Sanjay Kumar - Success Through Perseverance

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In this week's episode we hear from Sanjay Kumar, co-founder of Daana Indian Restaurant in Curtin, Canberra. In this episode of the podcast, Sanjay talks about how perseverance and maintaining the passion for what he does has led to his restaurant's success. Also, Sanjay talks about the necessity of taking risks and in self-belief.

Shownotes - Sanjay Kumar

0:00 Intro

4:19  Daana’s Culinary Journey

7:57 What do you value most of the Indian cuisine? 

9:12 What is unique about southern Indian cuisine  

10:14 What drove the decision to come from India to Australia? 

12:22 What was the incentive to start on your own? 

14:59 Risk; why Daana chose not to play it safe

19:32 How do you manage difficult decisions? 

21:08 Starting out at Dominoes

24:17  On working in Sales

31:14 The risk in changing business location. 

35:25 Where did Sanjay learn of the abundance mentality 

37:35 How do you sustain the passion for what you do? 

44:22 What keeps you challenging yourself? 

47:14 What do you want for your guests when you’re there? 

48:30 How do you find the right staff? 

51:30 How do you manage yourself? 

53:12 What are the elements of taking a passion and making it last?  

55:09 Where does Sanjay want to take Daana Indian Restaurant? 

57:14 How Sanjay dealt with a moment of crisis 

56:54 Where did you learn your work ethic? 

1:00:42 Sanjay’s three pieces of advice to young business owners 

1:02:34 What do you hope for your children? 

01:06:13 What do you most admire about Sunita? 

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FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Jonathan Doyle: Hey everybody, Jonathan Doyle with you once again. Welcome to the Canberra Business Podcast. I just had a very good day. I've just spent, uh, most of the day in the studio recording two fantastic new podcasts. We've got a couple of great guests in these next two episodes. The, uh, the first one I'm gonna introduce to you in just a moment. Before I do, a little bit of housekeeping as always, would you please subscribe to the podcast for me. Just make sure, whether it's on Apple podcast, Google Play, Android, or on the website here at Canberra Executive Coaching, there's a very simple email box there which will allow you to pop your details in, uh, no spend, just regular updates with the next episode. So please do that please, come and check out the website, Canberra Executive Coaching, and see how we can help you with any form of business problems, strategy, coaching, training, all the things to get your business to the next level. So please come and check us out there. 

But let's just jump in. I've just had a great time interviewing the wonderful Sanjay from Daana Restaurant in Curtin. You know, in recent weeks, we focused on some very big businesses, you know, 5,000 employees-plus. I've been so impressed with what's happening in Canberra in the business landscape, so many, you know, great people building great international businesses. But I wanted to make sure we didn't lose sight of the real engine of business in our economy, the small businesses making a difference. And the restaurant that Sanjay and Sunita have built is really great. Look, I just think they're bringing something ... how, how do I explain this? You'll hear me talking about it in the interview. Food is essentially a commodity, it's, it's relatively hard to compete around food because what you can often do is compete on price or a few tweaks, but what they've done is something really different. They've, they've brought a huge amount of variety, they've challenged themselves, they're pushing themselves as a business, they're doing something quite unique. And I want you to check them out. 

You're gonna hear Sanjay talk about his background, a very poignant beginning to this episode as he talks about growing up with his grandfather and what he learned. But just what they're doing in their restaurant, the kind of experience they're trying to create, I think is, is new and we need to support it because it's a great product. You know, in recent interviews we've been saying, you know, if you don't have a good product, it doesn't matter what you've got because, you know, later you'll be exposed. The team at Daana have got such a, a great product, and you're gonna hear all about it. There's a lot of wisdom here, a lot of insight, look, hard work, humility. Wait till you hear some of the jobs that Sanjay did when he came to Australia from India. 

This is a guy, he's got the runs on the board, who has been passionate about building business, and also generosity, giving back to his community. Just wait till you hear some of the stories about how he's focused on serving the people in Canberra community that really need our support. So, look, it's a great interview, I really enjoyed doing it. Wherever you are, I hope you can take sometime there to enjoy this special interview with Sanjay from Daana Restaurant in Curtin.  

Ladies and gentleman, welcome back once again to the Canberra Business Podcast. We have a wonderful guest for you today, we've got ... Sanjay, with his lovely wife Sunita have really brought something special into the Canberra culinary landscape. And we've practicing off air because as the producer of the show, I, I really take a lot of effort to get things right, but I wanna get the correct pronunciation of the wonderful restaurant. So, first, Sanjay, welcome to the Canberra Business Podcast. 

