Born in 1973 in Nagalapuram, in Tuticorin
district, Tamil Nadu.
Out of six brothers and one sister, PG was
the fourth child.
Father had farming business, but was never
PG belonged to Nadar community and
attended local school up to class 10th.
Cousin‟s coffee shop-
Job in coffee & rice trading
Cleaner at Das Bakery in
Cleaner at Bakery in
Dishwasher in Gurudev
Tea boy-Prem Sagar Restaurant
50:50 partner in “chai ki
dukan”-Vashi, sector 3-4 mkt.
Own roadside stall-1992
Hathgadi shop near bus
Own South Indian stall-Vashi,
Opened a “kirana shop”
business for brother-Chennai
Rented shop next to Vashi
“Prem Ganapathy‟s Prem
Sagar Dosa Plaza” was born
Opened a Chinese stall after
3-4 months – “Failed”
Did Trade marketing & Branding
2002: 2 outlets, staff of 15, turnover
of Rs.10,00,000 p/m
August 2003: Dosa Plaza in Center
Did more Branding with “Think Why
Gave a Franchise in Cine Wonder
Today: 150 employees, 26 outlets(5
company owned, 21 franchised)
turnover over Rs. 5,00,00,000
1.COUSIN‟S COFFEE SHOP
PG went to Chennai
where his father and
brothers were already
“I learnt how to grind coffee beans…
wo sab seekha maine.”
2. JOB IN COFFEE & RICE
After a break to attend the annual pooja in his
village, Prem took this job.
He would have continued learning the tricks of
“Mera maalik ka ek bhai Bombay se aaya tha 1990
mein. Uske saath main Bombay chala gaya.
Prem was 17 years old and was curious to see the
world. He set off for the city without telling anyone.
But what happened there was even more filmi.
The only person he knew
there was the one with whom
he came to Mumbai. And the
person left him at Bandra Station and disappeared.
“Mujhe kuch bhaasa vagairah kuch maalum nahi
A kind Tamilian took him to the Mariamman temple
whereby well wishers started collecting money for his
Prem said “No way! Main yahin pe kuch kaam
3.CLEANER AT DAS BAKERY IN
What was the work?
The work that he was
given there was of
“cleaning the pathra,
the trays and ovens where pizzas and
burgers were made.
4. CLEANER AT BAKERY IN
After six months, he went back to his village.
On returning, he found another job – this time with
the Bakery at Satguru hotel in Chembur.
5. DISHWASHER IN GURUDEV
In 1991, the owner of Satguru started another
venture- in Vashi‟s APMC market.
PG now found himself working at Gurudev hotel in
the mori. He clarifies, “Dishwasher”.
“Main unko kaafi request karta tha… main tenth
tak padhaa hoon. Mujhe thoda English knowledge
hai. Mujhe waiter banaao ya to bahar chai leke
jaane ka kaam do. Kuch nahin to kam se kam
table clean karne ka job de do…”
“The stomach may
be empty, but a man
can still have fire in
The trouble was that the owner avoided the
young man as there were some regional cartels
and “Madrasis” were not favored for the „front
side‟ jobs such as waiting on tables.
They were confined to the kitchen while locals
and Mangaloreans got preference.
“I felt very hurt, very upset,” said Prem. But he
could do nothing except bide his time.
6. TEA BOY-PREM
Prem‟s luck turned when a new restaurant called “Prem
Sagar” opened next door.
Why is a tea boy better off than a dishwasher?
“Baahar chai lekar jaana fetches you a commission of
And a chance to build clients.”
Prem Ganapathy was a natural. While other boys
did a business of Rs. 300 per day at best, he would
routinely manage to net a thousand.
What was the secret?
Whether you are selling tea or servicing a Fortune
500 client – the principle is the same.
He greeted everyone cheerfully and always made
a small talk with everyone.
People used to call and ask for him by his name.
Prem earned Rs. 100/day, boarding and lodging
But there was still more to come.
7. 50:50 PARTNER IN
“CHAI KI DUKAN”
One of his customers, a Tamilian gentleman,
made an offer.
He wanted to set up a tea shop in Vashi‟s sector
He invested the money and PG started running
the business as a “ 50:50 partner ”.
The chai ki dukan was set up in the back portion of
a kirana shop.
Day one – shop started doing brisk business.
After a couple of months, the investor got greedy.
Profits were touching Rs.8000-10000 per month.
Investor thought “ why give away 50% of that? ”
“ Mujhe nikal diya aur salary par kisi ko rakh liya. ”
Prem Ganapathy – clean bowled.
Back to the pavilion he was.
