Founder and C.E.O of this professionally run start-up hospitality qsr firm.
Armed with my new Cannon SLR and a brand new cute blank diary from Either Or at Pune (made by the Doodle Factory), I stroll down to meet the person who will give me my first ever interview.
I get an extremely warm greeting and before we start chatting there is glass of cool and delicious salted buttermilk offered to me. I have written down a few questions I tell him which I will ask him but we get chatting about food and kebabs and well, retail and lo and behold ! He tells me that he too was a part of modern retail in Pune before he decided to turn into an entrepreneur!
Any inhibitions I have of how to conduct this interview are gone with the wind and we exchange notes about the retail industry and the changing scene in Pune. After all only retailers can truly understand and appreciate what it is like to work in the fast paced retail environment in Pune. Food Retail is a changing dynamic industry which is probably the most challenging form of organised retail .
Rakesh tells me that was the head of IT for one of the leading food retailers in the country and has also lived and worked in Chicago for 7 years prior to that.
Well read, widely travelled, he is a self proclaimed foodie and also rather camera shy as I was about to find out.
RR ( shall call him that for ease of expression and shall refer to myself as well simply MJ), tells me that this outlet is one of 6 outlets in Pune and has been operational since Dasheera of 2010.RR tells me that he believes in soft launches hence most of his outlets open on auspicious days and have always received excellent response from the locals . His retail experience has held him in good stead in terms of zeroing in on locations , setting up a system for home deliveries and hiring and retaining staff.
Well it’s time now to ask some questions
MJ: Silly first question, why the name Dum- a – Dum?
RR: (smiles) Haven’t u heard the song ‘’Dum -a-Dum’’ mast kalandar? Well on a serious note, we started out with the name ‘’Village Kitchen’’ which was quickly vetoed by friends and family. The whole idea of a Kebab and Biryani take away should be a fun concept and has to have a catchy name , hence the name Dum-a-Dum , of course it has to with the fact we offer Dum Biryani on the menu.
MJ: Why a kebab and biryani joint and not any other kind of cuisine?
RR: I conceptualised this format and got a core group of friends who had worked with me in the past and who understood my passion for the hospitality industry to back my efforts by funding this venture. I managed to convince my friend Tushar Bhole also to actually quit and help start-up this hospitality business.
It was a very well researched decision and was something I was keen on, it also thanks to the fact that I have travelled across many places and always wanted to set up a place where great tasting food and convenience go hand in hand.
MJ: What is your involvement in recipe development?
RR: We have done a lot of research on the best selling kebabs and popular flavours and have worked with my chefs to develop our own unique Biryani flavour. The most popular kebabs that people normally expect on a menu are tweaked. As such we are always looking at experimenting with say a new ingredient or a new rage and are very open to feedback from our patrons as well. I am not a trained chef but have travelled extensively across the north of India and have then with great though come up with the current menu
(Phew! it’s hard work this kebab business I think , while I gobble up the lasooni kebab comes from the kitchen for me to devour , what a treat ! Little does one think about what goes on behind the scenes)
RR goes to tell me a little bit about biryani’s and how we develop our liking towards a certain type of biryani which for us is ‘’THE’’ absolutely best biryani ever. Ofcourse it’s to do with where one grows up and has tasted local flavours packed into the meat and rice . The most popular biryani currently on our menu is the ‘’Lucknowi’’ Biryani . To get to a place where we develop a known type of biryani and get the taste upto our liking and then have our customers come back to us and tell us that they ‘’loved’’ our biryani is very satisfying.
We give a lot of thought before we add anything to our menu and since we are a take away only chain, it’s very important that we get the taste right as the only interaction a customer has with anyone representing us our delivery boys and the voice over the phone!
I come from Kerala where I can say that there are at least 7 types of Biryani which are popular and known, there would be as many variations of taste and recipes as there would be regions and local culture.
(So true, I think to myself, food is so much about the place and its people)
My idea is that we should become known as a place that serves ‘’FOOD with a SOUL’’, not just another ‘’regular’’ food take away joint.
By now there is a plate of soft Aloo kebabs called Tandoori Aloo ke Gutkeand Makrana tangdi kebab – a juicy succulent version of Tangdi Kebab (aloo meaning potatoes in Hindi, the ones used here are the baby new potatoes , tangdi meaning chicken legs in Hindi ) , I get busy clicking and try to get the best angels , I request RR to pose with the team but he politely refuses saying ‘’ in this interview the heroes are my team and of course the food’’ Well said isn’t it ?
The Aloo ke Gutke are so tasty, it’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted ummmm
MJ: What are the biggest challenges you face?
RR: Finding and retaining good staff, the home delivery ones, who are the ‘’FACE’’ of the brand and are not just delivery boys. We try and ensure that each outlet is like a tiny unit in itself that runs on a deeply ingrained feeling of ownership in itself .It’s important for me that each employee understand my passion and treats the place as their own. It’s all the more important for me as I have in turn to convey that confidence and spirit to all those who believed in me and have also invested their monies in this venture.
Also managing operational overheads is very challenging.
MJ: Who is your closest competitor?
RR: Well, we like to think that since we are primarily looking to become the best take away chain in the city and country, I would like to benchmark with Domino’s.
MJ: Any new branches opening up?
RR (Face lights up with apparent joy) Yes! One in a big mall in Pune and one in New Bombay .Am really looking forward to the one in New Bombay as compared to Pune, the attitudes and expectations differ.
MJ: Do you serve goat or lamb meat in the mutton Biryani?
RR: we offer both and also offer halal meat, for bulk orders we need a day or two’s notice ahead for large orders. As such we have 6 different Biryanis on our menu and also offer family packs and party packs. The Chicken Mutka Duma Dum Biryani cooked in a clay pot is heavenly and also very popular.
We don’t use any artificial food colours and we use raw paya to tenderise our meat, that gives the meat it soft, succulent and juicy nature, we are quite proud of our creation.
Meanwhile, some regular customers stroll in and RR gets up, excuses himself and goes to have a chat with them.
I find a rare quite moment at the counter and get the smiling team members to stand still for a few seconds, click away, polish off the last of the mouth watering kebabs and wash it down with yet another glass of the chilled heavenly chaas.
I thank my mild mannered host and trudge back home, happy to have wrapped up my first ever interview for my blog!
Now for the details: For heavenly kebabs and Biryani head to Paud Road, next to Reliance Fresh, Bhusari Colony, Paud Road, Kothrud, Pune. The menu can be downloaded from Zomato.com – use the following search string – Home / Pune / Kothrud Area / Kothrud / Dum-A-Dum – Biryani and Kebabs.