Sanjay Kumar: Thank you Jonathan. Thank you so much for having us. 

Jonathan Doyle: I'm really pleased you're here. Now, you're gonna this properly for me. Give us the correct pronunciation of the restaurant.

Sanjay Kumar: It's called Daana.

Jonathan Doyle: Daana. There you go, he makes it easy. We're gonna hear all about it. It's a fantastic new restaurant in Curtin, we're gonna drive people there. We're gonna, um, drive plenty of traffic there, give people plenty of ways in the show notes to find you. But what we're most interested in first is the backstory. This is a restaurant that has recently won, Best New Restaurant in Canberra. It's got a very loyal following, you're doing very interesting things that we're gonna talk about. But I wanna go back first, your journey begins in Delhi, but I wanna talk a little bit about your grandfather because he is an important man in your life (laughing). And, you know, we can hear all sorts of things about the restaurant, which we will, but I'm always interested to hear where this starts. What are your ... some of your first memories of your grandfather and where your culinary journey begun?

Sanjay Kumar: I think you've got me on a very emotional start Jonathan. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah? 

Sanjay Kumar: Okay, I grew up in Delhi that's ... and my grandfather, that's my-

Jonathan Doyle: Your mother's father.

Sanjay Kumar: ... mom's, mother's dad. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Was a very, very renowned culinary ... he, he was the best in his field in terms of, especially the Indian sweets.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: And entire summer vacation, we used to spend close to two months spending time with, uh, grand-mom and him, and my uncles there. And I was in my primary school that time, and I used to sit and watch him giving the [inaudible 00:04:59] for various huge functions like 2,000, 4,000 people, and he never lifted a pencil or a pen. I've never seen him lifting a pen or pencil off this hand. He used to just give the items, what he requires to the people who used to come to book him. And he used to be booked out in a year in advance. And people used to come from all over India to his small little house there to see him and get him to cook for their wedding or function.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: I, I still can't get over it that he managed to do so. And he trained his staffs, there were staff who were like, they used to call him dad basically, or [guruji 00:05:49], means the, the ultimate teacher.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: That's what, uh, my memories of my grandfather is. 

Jonathan Doyle: You were close to him? 

Sanjay Kumar: Very close.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. And so the food was ... used to be always something, used to be always at home, and his specialty was sweets, so that's where I think my sweet tooth started from there (laughing). I can live on sweets forever (laughing). 

Jonathan Doyle: Really? Oh gosh, I'm pretty careful with those, oh yeah. I feel bad, we've got come snacks here in the studio. Well, I knew that Sanjay was coming in with such great background in, in food, now I, I feel embarrassed that we haven't got some wonderful Indian sweets for you. But what, what are some of your very first memories of him? So, can you take us back to that time, you talk about these big festivals and weddings that he would cater for. What are a couple of key memories that stick out for you? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think key memories, I think I've ... the process of, especially the Indian cuisine on the ... his field, sweets, is a very, very labor-intensive work. And very, very specialized, you need to have real master skills, it takes years to get this perfection. This main substance, like you said, the raw and granite sugar, is such a delicate ingredient. Few degrees, just a ma- matter of fraction of time, it can ruin the dish entirely. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And I've seen him handling those things effortlessly talking and studying things around, and what comes out, I still, I haven't found such sweets in my entire life after that.

Jonathan Doyle: Really? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: And how do you explain his mastery? Was it just time, was it just years and years of immersion in what he was doing? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think it was experience. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Time and what he has put together along with his team. 

Jonathan Doyle: So I wanna ask you ... I mean, you've obviously brought ... we're going to talk about a, a story you shared before in the notes we have about a time you were cooking for 500 guests. But take us way back, it's a broad question, but you have a real passion for this cuisine-

Sanjay Kumar: That's true. 

Jonathan Doyle: What is the essence of this passion for you? What do you most value, enjoy about the cuisine itself? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think it's a simple word, it's the diversity. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Having spent close to, uh, 35 years in the country there and traveled and grown in different parts of the country, the food changes, probably I share this thing with all our guests who would like to know about the country India has to offer, and in terms of food. It changes every 50 to 100 kilometers. 

