The accidental entrepreneur, Pawan Shahri, shares his recipe for success

Smrithi Mohan
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Pawan Shahri

Pawan Shahri is one of the youngest and brightest minds in the hospitality business in India right now. Read on as Pawan Shahri unravels his journey, future plans and the upcoming trends to expect in 2020.

Pawan Shahri who calls himself an accidental entrepreneur is a part of multiple hospitality service-related businesses and only plans on building his legacy further. He is a partner at Butterfly High, Oi - Your Everyday Bar!, The Big Small cafe, Chrome Asia, Label Talents, One Consult and DSTRB. His love for parties made him venture into the world of hospitality at the age of 16. A decade later, Pawan Shahri is still the life of the party who wants nothing but to create unique and personalised experiences for customers.

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#ShahriSwag??? PC : @royraymondhenderson

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Here's how our interaction with the dynamic entrepreneur, Pawan Shahri went...

You began your first business venture at the young age of 16. How did that happen?

"It was actually just out of coincidence. I call myself an accidental entrepreneur because I hadn't planned or imagined it. A lot of times people finish college and then think, 'I wanna work'. They generally start off working at someplace, get some experience and then start off. For me, however, it was just diving into a lake and then figuring out how to swim. It started off as need because as teenagers who were fresh into college, my friends and I wanted to go party at some nightclubs. So, the first couple of them that I went to, I didn't know too many people, got rejected a few times, didn't get entry. And I thought, "I need to sort this problem out, this can't be an issue. My college life can't be about not being able to enter a night club". So, I figured out a couple of my seniors who were working at other places. It became an unofficial internship where I would get 100 bucks for each couple that entered the place through me. Additionally, they would spot my entry and drinks. And it was great pocket money as well so that's how it started and then organizing college socials and working Prom nights. 

Pawan Shahri further adds,

The social circle or the list of people who would contact me kept getting bigger and bigger. Eventually, we figured that it was time to stop by and start our own company." This was at 17 and at that point we had at least 600 people coming through our side. So, the guest list had grown to that level and then we ended up working with some really popular nightclubs. We helped them bring in the crowds and increase the bar sales. Back then, we didn't know that this would become a business someday, it was the fact that we want to party and people are sponsoring us to party. So, there was this bit and then our friends thought were really cool because we could get them into nightclubs. So, that's all we knew while starting off."

As you mentioned, it began with your love for partying at nightclubs. How and when did the business and management aspect of it kick-in?

"That was much much later, I still don't think it has completely settled-in. So, I am the youngest one among all the partners, including Butterfly High and The Big Small. So, there's always the joke that they work to work whereas I work to party. My contribution to the business is in a very different way. I am more of a person who loves to network and I eventually want to grow my network to the level where I have everybody on a phone call. From 16 to now, it's almost been 10 years but that's one thing that hasn't changed. It's the same thing I apply to my restaurants like, what would make them want to keep visiting? How do I give them that level of hospitality? Any occasion that they celebrate here, how do I make it more special for them? So, I feel it is just this level of personalization that whether or not I am at the restaurant, they must feel my presence and what I am adding to it."

Which was the one moment when you realized you had made it?

"The one moment when I felt I made it has been broken into so many instances of success across the businesses. Be it the first international band we brought down for an event or even the opening of Butterfly High. The kind of response we got, to the second outlet opening and it finally becoming a chain."

What is that one thing or factor that's a must for every venture you take on?

"So, I feel the success ratio of any business is the kind of team that runs it. I started my company with four of my college friends a few of them are still my partners. I am still working with the same people for the last 10 years. So, I genuinely feel that to make anything successful, the group of people that come together to make it happen, that's the most important part."

You also have several other successful and evolving businesses. Can you tell us more about those?

"We figured out early on that hospitality is the industry that we want to work within and then what we decided is that eventually, we want to try to create everything in-house what we are currently outsourcing. The idea is, we want to keep our costs low and keep the quality as high as possible. So, the first business that we started of was Chrome which was the nightlife company. It gradually grew into Chrome Asia which was the go-to agency for social media marketing, PR, branding and design. While we were doing that we figured out that there is a lot of work that we are actually outsourcing from artist management companies for the venues that we were catering to. Hence, Label Talents was born. We wanted to give a chance to a lot of artists across different genres from the city.

Pawan Shahri further adds,

"Last year we got Jay Sean and Sean Kingston to perform here in India. We did Hardy Sandhu as well, so, again different genres. Part 3 of the business is One Consult which is a hospitality management and running agency. Butterfly High and The Big Small are owned by One Consult and it also helps a lot of other brands set up. So, from real estate to chefs to staff training, staff hiring. Eventually running the brand and ensuring that it’s in growing in terms of PNL, this is what One Consult does".

What kind of trends do you expect to see in the hospitality industry in the coming year?

"There are three major things, I believe. I genuinely feel the home delivery market is gonna expand even further as there are a lot of new players entering the market. Cloud kitchens are going to bloom big time. Another thing I feel is that a lot of people are now gonna start moving more towards homegrown local ingredients, imports are gonna become lesser because people have realised that local cuisine, regional cuisine and homegrown ingredients work better. So, that is definitely part 2 and I feel nightlife culture is gonna move more towards local pockets. For a couple of years, when I had just started my business there were four places in Bombay. Now we are in a place where there are 400 but I still feel people are travelling. People in smaller pockets like Thane need to come to Powai or Andheri to party but I feel Thane as a market is gonna go really big. Hence, we are starting Butterfly High there. In every single area where residencies and corporates are bigger, more local pockets are gonna form up. Bigger brands definitely will expand more outlets into every possible area and then sustainability is gonna be the game."

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Do you have any future projects in the pipeline right now?

"So, one of the future projects is something that I am currently working on and it’s called DSTRB, that’s one more gap that we figured out. There is this massive target audience that I am catering to right now who is anywhere from the age of 21 and this target audience goes up to 55. I know there are a lot of brands currently who are definitely talking to their target audiences online because digital is the best way to go forward but I still feel in India, offline marketing and experience marketing are never gonna die. So, DSTRB as an agency solely focuses on meeting brand with Millenials.

He also states,

"And within DSTRB we are also curating our very first festival in January which is gonna be our version of a night club that currently does not exist in the world. So, we are taking an empty studio space converting into a night club for one night and just trying to form a very different experience altogether."

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Bookin' around!

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Which is the one restaurant or club besides your own that has left an impression on you?

"I think Zuma for sure. It’s one of my most favourite places in the world. I definitely want to eventually grow up to that level and have a brand of my own that stands as strong as Zuma does."

We also asked Pawan Shahri what else takes up his time besides work. Here's what he had to say:

"Currently, I think I am the youngest restaurateur in Bombay and I have actually joined hands with the NRAI youth committee. I have taken up a role as a part of the co-committee member in terms of marketing and communication. So, my only goal now for the next two years is to try and put out an education in terms of hospitality because that does not currently exist or exists on a very minor level. But I want to try and make those studies more practical. I want younger people to get in the industry not only as passion and hobby but actually to make money out of it. Because I definitely feel this industry is worth being in. I just want time to spread that increasing entrepreneurship within hospitality as much as possible."

If there is one person who brings to life the saying, 'Work hard, party harder', it's Pawan Shahri! The young and zestful entrepreneur is all set to take his businesses to the next well and we can't wait to see what he does next!

2019 Butterfly High Chrome Asia DSTRB entreprenuer food and lifesytle indian entreprenuer Label Talents life style Oi - Your Everyday Bar! One Consult Pawan Shahri The Big Small cafe