Born and brought up in the small town of Patshala, Gopal Jalan studied Arts in Bajali College. A prominent personality in the field of Assamese literature and culture, Jalan has proved himself to be a pioneer in the sweet business. Anindita Das catches up with the young entrepreneur
How did you get into the sweet business?
Originally we were into supari, pan masala and gutkha business. But various messages started pouring in from the Government regarding the tobacco products that are injurious to health and which could be banned any moment. We thus realized that there was no future of such a venture and decided to switch to some other business. So, after considering the matter, we moved from Pathsala to Guwahati. With my uncle (father’s cousin) Arun Jalan, I wanted to start up a business. Both of us took a trip across the leading cities of the country to come up with something new.
We noticed that in Guwahati there is not such an eating joint which serves everything under the same roof, whereas in the other cities of India there are. So, we planned to step into restaurant business, a place where there would be something for every age group. And the rest is known by all. We had the conviction since the beginning that Guwahatians would surely embrace our new venture. Initially, we started with the fancy Bazaar JB’s in November 2001 with various kinds of snacks, sweets, south-Indian and north-Indian dishes. Some people tried to demoralize us saying that an exclusive vegetarian restaurant might not be able to compete with the other restaurants of the town. But it became very popular among the people within a short span of time. Gradually, in 2005 July the G.S Road JB’s was opened and then another in Latasil in August 2008.
Is there any demand of any particular kind of sweets? As earlier there were only the traditional sweets in the market, how did you cope with the existing preferences?
It is true that the traditional sweets were very popular among the sweet lovers. What we tried to do was to give a twist to those sweets, for instance, instead of regular rasgullas and jalebis, we experimented with flavored ones, such as strawberry and pineapple rasgullas and jalebis, served more than fifteen types of snacks, and there are too many other things also to choose from the cart. For children there are burgers and pizzas, for elderly people there is the Italian menu and for the youngsters the assortment of chaats, samosas, kachoris, dhoklas and many other snacks are available. As we have been innovating new kinds of mithais, people now demand for more varieties. So, we are increasing the number of varieties to meet the demands.
What is the secret of your growing business?
I think it is because we always interact with our customers directly, try to observe their reaction, whether they like what they have in the restaurant or not. We make ourselves available to them, listen to their feedback and try to keep up to their expectations. We also pay a lot of attention to the service and quality of food. It is looked after that the customers are served with the food as fast as possible without keeping them waiting.
How do you maintain the quality of the restaurant?
We have always tried to keep our same employees since the beginning. Only ten percent of the previous employees are not with us at this period, else we still have the same employees. That has been an important factor in maintaining our quality.
How do you cope with the price rise of the raw materials?
It is in the month of October-November that we raise the price every year. In between if there is hike in the commodities not more than thirty to forty percent, it does not affect our prices.
Are there any obstacles that you face conducting the business? How are your competitors doing?
No, nothing of that sort has been a matter of concern for us. We have been conducting our business quite smoothly. Regarding our competitors, it seems they are also doing quite well. As in a football match there are many teams, but the game is always won by the champion team, we are not worried of our competitors, on the contrary it is always good to have a healthy competition.
Is there any future expansion plan in Assam and other Northeastern states?
No, there is no such plan. The chief reason behind it is that there is always dearth of labour. So, we have decided to carry on properly with our existing establishments.