Jonathan Doyle: Aha. 

Sanjay Kumar: Again, that's the key factor. I think that's the passion which we both bring in, is the diversity which the cuisine has to offer. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And that keeps us challenged all the time, and we change our menu very, very regularly at Daana, and that's been, uh, [inaudible 00:08:50] from the day when we started. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. But you had a particular fascination with, I guess, southern Indian cuisine. 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes. 

Jonathan Doyle: So ... and there's a ... you talk about educating people. I really like that, that often in business, in businesses, we find that there is a process sometimes of educating the market, you know, of actually helping people understand, these are the unique things about it. So what for you is specifically unique about, what ... the southern Indian cuisine?

Sanjay Kumar: When we talked to our guests, it's a perception of Indian cuisine that [inaudible 00:09:23] in the south Indian say, "Is it too spicy?" That's ... The answer is, cuisine has ... again, the country has, southern India, part of it has so much to offer because of the demographic as well as the location geographically. It changes from west to east side dramatically.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: So you have flavors from all ranges. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And this spice-ness level, it varies from really mild to super hot. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And so, that's the best part of it, until you actually, you get to know about it or taste it, you won't know it. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. Well, I hope a lot of people are gonna come and start tasting it because, especially when you look at the website and look at some of the things they're doing, I think it's wise of everybody to get down and, and explore what's happening there. Let's talk about this journey because it's really interesting. I wanna ask you, the, the decision to come from India to Australia, what drove that for you? 

Sanjay Kumar: Kids. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah? You just, (laughing) you, you, you wanted-

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: ... You wanted something different for them, what was the ...? 

Sanjay Kumar: Absolutely. I think there were two factors. One was the kids, to give them better opportunities, environment to grow and learn more new things, plus, we wanted to start something on our own.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: That was the second most important part.

Jonathan Doyle: Why, why, why did you wanna start something on your own? What was important about that? 

Sanjay Kumar: Many factors. Again, as, uh, both from industry professional, we have dined in various places, various cities, and after coming to Australia, as a new migrant, to try to explore and learn new things and see what's happening, there was something always, and Sunita doesn't like, says "You, when you go out, keep your mouth shut." 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: (laughs). I'm very, very critical. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And so I think there was few areas I said, "No, when we have our own place, we will not do this. We will do this, we will do this, we will do this." And it came to a point I said it's the time now I think if we are so passionate in getting the right stuff, the ... getting the best of service and food together, I think let's not go further, it's time for us jump in-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... and bring in whatever little we know. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. So, to summarize that, you have this childhood experience with your grandfather, you're exposed to the cuisine at an early age, you have a great love for it. But I like that ... where you said, yeah, you're quite critical. I have this image of you with Sunita being out places, going, "Look at that, look at that, that's not right, that's not right. We could do this differently." I always try to get to the core of that. What is it in you and Sunita that wanted to start something? 

I mean, we live in a time where many people, and I don't mean this critically, go to work every day, they get told what to do, and they're happy with that. There's security, there's predictability. You don't have that, you don't get predictability necessarily. Why do this, what was the incentive, the drive, the reason to start on your own? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think the incentive was the diversity of the Indian cuisine-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... which was absolutely missing especially in Canberra.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: I don't want to compare or say anything about the other place which are offering from years together, but it's very hard, very sad to say this, I would say that the right word that you don't have to look at the menu in restaurant, they're particularly 90% same all across.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, that's true. Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And we said, "No, this is not the Indian food is, there is-"

Jonathan Doyle: Diversity. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... diversity, there's so much to offer." And when we started off at the Westside, Acton park-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: I said, "This is the unique location for a unique offering." We spent a lot of time in designing the menu layout, every detail, single details, to get it right the very first time.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: And that was the main key thing that we have to show what country has to offer.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Lot of people did say no, you have to have the well-known which are sold everywhere.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Do a mix but keep them. I said, "No, if we start that, you're starting on this same thing again."

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: We're not doing anything different. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Then how we are different from the rest? 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: So it was a very conscious decision that we are going to be different, we make our own path. 

Jonathan Doyle: But there is a risk there, right? So you're picking up two key factors. And if people have heard the interview with Louise Curtis which was one of the first ones we did, she was big on opportunities. She was big on ... In business, one of the skills we need is the ability to look into the environment that we're in and see a gap that other people are missing. And she did that really well. So the first thing you're articulating is, you've been able to look into a market and go, "There's something missing here." 

