The Chaat that became the talk of the town !
Youngster Ramesh Gudmewar was not really enthusiastic about his studies and so his parents sent him from Nanded to his Maternal Uncle’s place at Pune with a hope that he could receive some training and a path to work in life and make both ends meet. But what followed was an amazing success story . It was in 1978 , that Ramesh Gudmewar started a handcart of Bhel and Pani Puri outside a park in Kothrud. Although Kothrud was not really a developed area, still to put a handcart outside any park in Pune was not easy , there was a lot of competition. Breaking away from this tradition , Gudmewar parked his handcart at a chowk near the park. This was in itself a new trendsetter. He borrowed money from a local cooperative bank . The tenure for repayment was five years , but Gudmewar repaid it in mere two years. Impressed by his commitment and dedication , the bank put his picture on a bus advertisement which said that don’t be let down if you don’t have a job, be an entrepreneur instead. Although he returned the borrowed money in time , it was hard work all throughout for two decades before he actually started his first Bhel Shop at Karve Nagar in 1996.
“Bhel and Pani Puri” were still in initial stages and were considered not something more than Street Food. As time went by , Gudmewar started expanding his business with another outlet in 1998 atGanesh Nagar and the third by 2000 , launched its website by 2010 . Meanwhile his two sons Rupesh and Dinesh began helping him. Like father they weren’t that much interested in studies. Although one of the them took admission in Hotel Management College , he just couldn’t go as he was already into the business handling day to day operations. With the younger generation coming in , transformation was inevitable. In 2012 , Ganesh Bhel and Chaat Products as it is called received ISO 9001:2008. Technology and new processes also came in. CCTV cameras were installed. A franchisee model was established and further enhanced. While earlier most of the Bhel shops needed skilled manpower to maintain the standard taste , Rupesh and Dinesh worked their way to a system where even semi skilled staff could maintain the same standards and taste. Hygiene along with quality and taste is an important pillar of food industry and the two brothers had quickly recognized it. Using bottled water , sterilized or disposable plates , and exports quality packaging became the new normal for their business. ISO certification ensured customers were delivered quality food in lesser time. Automation came in with a central kitchen at Narhe . Understanding the customers requirement, the shop which was earlier open only in the evenings is now open throughout the day. Also the product range has been increased from a handful of products to a whopping 30 products. The new additions include Sandwiches , Dabheli and many new popular variants like Matki bhel etc. The duo had also recognized that home delivery was catching up in Pune and so tied up with Swiggy. Today 30% of their business comes from home delivery. Party orders are playing a major part where they are also serving Pav Bhaji and Dosa . To add to these they also started exports a decade back to Singapore, Dubai and other countries. Their aim is to send consignments to USA . The attractive packaging has also enabled them to sell their products through modern trade like D Mart and Reliance, Ganesh Bhel is also present today in many major IT companies. They haven’t forgotten paying attention to details that are important to their business. For example the city shops serve bhel and pani puri with a slight sweeter taste as most of the customers are from Pune , but have altered the taste in one of the their outlets at Pimple Saudagar where cosmopolitan customers prefer a more tangy taste.
Transforming their set up into a modern day business has been tough and a long journey, but what is good is that brothers Dinesh and Rupesh understand the efforts their Parents have put in and their legacy. Both accept that generation gap is inevitable, but say that our foundation that Father and Mother have built is the most important and will help us sustain and grow . While father has taught us quality and persistency, our mother Chayya Gudmewar who stood firmly behind our father in tough times , has taught us that understanding the basics of accountancy for any entrepreneur is equally important as the business operations itself. Today their Father Ramesh Gudmewar still comes and sits at the cash counter at their flagship outlet at Karvenagar.
It is tough to prepare a perfect mixture as some like bhel without onions, some like it dry , some more tangy , some sweeter while some like boiled potatoes, raw mangoes in it. But still during this journey customers even from countries like London and Switzerland have also showered praises on them. Both may have left their education half way through but they proudly tell have they are invited as Guest lecturers in many MBA colleges and that they have a ready PPT for that. The brothers sit in a simple cabin or a room to say where the most important factor is not the furniture but a big world map put up by their side dotted with areas where they are currently exporting. They feel if every person in this world can accept burgers and pizzas , why not bhel and we will make that happen. Taking GaneshBhel into the next era , the brothers are coming out with one of the first Chaat Lounges at FC Road. The idea is to also try Bhel with table service with more relaxed setting in a premium ambience.
While Bhel and Pani Puri as products have come a long way from being labeled as street food on handcarts to now in swanky restaurants, shops and even five star hotels.. There are only a handful of brands which stood the test of time and should be credited for chaat products for finally getting their due. Ganesh Bhel and the Gudmewar family is definitely one of them !