Hunger was his only companion when he roamed the streets of Mumbai in search of a job.17 years old, Prem Ganapathy left his native place Nagalapuram in Tuticorin without informing his parents, in the pursuit of making money, after a person promised him a job in Mumbai.Destiny, however, willed otherwise. There was no job as the man promised. Instead he was abandoned in Bandra, a Mumbai suburb. He did not lose hope, rather decided to stay back and fight for survival.

Ganapathy turned his misfortune into the biggest opportunity of his life. He found a job as a dishwasher in one of the bakeries in Mahim. He worked for about two years in different restaurants in Mumbai doing all sorts of odd jobs. Finally, in 1992 he took a handcart on rent to sell idlidosa and vada. His brothers also joined to help him. His items became very popular as they had a different flavor and variety.

dosa plaza

After Ganapathy completed his tenth standard, he did not want to study further.  He joined one of the coffee shops and worked there for about two years for monthly salary of Rs 250.After six months, he found another job, to deliver pizza bread to a hotel in Chembur. Later, he moved to Navi Mumbai where he started working as a dishwasher in a restaurant.

He was meticulous and sincere in his work. “One person who had a small business saw that I was enterprising and hard working, so he suggested that we open a food stall on a joint partnership. He invested the money and told me to do the work on the basis of equal sharing of profit,” he says. The stall near the market area did good business. But the person refused to give Ganapathy any share of the profit as promised, and said he would give only Rs 1,200 as salary. So he called off the partnership and decided that it is best to do something on his own.

“I borrowed some money from friends and rented a handcart for Rs 150. It was really difficult in the initial days. Many times, the municipality vans used to come and pick our handcart. But I was very positive and determined. I never gave up hope,” says Ganapathy. He was lucky to have helpful roommates. They were very friendly and supportive.”Since they studied at NIIT, they guided me well. They even taught me to work on a computer. They also spread the word around about my dosas. My business did well,” he says. Ganapathy’s day used to begin at 5.30 a.m. He cooked the food all by himself, used to be on the road till about 3.30 pm. “I took a break of two hours every evening and spent the time surfing at a cyber cafe. I used to read about various businesses and learned quite a lot.” he says.

Finally, in 1998, Ganapathy decided to take a kiosk outside the Vashi railway station in Navi Mumbai to open the first outlet called Prem Sagar Dosa Plaza. Fortunately he got good response from the first day itself. Within a year, Dosa Plaza had created 25 original varieties of dosas .By 2002; Dosa Plaza had 104 delicious varieties of dosas. In 2003, a new mall called Centre One opened in Vashi and Dosa Plaza moved in.

         His biggest recognition came when his story was published in Rashmi Bansal’s book ‘Connect the Dots’ as one of 20 best enterprising individuals without an MBA. “My story has also been mentioned in a Tamil book by Anita Krishnamurthi. Any regrets on not studying? “Well, not at all. But speaking in English becomes difficult when I go abroad. Other than that I don’t think I would have learned so much in any school. My experience has been my biggest teacher,” he says. Does he ever think about the man who abandoned him? “In a way, I reached here and achieved so much because of him. I wonder where he is now…”says a thoughtful Ganapati.

Talking about his future plans, Ganapathy says,” We’ve been getting several requests from people who want to set up Dosa Plaza outlets in other countries. We have three outlets in New Zealand, two in Dubai and are looking at opening some in Muscat this year, along with 10-15 more restaurants in India. These will add to our current tally of 43 (including franchisees) across 11 states. The business I started with a seed capital of Rs 1,000 has grown into a Rs 30 crore company and we are aiming for a Rs 40 crore revenue for this year.” The Dosa Plaza success story has also become a case study for management students.