It was 1992, Prem went to his village for a vacation, and
came back to Mumbai with a small loan from his uncle and
a younger brother in tow.
With a capital of around Rs.20,000 PG set
up a roadside stall of his own.
Business was good, but the neighboring
housing society was making life difficult.
Tired of the daily “ kit-kit ”, PG bought a
haathgaadi and set up shop near the bus
That venture too was short lived.
But call it „ never say die ‟, or no option but to
get up and keep walking.
10. OWN SOUTH INDIAN
After the failure of two ventures in a row, PG found
another spot, this time in Vashi‟s sector-17, and set up a
„south Indian stall‟.
He did not know a thing about making either idlis or
He procured batter from the homes of south Indians
living next door; and he learnt cooking by observation,
trial and error method.
“ Soon I realized the quality of atta was not good
enough. So I bought a grinder and started making it
Prem Ganapathy‟s dosa stall flourished from 1992 to
1997, outside the Bombay Mercantile Co-operative
“Kaafi achha mera naam hua.”
Soon, Prem Ganapathy was making Rs.20,000 per
month – as profit.
But not that any business is trouble free.
“Us samay starting mein CIDCO aata tha, bhaagna
padhta tha. Baad mein municipality aaya. Municipality
ke logon ne bhi kafi takleef diya hai.”
You learn to have a “setting”, of course.
By this time PG was living in a rented house in Vashi‟s
The house served as the „kitchen‟ from where all the
chutneys, potato bhaji and dosa batter was prepared
The stall needed
round the clock
attention, hence two
more brothers joined
in to manage the
But why was the tiny stall so successful?
Idli and dosa was available at Udupis across Mumbai.
Why then did people flock to this vendor on the street?
Because it was “ DIFFERENT ”.
“ I put a lot of emphasis on hygiene. Unlike other
roadside dosawallahs we always wore shirt and pant,
not lungi. We wore hairbands, and we kept the cart
ekdum clean. Ekdum achhi aur fresh cheez banta tha.
Achha dhak ke rakhta tha.”
Also the „branding‟ was clear and concise – right from
Not only was the stall popular with the aam junta, plenty
of cars awners also stopped by.
This included the „bade log‟ in mercedes.
But still the food was economically priced. (2 idlis for
Rs.4 and masala dosa for Rs.10.
It was far cheaper than
the popular Navratna
restaurant in the vicinity.
11. OPENED A “KIRANA SHOP”
BUSINESS FOR BROTHER
By 1997, Prem had managed to save a couple of lakhs.
With that capital, he put one of his younger brothers into a
kirana shop business in Chennai.
Prem could have worked another year or two and headed
back home as well.
But in January 1998,
he took a big gamble.
12. RENTED SHOP NEXT TO VASHI
Prem put down Rs.50,000 as deposit and Rs.5000 per
month as rental for a shop next to Vashi station.
Thus was born “ Prem Ganapathy‟s Prem Sagar Dosa
And here begins the journey of a brand.
How did Prem came up with the name “Dosa Plaza” is an
Prem had a roommate who was an NIIT student.
He created an email id for Prem and taught him how
to surf the internet.
Between 3-6 pm, when he enjoyed a breather, Prem
would go to a cyber-cafe, log on and „search‟.
“Kaafi main food ka bare mein sochta tha ki kaisa kya
hota hai. McDonald‟s, Pizza Hut sabka baare mein
idea aaya mujhe.”
Prem realized that he was famous for „dosas‟. Hence
his name should reflect that.
Like Pizza Hut, known for its pizzas. He
considered several name like – Dosa Palace,
Dosa Park, Dosa Inn.
Around the same time he also came across
the story of the Coca Cola brand name.
Apparently, they had added the term „coca‟
before cola because it sounded good. Rolled
off the tongue easily.
Surely he wanted to find a word to add some
zing to his „dosa‟.
He used to go to „Vashi Plaza‟ often for work.
And one day it struck him – “Dosa Plaza” – it had a ring
“Phir maine ek din „plaza‟ ka meaning dictionary mein
dekha. Toh open building ko; open space building ko
„plaza‟ bolte hain.”
Since he too was operating from an open space, the
name was perfect: „Prem Ganapathy‟s Prem Sagar
He even built a website for his open air eatery –
probably the first dosa shop in the country to do so, but
there was more to come.
13. OPENED A CHINESE STALL
Customers were demanding more „variety‟.
After 3-4 months, Prem opened a Chinese stall next door
called „Chinese Plaza‟.
It was a „Disaster‟.
