Monday 17 December 2012

Arab Udupi Group

This is the story of an extraordinary accomplishment of an exceptional Indian against odds in UAE. He will certainly be remembered for the Udupi restaurant legacy he created. Felicitated with various prestigious awards, he has been one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry for over 32 years. Is fondly referred to as’ Shekhar anna’ for all his accomplishments by many of his friends..... 

I must admit that I knew very little about the man, Shekhar Babu Shetty except what I had heard and read about him from time to time.

But after meeting him in Abu Dhabi almost daily for couple of months in his office was enriching experience. Our chats and one-to-one interactions provided an insight of the man, the person as husband, a father and as an entrepreneur. And meeting his wife Kushala at his tastefully done-up home assured me of the woman behind his success.

Accompanying him with his trusted aides to the many restaurants and the kitchens spread across UAE -  Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Shrajah, Ajman, Mussafa, etc was an experience in man and time management, planning and execution of work.

The long chats also provided a huge volume of information including those Shekhar Babu Shetty had long forgotten and had being left behind years ago as faded memories.

The entire exercise was eye-opener not only for me as his biographer but for himself too, recollected he had tread this long journey imbibing varied experience, the people he met and the impact it had in this long journey thus far.

He says, ‘As long as there are human beings, restaurant business will go on. Food is an integral part of a human. And cooking is truly spiritual and devotional experience. A part of us gets devolved in the food we prepare and serve.’

After going through voluminous information and data, writing, rewriting, editing the manuscript, I look at Shekhar Babu Shetty in a different light. And I am sure after all the probing chats, talks and prodding for old memories, Shekhar Babu Shetty, I am sure will look at himself in awe of what he has achieved over the years and the galore appreciation it has brought him and the crown ‘Udupi King in UAE.’

Although he had kind words to say about the contemporary ultra-modern restaurants, he had his share of reservation too. ‘Most of the emigrants who come here to earn their livelihood, find it beyond their reach. It compels one to wonder what they would have done, without the wholesome and affordable food Arab Udupi restaurants provide.

This is the story of an extraordinary accomplishment of an exceptional Indian against odds in UAE. He will certainly be remembered for the Udupi restaurant legacy he created. Felicitated with various prestigious awards, he has been one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry for over 32 years. Is fondly referred to as’ Shekhar anna’ for all his accomplishments by many of his friends.

As Arab Udupi Group’s Managing Director, Shekhar Babu Shetty has his feet firmly on the ground and believes in getting the job done. He strengthens his belief that good leadership means getting away from the desk and building personal relationships face to face with all – staff, suppliers and customers.

‘Leadership is about creating a better future. While doing so, a leader will encounter many hurdles and face a lot of resistance. The one thing that will help leaders to move swiftly in the face of challenge is energy and new ideas’.

‘Leadership is a lot like parenting. If the role is chosen after careful deliberation, it will become one of the most wonderful experiences in the world’, he stated.

‘Bosses command and expect people to comply with their instructions. On the other hand leaders expect people to follow their examples and not their instructions. Many a times a leader faces conflicting viewpoints. Instead of running away from the problem a leader should confront it. A leader should create a solution where both the parties can eventually win’.

‘A leader needs to differentiate between the problems that require his attention and ones that do not. And this he should leave it to his associates or employees’.

‘Leadership is a choice that an individual make, it is never thrust upon anyone. Ask yourself the question. ‘Do I really want to be a leader?’ ‘After all, it is lonely, unglamorous, unpopular and often thankless job. There is no guarantee of reward’, he added.

 ‘That kind of loyalty can come when the management shows a real interest in their well being and forms genuine human relationships,’ he said.

‘I realized the importance of the people early in my life and the job I have been in the past 30 years continues to reiterate that. You can’t really understand what your customer wants if you don’t spend time with them one-on-one. In our culture such face-to-face interaction is central to doing restaurant business. The rule, whether you are in India or in Middle East, requires you to spend time one-on-one with people’.