And that is, like you said, I think you said it really well, that a lot of times you'll walk into an Indian restaurant, and we all know exactly what to expect. And we have two or three things in our head, and we don't risk anything, we just ask for that, which is what I like about you. You're educating the market because you're actually saying that people know> You're gonna have to trust us a little bit, you're gonna have to trust something different, you won't have to ask questions. But I wanna talk to you about the other key component. Yes, opportunity, you've looked into the market and seen the opportunity. Second thing, that was risk, you took a risk. And in business, then, they're not always guaranteed. I mean, you, you mentioned this in passing, but you started ... People from Canberra will remember the Acton Park with the containers there. 

Sanjay Kumar: That's true.

Jonathan Doyle: That's a huge risk. Well that's, that was a difficult location necessarily. So I wanna ask you about risk, I wanna ask you, why didn't you just choose to play it safe? What was it that you went, "You know what, we're gonna risk here." Talk to us about that path, the risk path. 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes. Starting from the location, the Westside, I always share even today with our guests, that place was charm and challenge together. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, okay. 

Sanjay Kumar: Charm because of the unique location. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... And family come out with kids, and you have lovely time of the surrounding area [inaudible 00:15:23] so many other things to do. Challenge, Canberra weather was the biggest challenge. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Open air, hot, cold, windy, humid, same time.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

Sanjay Kumar: You feel ... we felt we've gone through all that. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Yet, once we got our name out, that we got our brand established, the confidence of that risk which we took paid off. We used to have our guest come rain or shine, they used to come all the way from different parts of city to dine with us. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: I think in every business there is a risk. Had we gone through the known path, the risk was you're just competing with the others, right? 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, okay. 

Sanjay Kumar: That's a risk also. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. Yeah, there's a risk in just putting yourself in the same-

Sanjay Kumar: Same thing. 

Jonathan Doyle: ... Same pool as everybody else. 

Sanjay Kumar: Everybody else is there, this ... so, there's a big risk I think over there because you are one amongst the other, rather than the risk of starting something new.

Jonathan Doyle: So take us to these discussions between you and Sunita. I'm interested, like you know, everybody I've talked to so far in these interviews, they've often got a, like a very close business partner or somebody else that they work with, and I ask them about the decision-making process. So was this the case of, Sunita was going, "No, you're crazy, we can't do this." And you were saying, "Yes, we can." How did that process work out for you two as you thought about this? You know, 40-foot shipping container, you know, unusual area of Canberra, how did you two resolve that? 

Sanjay Kumar: (laughing). 

Jonathan Doyle: We have to get her in next time.

Sanjay Kumar: Oh, unbelievable. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: It was ... it took us close to, I think, four months-

Jonathan Doyle: Oh, yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... to get to the basic concept, eventually what are we going to start there.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Four months. And four months, we're talking about ... and both of us were working that time-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: I was with a sales job, I used to be out on field for really, really long time. So whatever this time, we used to get in the night and on the weekends. So we had a whiteboard in our living room-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... permanently for those four months-

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... with lots of markers. And each and every stage of starting from basics of getting things right in licensing, printout, so many things we'd checkout on the board, discuss, and step by step, we proceeded. But each and every decision was hard because we both come from professional hospitality background-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... having worked in the industry from different areas, it was hard, really hard. 

Jonathan Doyle: The discussions? 

Sanjay Kumar: Discussions, yes. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: But, as I said, good things takes time.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: The final outcome was what we exactly both wanted together. 

Jonathan Doyle: And is one of you a head person, one of you a heart person, or you both are able to look at the numbers, look at the spreadsheets, look at the details? Is one of you a detail person, one of you more of a creative person? How does that play out? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think yes, both of us are slightly different from each other that way, yes. 

Jonathan Doyle: What does Sunita bring? 

Sanjay Kumar: Sunita brings the numbers there.

Jonathan Doyle: Does she?

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Sanjay Kumar: And I bring in the practicality part of it, the operations part of it. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: At times, yes, for me, I start with the end, okay, how are we gonna deliver it? 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: She says, "No, this is what I want."

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: I say, "Well, how are we gonna deliver it?" That's where this starts (laughs). 

Jonathan Doyle: Do you have a few ... did you have a few tense moments into the discussions? 

Sanjay Kumar: Always. 

Jonathan Doyle: Okay. 

