Sunder Aaron’s rotisserie is fast gaining popularity
A quick ‘Who is Sunder Aaron?’ query on Google will reveal him to have been a former VP at Sony TV’s PIX, a seasoned screenwriter, producer, and a film-maker—clearly a frequent wearer of many hats. From being a professional hypnotist to spear-heading a TV Channel, to producing a movie, Sunder Aaron has sprung many surprises along the way.
Rajeev Radhakrishnan met Sunder Aaron to ‘grill’ him on his rotisserie, straightforwardly named Chicken Man.
Rajeev Radhakrishnan – So Mr Aaron, what’s your story?
Sunder Aaron – Well, I was born in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. I grew up in the mid-west, but i lived in NYC, west coast in LA. I moved to Bombay in 2002 looking for Sony Pictures, where I got a 2 year contract. I enjoyed it so much and felt so compelled by the opportunities in TV and film in India that I kept sticking on.
In 2012, I decided I needed to move on and do something different in life, something I had ownership of. India is an exciting market, there’s that optimism, that youthful and entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a real frontier. I’ve been in this country for 10 years, if I left now I wouldn’t be taking advantage of my relationships, my resources and what I’ve learnt.
RR – What made you come to Goa?
SA – I’d be visiting Goa once every few months. I realised I could do what I wanted to do, and not live in Bombay, for it had lost its fascination for me. Panjim was far more charming, far more manageable than Bombay and I don’t feel like I’m in a city, yet it has all the infrastructure I need.
RR – Could you describe Chicken Man for us? And what it is for you?
SA – [laughs] For me, Chicken Man is the BEST and ONLY roast chicken that is a nationwide brand. No outlet exists here at this point whose primary product is rotisserie roast chicken. At Chicken Man, we do things differently. We have a unique interior, here’s a place that’s hip, interesting and has good food.
RR –You have a good following, but I notice you haven’t gone berserk with your advertising.
SA – The advertising we’re doing is very grass-root. We’re doing menu drops door-to-door. We just need people to know about us. This was really important for us, since this is the Mother Store and we’re incubating the brand and concept. We’re confident that if our food is right, the word-of-mouth will grow the business at the rate we need it to. We’re not in this to create one store in Goa. Our intent is 50 in 5 years.
RR – People are everything to a business. Could you shed some light into how you formed your partnerships? What is your staff strength?
SA – Definitely, people are everything. There are 6 of us, actually. There’s Aziz Lalani (also owns Azzure by Spree in Candolim & Waters Beach Lounge in Vagator), Mihir Nerurkar, Surajit Chanda, Aftab Panesar, and Anuj Ranjan. They’re all Bombay based folks and that’s how I know them, same friend circle. As far as staff goes, we have about 25 people working for us.
RR – What’s the least favourite part about being an entrepreneur?
SA – Easy, easy answer. It’s all the admin, paperwork and bureaucracy that India forces upon you. Other countries make it a lot easier to do business and unfortunately it’s very discouraging here.
RR – Roadblocks unique to starting food-related business?
SA – It’s always capital. Reeling in capital, people to invest. I learnt of human inertia. People fear, they’re afraid.
RR – And how do you deal with it?
SA – You have to become a real missionary, an evangelist. Sounds like a cliche, but this is true, it’s not enough to just have a good idea, that’s just half the battle. Maybe, even less than half. The rest of it is being able to communicate it, hard.
RR – What’s the vision for your organisation five years from now?
SA – Our mission is very clear. It is to be the best, the only nationally recognised roast chicken brand in India. There comes the vision—to be able to do a simple thing, that is, to be able to deliver a piece of chicken in the 50th store that tastes every bit as good, luscious and exciting as the chicken we first started making here.
RR – Can you give us a teaser about Pizza Mia?
SA – Sure! It’s next to Cafe Basil (London Hotel) in Miramar. We’ve done some launch events and it’ll be open to the public on the 30th of this month. At Pizza Mia, we serve New York style pizza. You’ll find pizzas, salads, and a little bar. A beer with your pizza, nothing better, right? It’s a small cafe, with outdoor and indoor seating. It’s beautiful, you’ll feel like you are in Italy.
RR – What popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
SA – Probably ‘Do what you know best’. I disagree with that entirely. Because this is what’s probably going to keep me young, doing something that’s outside my comfort zone. It forces me to learn new skills, tap new areas.