“We had no idea how to run a Chinese place. We didn‟t
know how to cook it… the proper ingredients. Also the
location was no good. There was already an „Alibaba
Chinese‟ next door.”
The venture was loss making and hence, was closed in
just 3 months.
But the money was not wasted, because “kuch seekhne
ko to mila.‟
BACK TO „DOSA PLAZA‟
Prem Ganapathy started experimenting. He created
all-new concoctions with „Chinese‟ fillings inside the
good old dosa.
Like “Szchewan dosa”…“Manchurian Dosa”...etc.
The NIIT students who hung around at the stall
became his test market.
The students readily agreed, and gave their stamp of
This is how the „Chinese dosa‟ became part of the
menu at Dosa Plaza.
Customers liked it, and came back for more.
Prem kept experimenting and inventing new varieties.
He went and tried different kinds of cuisines to figure
out what could be mixed and matched.
But throughout his journey his role model remained
Whenever stuck for an answer he would ask himself, “
How would they do it? ”
“I noticed McDonald‟s write „TM‟ next to their
That‟s how he too got the idea of trade marketing his
brand and his recipes. Also he needed to do this as
many people were copying him.
Like „Sai Sagar Dosa Plaza‟, „Udipi Dosa Plaza‟.
PG got the „Dosa Plaza‟ trademark registered
through an advocate.
Today, he has copyrights and trademarks for 27 of
his recipes as well.
Prem was quick to understand the
value of „branding‟ and publicity.
“Public ko mere stall pe leke aane ke liye maine kaafi
mehnat kiya. New Bombay mein kitna bhi college hai,
sab college mein maine stall lagaya. Bada bada banner
About how did he feel the need for branding, he says
that “Main hamesha personally nahin khada ho
paoonga.. Is liye ek brand bnana zaroori tha!”
SCENARIO IN 2002
Surely but slowly, the efforts put in by Prem Ganapathy
By 2002, Dosa Plaza was a certified success story.
Prem Ganapathy should have been a satisfied young
A staff of 15 people, and
A turnover of Rs.10 lakhs per month.
But there was a burning desire – to do more.
“Actually, mera profit jo tha maine kabhi nikala nahin.
Bas mera ghar chalta tha.”
Prem Ganpathy wanted to grow and he was ready to
sacrifice today‟s bank balance to invest and create a
chain of shops.
About his vision he said, “Mujhe aur dukaan kholna
hai, aur mujhe accha banana hai; accha service krna
hai. Mera vision yehi rehta tha.”
It is rightly said that although a concrete vision and
mission are necessary, but chance encounters play an
important role in life.
It happened like this with him too.
The team setting up New Bombay‟s first mall often visited
Dosa Plaza for lunches.
The project manager who was a young man named
Aman, got really friendly with him.
One fine day, he advised PG “Take a space in our food
Already wanting to expand, PG was immediately sold on
the idea and despite stiff opposition from his 3 brothers,
he went ahead with the idea.
HOW DID HE FUND THIS
He had to make a huge investment to bring this idea
The investment included Rs. 3 lakhs for the deposit
alone, plus equipment cost and interior decoration.
He could have applied for a loan from bank, but he
thought that his file was not strong as he had no
property to offer as collateral so – why would he be
eligible for funds?
So, Prem went to his family and friends for funds. “Kaafi
logon se main fund liya, loan pe. Friends circle se.
Thoda thoda paisa aata tha aur main kaam karta gaya.”
By the time mall was ready, PG was ready with his
In August 2003 – Center One mall threw open its
doors. Dosa Plaza was a hit from day one.
Few figures about the earnings:
On the very first day, sales touched Rs.44,000.
The first month‟s turnover was Rs. 6 lakhs.
The profit margins – a healthy 15-20%.
At this point, Aman advised, “You need to do more
branding.” He also referred to Prem an advertising
agency called „Think Why Not‟.
“Unka saath maine ek hafta to main daily unko lekar
aata tha. Food khilata tha. Product samajhne tak un ko
maine time diya.”
The agency then swung into action and created a logo,
mascot, menu card, POPs, posters – the works.
Dosa Plaza is using all of these till today as well.
Although advertising is great, but there‟s nothing as
powerful as free publicity.
The „108 dosas on offer‟ fetched Dosa Plaza plenty of
coverage in local papers and on television.
After seeing „108 items‟ a question comes up in mind:
“ARE THEY FOR REAL OR JUST FOR EFFECT.”
On this PG made sure that you get whatever you order.
He tells that, “it‟s a mix and match. We have 5-6 sauces.