Sanjay Kumar: Always. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: As I said, mentioned earlier, we change our menu very regularly-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And the managing process is three months in advance, reason being because it takes so much time to plan and execute the dish-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ,... That we're presenting it to our guest.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: So that's part of the discussion that it does take time.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: What do you do when you both can't agree? Many people know (laughing), we had [Glenn Cason 00:19:21] a couple of weeks ago and he said, well, with his partner, Andrew, Doctor Andrew Walker, they have to convince each other. So eventually, someone has to ... really if you've got a strong position, how do you work out those challenging really hard decisions together? 

Sanjay Kumar: There are a few times where both of us are not agreeing. So I think what we do is that, we said, "Okay, let's test it out."

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: There are a few things like saying a dish to be presented in X, Y, Z manner-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: I'm saying no, it will look with ... other way around. And till you test it out, we will know. So I say, "Okay, let's do ... we test it out." 

Jonathan Doyle: Okay. 

Sanjay Kumar: Get other people involved and see the reaction-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Then we say, "Okay, yes, this is what we have." 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: There are times when I agree with her, or there are times she agrees. There are times we, both of us say no, it's completely different, turned out to be-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Other person is saying the right thing, let's go that way. 

Jonathan Doyle: Okay. 

Sanjay Kumar: So we are flexible at the same time that eventually is the output matters. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, it's the, it's the outcome you're focused on. 

Sanjay Kumar: That's what is the critical part of it. 

Jonathan Doyle: So you move from India to Australia, but, you know, you're doing something now which is, I think has got a lot of potential, longterm potential for a lot of reasons which we'll get to, but, you know, it doesn't start with, uh, owning your own restaurant. You started at Domino's, is that right? You started-

Sanjay Kumar: That's correct. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, so you come to Australia, and with all this culinary knowledge, you've worked in big hotel chains in India-

Sanjay Kumar: That's correct. 

Jonathan Doyle: So you had five-star experience, and you end up at Domino's.

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: And ... But not only did you have, I guess, the humility to do that, which I really admire, but you learned a lot there from the [inaudible 00:21:01] and they taught you a lot about just the elements of the business, the complexity of the work aspect. Take us back to your time at Domino's. What were you doing there and what did you learn looking back? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. That was, again, going back to the initial days of any new migrant has gone through in this place. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... Lot of hardship challenges, new places, everybody ... you're just trying to settle in, save every dollar you can and start a new life with the family. Got a help from other friend who knew the owner, [Alamjit 00:21:37], lovely young, young guy, and he was looking for somebody that time. He said okay, we'll give it a go, and then that's ... and we were staying very close to that place in, uh, [inaudible 00:21:47] and I started there.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sanjay Kumar: And for me, it was very, very first experience working in a fast food set up-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... And, uh, making pizzas and there are times where I took call for deliveries as well. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: But it was a good experience. Got to see Canberra in different shades of light.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... doing those. 

Jonathan Doyle: But what I wanna ask you is like, you're sitting here across to me, and we'll have some photos in the show notes. But you have depth of knowledge of the cuisine, of an Indian cuisine, you've got these incredible memories of working with your grandfather, you know, being around a great master, you've, you've built a great restaurant here now, but you started at Domino's. Like, was there something in you, you came from five-star background, was there a pride issue? Were you like, "I know I'm better than this?" Obviously, you did, you did it, but take us through that. Was it hard for you that-?

Sanjay Kumar: It was hard, but again, as a professional chef, I don't miss an opportunity to learn something new. 

Jonathan Doyle: Really? 

Sanjay Kumar: So, making pizzas from a [inaudible 00:22:48] recipes and creating, getting the shape-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... weight, measurements, the temperature settings, was a whole lot of learning.

Jonathan Doyle: Really? 

Sanjay Kumar: And that still taught me completely new skills. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. So because we have made pizzas from different style, but we're doing it fast food style are very different. But no, it was ... I didn't, not a single day I felt that this is what I'm not used to, what I've not done before, but I looked at it as an opportunity to learn something new for sure. 