‘Personal interaction was very important for me even as a child. I needed to interact with people all the time. What I learned during the course of childhood and growing up years influences the way I deal and work with people, no matter what their style, need to interact more with others in order to be more effective. I am lucky that I happen to be enjoying it.’

‘In my years in India and Gulf, experienced good, bad and fair things; through all this mixed experience that I loved the most was the people, who serve you well. I might sound like a politician, but these interludes help me appreciate Gulf, its culture, history and I developed some strong friendships with different people of different nationality, religion, etc. And these are the people who helped me in the need of my hour’.

‘This interactions and friendship also gave me experience in leadership. My years convince me that you could work for a large company in a relatively smaller capacity and still bring about a change’.

‘My job in Gulf, I literally grew-up to revive the organizational structure and make some significant changes despite being a lowly employee. I gained a lot of self-confidence in the process. Of course there were some negatives like you are a second class citizen in their land. But there were also things to be learnt at every step of the way which helped me later’.

‘The people I worked with all played a big role in my life. When I went to work for IAL, the philosophy of the company was a huge force that shaped me. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people in their country amidst their surroundings.

‘The biggest buzz I get is seeing Arab Udupi Group staff grow and develop personally and professionally. This uplifts not only them but their family’s lives too. This gives me a lot of happiness. We have nearly five hundred people on our payroll employed all over U A E. In my over 30 years of heading the group, I have watched many of them progress from junior associates to supervisory associates. I love the restaurant business, every day there is a something new. There is nothing routine about my job’.

‘When I was growing up in Kalathur, my parents were my biggest influence. My father was an agriculturist so he used to interact with other people and I learnt lot from observing him. I was interested in business even at that age. So each step of my career just kept moving me closer and closer to what I would do in the future’.

‘My modest family upbringing has left an impression on my life. Even today, to relax I don’t to go to any hotel or resort. I just need to go home to be with my wife Kushala. My life-partner and soul-mate Kushala enjoy going to functions and attend community programmes in Dubai and U A E’.

‘I have never experienced the life-changing experience of being a father through marriage. But I enjoy being with my daughters Chandini and Roshni who bring joy, happiness and hope to me and my wife. Some day I would rather relax and watch my daughters take over and manage the group’.

‘In Mangalore as a youngster wanted to join the armed forces. But then reality kicked in. Your dreams have to be re-dreamt sometimes. I wanted to go out of my village’s protective environment to Bombay, a big dream those days and circumstances and destiny took me later to Gulf and acquire an international outlook. I wanted to change my attitude and was excited. So my dreams changed’.

‘I have always enjoyed the interaction, the complexity and the need to understand the history of other countries and their cultures. So I dreamt about getting involved in the international arena and it came through’.

‘Where my job is concerned my dream is to establish the Arab Udupi brand all over U A E and other Gulf countries and possibly India, may be Udupi, as I brought Udupi to Arabia, and why not Arabia to Udupi to complete the nomenclature Arab Udupi in the true sense.

‘I also dream of peace and success. I have seen a lot of restlessness, so I know the value of peace and progress’.


Strange New Year Traditions:
*In India and other places a giant old man made of hay, etc and dressed in old shirt and pant is burnt at the stroke of midnight, signifying the end of the old year and the beginning of the New Year.
*In Bolivia, Venezuela, men wear new underpants on New Year’s eve – red underpants for love and yellow for money.
*Spaniards eat 12 grapes at midnight; each grape symbolizing one month of year.
*The Filipinos wear polka dots and arrange round fruits on the dinner table. Polka and all things round signify coins, hence prosperity.
*In Scotland, the townsmen walk around with giant fireballs hoisted on long poles (resembling the sun) to purify the coming year.
* The Danes break glass dishes on the doors of neighbours and friends.
*Estonians eat seven times on the first day of the year to ensure abundant food throughout the year.
*Unmarried Irish girls place mistletoe leaves under the pillow to catch a good husband.

Picture Post
Vetobha Temple, Arravali, Maharastra, India


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