The menu card has their story, their faces and their philosophy all written out simply, but in a heartwarming manner, the ambiance is lit up more with their energy than with the lights you see, the photo walls carry happy faces of the crew and customers, this place in the very savvy and green Koregaon Park, Pune, India is clearly something else. It fills you with wonderment, awe, and respect all in one moment when what they are doing fills your heart and soul.
Enter Lane 5, Malaka Spice – the very inviting restaurant that serves inspired asian cuisine. (inspired?) Yes…inspired! In an instant we knew, we had to get this story to you our reader, because even before we spoke to them, all that we saw around was inspiration in action. So much so that we ended up having two meals in a row at the same place and were lucky to be introduced to the co founder through a friend. Meet Praful Chandawarkar, the co-founder of Malaka Spice. The no-filter conversation we had with him for almost an hour made me realize that here is a place that really does amazing work as opposed to many others who only talk about doing that work and never quite get there. Those are people who just sit around, try to look busy, complain and whine and end up doing absolutely nothing to make their lives better.
The salt peppered co-founder and father of two grown up daughters went all out and shared with much enthusiasm what he believes in and how doing what he does fulfills his days with contentment and peace.
Giving Back To The Society
They have 3 NGO’s working with them which completely function on the funding that they get from Praful’s businesses and the fundings raised by their charity foundation, Live Life Love Life. One of them is a hospital which doesn’t have a reception. Can you believe it? No reception – just come in and get yourself checked and treated by a good set of doctors and their teams. No questions asked about money, religion, caste, community or social status. They also have a Malaka Spice outreach program consisting of crew who work with cancer patients, spend time with them and teach them hobby skills like music.
Human Resources vs Human Care
From the word go, they worked on the ideology of contributing and giving back to the community, no matter what business they are in. And he believes that one should do everything to make the community better and that can only happen by making ourselves better. A simple step of renaming his Department of Human Resources to Human Care was a game changer believes Praful. “Resources are something that we burn or use in our kitchen. Human beings can’t be burnt nor used. Instead, they need to be cared for and nurtured” – says Praful. Corporates have got a very misleading idea of Human Resources and they actually verbalize it. Humans are seen as numbers and a means to grow the organization’s numbers in turnover and profits. Starting from home, then school, college, job and in adult life, human beings are constantly held against scales that compare and benchmark the money they should make, the things they should own and so on and that causes a lot of stress. He wants Malaka Spice to be a safe space for all his employees, to stay away from the stress of external comparison, focus on their core activities and bring value to the customers and to themselves. This is central to the idea of changing human resources to human care.
Sharing of Sales And Profits
Revealing actual sales and profits to his team, makes this a case for another unusual practice among entrepreneurs. Everyone including Praful get their respectable share from this earning on the basis of the work they do and what they feel they deserve. With this initiative, he gives his employees a sense of real purpose, adding true value and he believes it makes them work harder towards their set goals. Everyone now makes notes and compares them with others and looks for areas where they could improve as a team and individually to bring in maximum value to the work they do. He believes in permanent employment and only sacks people when they steal and for no other reason. He also has a big farm on the outskirts of the city which is accessible to all the employees. While it is open for the crew and family for leisure and used very well for that they also have Chef teams working at the farm every week and spend time understanding the produce that they bring in to their recipes. Almost everyone has worked on the farm or swum in the river that flows alongside.
They don’t follow any hierarchical system of categorizing their employees as best or worst on the performance scale. Says Praful – ‘We all have people in our lives who might not be productive but that doesn’t mean that they are not bringing in value. We don’t categorize our families then why should we do this in the organisation?’ Never really thought about it this way ever, right? Me too….. equally stunned.
Creating a tribe of entrepreneurs
Praful tries and works on the overall development of his employees. He encourages and supports them to become entrepreneurs. He wants his employees to work for Malaka Spice and also have something of their own on the outside to give them the satisfaction and joy that comes from being in business. According to him the amount of happiness that someone gets from doing what they love is limitless, (and I’m nodding in agreement). One of his valet is also his driver, runs a mechanic shop where all bikes of the employees get repaired and also has a tailoring business and stitches the uniforms of the employees. Another employee became an entrepreneur and now supplies all the coconuts and peeled garlic in the restaurant. Other restaurants too started ordering from him as he was a vendor of Malaka Spice and they trust the quality. Promoting entrepreneurship in a way that feeds his own business, really helped him during recession. His employees who ran businesses were safe because they continued to get their orders from him. They get a salary from Malaka Spice and earn from their business as well. Keeping the monetary aspect aside, it gives them joy to be their own boss and get things done in a way that enhances their own purpose and life at large.