Jonathan Doyle: On yeah,

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. I think, plus, it ... that was the first experience for me in handling customers over the phone, across the counter, uh, which I look back now, was [inaudible 00:23:35] which I learned from Domino's and brought to Daana. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. I just think, you know, honestly, people listening would agree like, you know, there's a lot of humility in that I think, and you should be, I think you deserve every success that ... you know. So there's plenty of people that would be like, "I'm not doing that, you know who I am and what I've learned." I think you brought a lot of humility to that. So you go from Domino's, and then you do some work for NCH, which is an area of sales, and you shared with us ... you know, with me before that this is where you learned a lot about perseverance, and you have one particular major client. And I liked how said that, you know, you learned through this that what takes longer to build lasts longer. Take us through what you learned there. Just joining in sales, this perseverance on a difficult call, what happened? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think it was a great journey, I think, with NCH. It was a brand name called [inaudible 00:24:28], then it became ... and it's part of NCH group globally known for their world class stuff they do around the globe. And I was the first salesperson in Canberra to the position, they never had any salesperson-

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: And I was the first one to start the territory. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Sanjay Kumar: And I was completely new to sales, I'd never done any in my life. But I still got the job, and I said, "Okay, now, where do we begin?" The company had a detailed structured training program which they take you through a journey from day one. How it is done, the way they think it is right. And it was absolutely a great learning in how actually sales are done.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And I owe a lot to the company who taught me the real, real basics of getting to know your customers really, really well. And then, as I say, they said, "People buy from people they like." And that stuck on to me even ... every day. I use those skills in and out everywhere. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And the journey started off, and then Canberra was very, very new for me. I had to rely on my GPS to go to even Fyshwick. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: (laughs) and as ... beginning was tough, I was not getting nowhere close to my numbers, I was given a 10 days notice, "Okay, here you are, let's get moving." 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And looked at my stuff around, I said, "Okay, this is, I think need to ... it's time now, something seriously has to be done. Something I'm doing wrong." Then Sunita was there with me, and we sat that night, we said, no, let's ... I have 10 days to prove again. Then, put things together, and I started off. And those 10 days, few things corrected my salvage. I was doing probably wrong, and I saw the results coming in. And slowly, slowly, I was there for company for four years. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: I was promoted to the, uh, manager level, and from Canberra I grew the market up to Griffith area-

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: And my travel was close to 500,000 kilometer a month I used to travel. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. So I just ... they're so many elements to this, like you've got the self-reflective element. Like you get 10 days notice, and rather than ... a lot of people would like blame the company, "Well, they're not giving me the right resources." But you're like, with Sunita you're like, "Okay, this isn't working," and you've gone self-reflective. You've actually gone, "What am I doing?" I think it's a great business lesson for all of us that when ... we can blame the client as much as we want but, you know, at the end of the, uh, you know, the man in the mirror often has plenty of information for us.

So when you were facing this 10 days notice, were you ... I'm just fascinated, like, you come to a new country, you take any work you can get, you go into sales which you've never done, were you nervous, were you stressed out? Like how did you deal with it personally? Were there times when you were like, "Have I made the wrong choice?" Talk us through how you dealt with it like personally, psychologically, emotionally. 

Sanjay Kumar: I think it was very, very difficult especially when you're on the road knocking unknown places who have, you know, they don't know you, you don't know them, you walk in with your stuff and try to sell-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... and you get knocked out, but then you move onto the next one-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Do it for days together, and, it was very hard. I thought at that time, like "What I'm doing, is it the right choice I've made," as you've asked exactly. But I said, if I don't do it, somebody else will do it. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: I knew like, in my heart that it's just a few initial stages.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... Once I get the right confidence level, and get some numbers across, I'll get back. And that's what happened exactly. My perseverance paid and as I grew my territory from zero to, close to, I was doing close to $400,000 business-

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... uh, a year for the company-

Jonathan Doyle: That's brilliant. 

Sanjay Kumar: And lots and lots of regular customers. And there was a time where they used to ring me. And so it paid off, and perseverance definitely yes, as I mentioned that, lesson learned that, which takes longer to build lasts even longer.

Jonathan Doyle: That's right. 

Sanjay Kumar: So there was a crucial learning, and getting to know the customer was the key, key thing. Knowing them personally, knowing their, about family, share about my family, and become friendly eventually. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And we're really blessed, like there are a few customers who have traveled from interstate to dine with us. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: Well, I'm listening to you, and I'm just, I'm joining all these dots. I'm going, if you look at your life what you're sharing with us, you go from, you know, this apprenticeship in a way around your grandfather, so you've developed this initial love for the cuisine. But then you have this experiences like, you're just sharing with us with NCH, getting to know the client and getting to know all about them and talking to them, which is now what you're doing at the restaurant, right? Like you're spending a lot of time-

Sanjay Kumar: That's correct. 