5-10 chutneys. Dosas are the same. Vegetables also are
So this was the secret of how was PG able to offer 108
types of dosas.
The trick is to train the staff to combine the stuff together
and give it a cool name.
Like „Salad Roast Dosa‟, or „Mexi Roll Dosa‟.
The name should be creative but not too exotic. People
should know what they are ordering.
The another important secret to successful running a
chain is to be consistent.
Any outlet you go to, the food should taste the same.
Therefore PG made sure that all important chutneys and
sauces are made at a centralized kitchen.
WHAT NEXT ??
The success of the Centre One Outlet was a turning
A world of possibilities lay ahead!!
But starting one new outlet in a mall – 200 meters
away from his stall at station – was one thing.
But the major question was that “ How would he
manage far-flung locations? ”
Two things happened after the success
of Centre One outlet.
First, PG learnt about something called
The second big leap for Dosa Plaza was
installations of „systems‟.
The company from whom Dosa Plaza bought its
billing machines expressed an interest in opening
a counter at Thane‟s Cine Wonder Mall.
The owner said to PG, “Humko franchise chahiye.”
PG did not know what is a franchise but he asked
them for some time to think about it and
meanwhile he did all the research about what a
franchise is all about.
PG realized that many of the biggest fast food
chains in the world operated on a franchise basis.
So why not Dosa Plaza?
HOW DID IT WORK??
When it comes to franchising, there is always a fear that
the franchisees might just learn your business and then
start their own outlets.
But PG was not worried about this because he was in
control of the important things.
The recipes, masalas, and sauces were made at his
centralized kitchen only.
The staff was also supplied by him but the franchisees
paid their salaries.
The franchisees were needed to handle the cash counter
and make the upfront investment, plus bear the running
Dosa Plaza earned 6-8% royalty on sales which
according to PG was a cool way to grow on someone
The company invested in software connected to a
central server to keep track of billing, inventory
and overall operations.
And of course, all this was possible because of
In 2004, PG took on a partner called Easwaran to
look after business development and automation.
Easwaran had a background in computers and
handled the software side of things.
At the same time, Dosa Plaza started setting up
Initially they were in a hurry to open more
outlets and somehow they were also able to
run them at break even. But then they started
planning everything – all the details.
Purchase, marketing and most importantly,
costing, became crucial.
They made calculations for every recipe. How many
grams of atta, how much vegetable they needed and all.
He says, “ Sab ko costing ke hisaab se jaana chahiye.”
A training manager was deputed to visit outlets on a
rotation basis and make sure that the costing was
But now the question arises that:
“ Who were these managers and how were they
persuaded to join this unknown company which
was in the less-than-glamorous business of
PG says, “Mera hotel industry mein sabse relation tha.”
PG was able to sense that many employees were
working with big brand names, but their aspirations were
not being met.
Dosa Plaza‟s operation‟s manager Mendonsa, is one
such example. He was recruited from McDonalds.
He called him up and talked to him about his company
and its fast growth. He told him his vision and assured
him that although they might not get a better pay, but
will be given more freedom, value, recognition. So he
joined his company and so did many others.
ITS NOT JUST ABOUT
Crucial to the success of Dosa Plaza are not just
managers, but employees at all levels.
Around 80% of the original kitchen staff is still with Dosa
The same guys who earned Rs.1,500-2,000 per month
are now at „Training Level‟. They might not have a
formal education, but they have learnt and grown with
the company and now they earn as much as Rs.15,000-
20,000 per month.
PG also made sure that caste and community is of no
consideration in the company.
PG says, “Hard work and talent is what we value.”
150 EMPLOYEES STRONG
5 COMPANY OWNED
21 RUN BY FRANCHISEES
TURNOVER CROSSED Rs.5 crores
SOME MORE FACTS…
To market the franchisees in North India, the
company tied up with „Franchise India Holding Ltd‟
on a 67:33 basis.
There have been enquiries from US, Japan,
Australia and it has one franchise in New Zealand
They have one „express‟ model on Mumbai Pune
highway and PG plans to open 20 more such
They had to shut down the Centre One outlet due
to competition and reduced sales.
“JO BHI KARO SABSE HATKE HONA CHAHIYE
AUR BRANDING KRNA CHAHIYE.”
“BARABAR COSTING KARKE, SAHI TAREEKE SE
HANDLE KAROGE TO KAAFI PROFIT HAI..KISI
BHI BUSINESS ME.”
“CLEAN AND HYGIENE PAR DHYAAN DENA
“ACHHA VYAVHAAR HONA CHAHIYE.”
ACCHA PRODUCT HONA CHAHIYE AUR ACCHA