The untold Adiga’s story

Vasudeva Adiga, the engineer whose restaurant chain became a household name, recalls all the twists and turns in an eventful journey

K N Vasudeva Adiga now runs the Paakashala restaurant chain.

The man who founded the Adiga’s chain looks like any casual diner you might see at his workaday restaurants.

Vasudeva Adiga, who has returned to the food business after a break, is unassuming and wears his fame lightly.

How he started the Adiga’s chain is a fascinating story.

“Our family had a small set-up called Brahmin’s Coffee Bar in Shankarapuram. It was founded by my father Nageshwara Adiga in 1965,” he says.

That place is still going strong.

Nageshwara Adiga was a priest and agriculturist from Shankaranarayana, a village near Kundapur. He migrated to Bengaluru and started the ‘Brahmin’s Coffee Bar’ to cater mainly to school students.

“It was a 10 by10 ft shop with a limited menu,” he says.

Brahmin’s Coffee Bar began with idli, vada, kharabhath, kesaribhath and coffee. The menu continues to this day, with the restaurant being run by Vasudeva Adiga’s brothers, Shankaranarayana and Radhakrishna, and their sons.

Initially, Vasudeva had no intention to continue in the family business.

A 1984 graduate from BMS College of Engineering, his only ambition was to get an MS from a US university.

Vasudeva recalls how he was denied a visa: “They did it on the grounds that my family was not affluent enough, and I might stay back in the US.”

After his BE, he worked for a series of companies. “But I was not happy. Since I had some exposure to the food business, I thought I would try my hand at it,” he says.

Begins biz with SLV

He borrowed money from his father and started an eatery in Basavanagudi called SLV (Sri Lakshmi Venkateshwara) Fast Food.

“My cousin used to run it for me and give me Rs 3,000 a month, out of which I paid Rs 1,500 as rent. The remaining money was my only livelihood,” he recalls.

In 1991, around the time the first SLV restaurant (not to be confused with the current SLV chain) was picking up in Basavanagudi, a smartly done-up restaurant called Upahara Darshini opened in Nettakallappa Circle.

“When they started out, they served coffee for Re 1 in a cup and saucer, and they had air-conditioning,” he says.

Upahara Darshini was a pioneering effort by another entrepreneur hailing from the Karnataka coast: Prabhakar Rao.

“He gave new style to the darshini idea. They claim they started the darshini trend, but it was my father who did it with Brahmin’s Coffee Bar in 1965,” says Adiga.

However, he admits, Rao gave a new impetus to the concept of a standing-only inexpensive eatery with an emphasis on quality and freshness.

The story has taken many more turns since. “The Vasudev Adiga’s chain of restaurants is not with us anymore,” he says.

Venture Capital entry

Vasudeva collaborated with New Silk Route Venture Capital from New York with the idea of expanding and making his brand bigger.

“In 2012, they came to me with an offer in which we would keep 49 per cent stakes and they would have 51. But once they took control, things did not go well for me,” he says.

So he moved out and gave up his stakes in Vasudev Adigas Fastfood Pvt Ltd in August 2017.

“I sold all my shares to the company. They have retained the name Vasudev Adiga’s,” he says. Vasudeva had started 13 restaurants in his chain before the partnership. That expanded to 30 once he was armed with venture capital, with Adiga’s branches coming up in Kolar, Kollur, Maddur.

New beginning

After he sold all his stakes, he was back to square one.

In 2018, he started a company called Sri Anantheswara Foods Pvt Ltd and opened Paakashala.

In a year, he has expanded, with six Paakashala units, and two units of Nandi Upachar, a chain he acquired.

“Like a phoenix, I am starting all over again,” he says, laughing.

At 58, he says his mind races ahead of his body: “If my mind think of 10 steps, I can physically only take three.”

How does it feel to be back in the food business?

We should do what we know. The food business may be difficult but no business is easy. There is a craving for food, especially among Bengaluru folks. That is my passion as well.

You have been working since you were 22. You are 58 now. Do you have the same energy?

It is passion again. This journey made me learn a lot of things. Earlier, I took about 20 years to establish 13 branches the traditional way. But I learnt corporate methods from New Silk Route. I owe it to them. Learning to unlearn and redoing things to suit the latest trends is something I now do.

What is your mantra?

We do study a lot of things before we select a place. What is the demography? What type of food sells? What is the spending capacity? Are our potential customers the corporate sorts, youngsters? We are introducing new cuisines. You can’t always sell masala dosas to youngsters, or Manchurian to the elderly. Pricing is subjective. For a person who travels the world, our prices are peanuts, whereas for a low-income person we may look costly. So we have to strike a balance. At Paakashala, lunch or dinner for two should cost about Rs 400. 

Which branch is closest to your heart?

All six are close to me, but the one in JP Nagar is slightly closer as I feel I can unwind there.
 

Year Chronology of events 

1965 

Nageshwara Adiga of Kundapura migrated to Bengaluru, opens Brahmin’s Coffee Bar in Shankarapuram.

1984

His son Vasudeva becomes an engineer, dreams of doing an MS abroad. US denies him a visa.

1991 Vasudeva starts SLV Fast Food near Gandhi Bazaar.
1993 He starts his first Adiga’s restaurant on DVG Road, Basavanagudi.

2003

He changes the brand name from Adiga’s to Vasudev Adiga’s.
2012 He gets funding from a New York-based company, expands from 13 to 30 outlets.
2017 Vasudeva Adiga sells all his stakes, exits the business.

2018

He returns, opens a restaurant chain called Pakshaala. He now runs six outlets in Bengaluru, including the one on MG Road, and two Nandi Upachar units.

Adiga minus Adiga

Vasudeva Adiga does not own the brand name Vasudev Adiga’s. He gave up his right to it when he sold all his stakes in 2017.

The idea behind the name

Vasudeva is the seventh of eight siblings, three of them girls. When he decided to continue in his father’s business, he chose Adiga’s as the name for his first restaurant, although Brahmins’ Coffee Bar was already an established brand.

That was because he wanted to make his family surname famous. “Like Tata, Birla and Godrej, all of which are widely recognised names, I wanted my surname to be well known,” he says.

He thought ‘Adiga’s’ was catchy as a restaurant name.

“The idea was solely mine. One might ask again why it became Vasudev Adiga’s later. That’s because the name Adiga is common among Dakshina Kannada Brahmin families,” he says.

When his business started picking up, other restaurants opened, riding on the Adiga popularity, but with a marginal twist to the name.

“There were names like Lakshminarayana Adiga Fast Food and Praveen Adiga Fast Food. That created an identity crisis for us,” he says. So in 2003, he decided Adiga’s, a name given to the business in 1993, would become Vasudev Adiga’s.
 

Comments (+)