Jonathan Doyle: ... and when you read all the reviews, they talk about that you and Sunita are constantly present out on the floor, you're not hiding at the back. You're often really engaging with people. So it's interesting joining these dots, how these skills have transferred for you. So let's come forward in this journey a bit, the Acton container, uh, park closes down. When you knew that was happening, when you knew that it was going to close, were you ... already had the, the move to Curtin in mind or did you get much notice? I'm just interested in, you take the risk on the container park, and then that's closing, what happens next? 

Sanjay Kumar: When the container park, we were there for 11 months, we knew that the future is not for us-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... Reason being, not because we didn't have a [inaudible 00:30:20], but the set up was a bit small for us-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: We were getting a lot more what we can manage in that little tight spot. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: So we were on lookout that we need something better and comfortable for everyone, and we were the first one to move out from there actually. And after that, park, uh, closed. We moved out in month of August, think a couple of months back later on, the Westside Acton Park closed. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: So you go to Curtin, I want to talk to you about risk again because setting up another commercial kitchen, signing leases, you've get a young family, there's never any guarantees, was this another case of you and Sunita getting a whiteboard and looking at the whole thing, or was it just ... you had confidence in the loyalty that you'd already got from Canberra diners, what happened next, the decision to jump? Was it ... did it feel like another big risk? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes. Definitely yes because the location, this present location, Curtin, has been restaurant for many years-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Different with us, as a lot of old diners are aware of, it's a very, very unique location. You don't have a walk-in footfall-

Jonathan Doyle: That's right. Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Zero actually. So, huge risk, there are times we still feel, "okay, oh, had it been a busy location, probably we would have learned even more." Again, unique location, it's got a open kitchen which helps us interacting with our guest on regular basis. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: That's what we wanted, and I think that was one major reason we chose that location. We have small outdoor dining area as well, that way people can sit down comfortably in summertime as well. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: So, definitely yes, big risk, but it has its own plus points: doorstep parking, uh, free parking on the roadside. So people find really comfortable especially the young families or even elderly parents coming in. They're very, very comfortable. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... You don't have to worry about so many other things where ... in a busy commercial city place like that, equally harder. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: Do you remember your first, the first opening night? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah? 

Sanjay Kumar: Absolutely yes. 

Jonathan Doyle: What did ... how did you go about that? Did you do a lot of pre, you know, a lot of advertising, marketing for that opening night, or was it just trust that people would come? How did you do it? 

Sanjay Kumar: The opening night was ... I'll take you a little back on that actually. We are very involved with the Communities@Work organization. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: So our first opening at the Westside Acton Park, the earning was, all 100% earning were donated to Communities@Work.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And the same thing we did exactly, our first opening night earning was donated to Communities@Work. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: We started off, it's called Karma Kitchen at Daana.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: So that was the first night, and we presented a different cuisine to our guests, and they came on our opening night, loved the new ambience-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... Atmosphere, and raised the money, uh, for the Communities@Work. 

Jonathan Doyle: So, there is a lot in that. So the actual ... in Sanskrit, Daana means, one of its meanings is generosity, right? Is that correct? 

Sanjay Kumar: That's correct. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: So, so I'm interested, many other people would be like, "Right, we have a new restaurant, we're just gonna get as many people and as much as we can. We've got to create a footprint and then the loyalty and make as much money as we can as fast as we can." Why did you decide to give the earnings of the first night to charity? Like why, what specifically, what's important to you about that? 

Sanjay Kumar: As a business, at the Daana, the name itself, the basic ethos remains very, very simple, that it's not about the food, it's about giving back some way or other. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And both of us are very emotionally connected to that, that if we start our journey the right path, the right cause, rest follows. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: I think that was the reason that, we've done it earlier place, we'll do it this place also. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And people are surprised, yes, I agree with that. But for us, personal level it is important that it gives us more satisfaction of giving back and hearing back from the organization that whatever money we raised that night, it helped three or four families for their entire year's groceries. 

