Avantika Sinha Bahl started Kampai in October 2018 which has been a big success as an authentic Japanese restaurant in Delhi. “We were catering to a large expat clientele, 65% being Japanese,” shared Bahl who after a year of opening this Japanese restaurant recognised an opportunity in the market for Singaporean cuisine. “With Asian being so popular in India, it was a no brainer. Singapore is a favourite travel destination for Indians and the food is very palatable according to me. This is when I created the concept Mai Bao- Modern Singaporean Street Food,” added Bahl who believed that Mai Bao would be very different as a brand from Kampai. Kampai being niche, premium and slightly more serious as a brand, Mai Bao is playful and approachable. Excerpts from the interview:
How difficult/easy it is to manage to different restaurants serving two different world cuisines?
I love taking on challenges and doing something different. I like stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something that has not been done before. Keeping this mind, Kampai was a big risk. We know people in Delhi love sushi, but whether they would accept a menu, which would be completely Japanese. Luckily, Kampai has been very well received and so many of our customers try Japanese food for the first time at our restaurant. With Mai Bao, the food is completely different. I personally don't find it difficult since I have a strong team with me who are my backbone and they stand by me through all my crazy ideas!
Mai bao is a modern street food concept. How do you see the market for such food in India as we have always loved our street food to be very Indian?
I feel there is a huge market for this cuisine. The flavours are very familiar to the Indian palate. Since Singapore is basically an amalgamation of Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese and Indian cuisines. The food is extremely flavourful and will hit the right notes for Indians who would not be able to get these flavours in many other restaurants
Why DLF- Saket as a location?
DLF Saket is a fantastic location for us. DLF has completely re-done the mall beautifully and it will be a prime south Delhi location. The footfalls are great and the crowd is willing to experiment with newer cuisines and dishes.
How do you see the market for casual premium dining in the country? What’s the future?
There is a big market for casual premium dining in the country. It attracts people of all demographics. Families, couples, groups of friends. The target market is bigger and we want to focus on high footfall areas. Even in the future; this segment will grow in my opinion with people getting comfortable with stepping out after a year in isolation!
We have seen that Covid-19 pandemic has changed the whole flavour of the restaurants sector. What impact it has on your business?
Covid-19 has definitely taken a toll on us, our industry being one of the hardest hit. With our business coming to a complete standstill for so many months, there was a lot of uncertainty about the future. Even when we’re opened our restaurant, our clientele being majorly expat were no longer here as they had all returned to their home countries. The need of the hour was innovation and adapting which is exactly what we did. We got into home deliveries, DIY kits, our line of Japanese sauces and dressings and we started aggressive planning for future projects. Idea was to keep the morale of the team up. We can finally see things picking up again and business growing with each passing month, which is a very positive sign. We are hopeful for the industry to pick up and be back to our old numbers very soon!
What is the sales ratio that you are doing as compared to the last year?
What is your expansion plan?
We are planning to expand both our brands pan India and are also looking for potential opportunities abroad. We are working on some exciting new concepts as well.