With his wife passing away, people thought things won’t be the same as she was the co-founder and also the chef of the restaurant. Praful was determined that things will change, but, only for the better. He feels that this is the best way to honour her memory. ‘We had dreamt of doing this work together and now it is upto me to fulfill the dream, even when she has crossed over’ – he says this with a sense of pride. Praful started meditating with his wife and continues to do so in the restaurant with all his employees. Everyday between 11 -11:30 am it is time for all of them to meditate. He feels that meditation can change lives and make it better for everyone. It gives a clear head space, makes people calm and helps them work better. Meditation along with affirmations has really helped him and his team. We all craft our own lives with what we do with the time we are given, and what tools we use for our personal upliftment. It’s what we put out into the universe that goes around and comes back to us in abundance.
He never says ‘NO’ to anyone. He is ready to help anyone and everyone and on being asked why so, his reply left me wide-eyed in amazement and respect – ‘by saying no, we tell the universe that we are not capable of doing it. But when we say yes, we find ways and get it done.’ This belief system has paved the way for him to provide a safe and supportive environment for everyone around him.
He sits at a corner table at the restaurant and that’s his office. (I mean WOW !!!) The co-founder is approachable and right there with all his employees, on the floor, where all the action is and together they are spreading love, compassion and happiness. A 100% believer of taking action, when people see him there, getting things done, they get motivated to take similar actions and bring their best work to the organization. An overall positive, helpful environment is created for everyone through intent and action.
They launched a program in 2018 called, “Healyam” which comprises of positive psychology methodology, some physical interventions and exercises for emotional well-being with regular meditation. A proper research was undertaken and the results it delivered were mind blowing. The employees were happy, made better co-workers and this led to more productivity at work. The team heals internally first and then goes out to schools, institutions and sports academies to spread this healing and make the world a better place, one person at a time. Ameeta Menon, who is the founder of Healyam also works with cancer patients and helps them cope with stress.
Gurukul – for the hungry soul
They also have a gurukul which teaches other restaurants how to do great business and they do that by revealing their secrets and sharing their best practices. (I wonder, does he know what competition is all about? Does he not fear it? And smile to myself, sure he does, and it is not how he looks at the world) One Sunday in the month of January, he opened up his restaurant for 10 food startups to put up stalls with complete access to his customers – facilitating a meeting point between these young startups with news ideas and new menus and equally excited customers who were waiting to try all that was on the menu! (Is your jaw dropping too in amazement? Because mine totally was.)
His take on wealth and prosperity
“Wealth is just a tap in the house. Prosperity is the clean river outside your house from where everyone can take. Sometimes people have taps but no water flows from them after a point in time and that to me is what scarcity looks and feels like.”
All his employees have a sense of complete ownership and authority in the business. Their expanded shoulders, open body language, broad smile and their walk will make it difficult for you to say that these are waiters who will serve you. They have the authority to serve special dishes for free to their customers, as and when they feel the need for it, and they are not answerable to anyone for doing so. Isn’t that the kind of atmosphere we all dream of having at our workplaces and never get? Well, now we all know a potential workplace!
After years of running business the traditional way, based on some western philosophies of working and revenue generation, he realised it did not make sense to him. Arthashastra by Chanakya outlines and dives deep into the business philosophies that create harmony within and outside in the teams too, by placing importance on social welfare and the collective ethics that hold a society together. They started using it two and a half years back and their entire business runs on this philosophy today. They have used Chanakya’s thoughts in business, wealth management, prosperity, economics, strategy, planning and every business aspect. Inspired by what they are doing, other industrialists have also started to embrace these principles and are implementing in their organizations.
An hour of conversation, plenty of insights, oodles of inspiration and a chilled iced tea later, we finally had to end the interview, although reluctantly. We hope our paths cross with him soon and we can get you some more from this gentleman who is so full of life and has heart warm with grace.
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