Jonathan Doyle: So where did you learn that? So this is what we're talking about is abundance mentality, right? You believe that if you come from a place of generosity in every area of your business, right, so this is just ... even in what you make, the food, the way you treat people, if you come from that place of generosity, then it's going to be returned to you. So the question is, where did you learn that? Is ... There's obviously a strong spiritual component. Did you learn it growing up, why not focus on the dollars, why not build an empire? Where is this abundance mentality coming from in you guys? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think it comes from the families. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah?

Sanjay Kumar: Both of us have grown from a simple families where they're focused on the characters, that's what, I think it comes from there. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Parents of Sunita and my parents have always taught us that the work is the first party, you do that right thing, money will come.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: If not today, tomorrow. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: So, that's the base I think. That's what ... if you ask me, I've never really thought of that, but that's where it comes from I think. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And that's what we are trying to give to our kids-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... And share with other guests and our customers.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: That this is where it starts from. And to add on to that, that I'm grateful to my team at Daana, and we hire our staff, we inform them very clearly that we don't have a tips' policy.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: All our tips are donated to Communities@Work, and-

Jonathan Doyle: Wow, really? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes please. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow, wow. That's fascinating. I like, that's really interesting. I wanna talk about something you mentioned earlier, you talked about being back at the container park at Acton, and you talked about loyalty was happening and that sort of got the brand out there. I wanna talk about brand. Uh, last week, we interviewed Richard Watkins at Bentspoke, and we talked about brand, and, uh, his take on brand was it's the sum total of everything that your business is, like it's all the small details. So there's a few key things that carry this brand. I wanna ask you to talk to us about each of them, and I wanna people listening to really think about this idea of brand and what they're creating in their businesses.

The first key one is just this passion that you have for the cuisine itself. So it doesn't sound like you and Sunita were getting up from Monday's, you know, Monday's evening service going, "Oh, gosh, here we go again, we've got to go and cook that food again." It's a very different take for you guys.

Sanjay Kumar: Absolutely, yes. 

Jonathan Doyle: The passion you have for it, how do you sustain that passion for what you're doing? How do you stop it to slowly becoming a chore? What, what keeps the passion alive for you? 

Sanjay Kumar: See, physically, it's a lot demanding, lot of demand actually takes as a profession both on our feet for close to 14 hours every day. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah?

Sanjay Kumar: That's the first thing. And what really drives us is on that, the what we're presenting we have put in a lot of effort in designing and making those dishes on our menu and whatever we do on a regular basis. At any given day, if we have that feel that no, it's getting too much, the results, what we have designed and which we want may suffer.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And we don't want that at any given day. So every day we learn and we keep improvising it.

We launched a new menu a month ago, we already started thinking okay, what's coming up in the next six months.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: So, that's what keeps us going. 

Jonathan Doyle: And how are you doing that research? So you're bringing a new menu in all the time, which is, again, your attitude to risk, because another person might go, "Well, this is really popular, we're just gonna stick with this now. Everybody knows this signature dish, we're just gonna leave it." But you're choosing to recreate the experience. Uh, and I guess on one level it gives people an incentive to come back, like ... that they, you know, we know that if we come to Daana, we're going to have a different experience each time. But how are you doing that research? I mean do you get back to India, do you travel that much, you're reading? Are you ... What are you doing to, to source these new ideas?

Sanjay Kumar: Quite a lot of things actually Jonathan. There are two components of bringing new flavors to Daana on a regular basis. First, [inaudible 00:39:34] menu, which is a printed format, stays in for a couple of months with us and we serve that. So this would be ... the current menu is the third menu in less than two years time. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Now, third part, again, what we started off, we learned from each time we present a new menu-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... What worked well, what doesn't work well-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... Based on, as both are on floor constantly-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... interacting with the guests. Those are the key learnings we learned from our guests, the feedback, and from our staff also who are equally involved in serving. And we keep reinventing and keep changing and modifying it-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... To bring in more better stuff each time we change the menu. We haven't traveled back to India, uh, on a regular basis, learning for us because we lived in all four corners of country when we were there, so we have seen and learned as we kept traveling from friends, locals, all the places. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: There's again part which we do on ... every Saturday night, is a regional menu from different part of India.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: That's the key element in bringing new flavors every weekend.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: So next menu would be on ... not this weekend, after that, it will be our 89th menu. 

Jonathan Doyle: And what is it called again? And you've got a name for-

Sanjay Kumar: Thali, it's a regional Thali. Thali is a set meal-

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Just serve different, uh, different components there, 89th menu. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. So people could come in consecutive Saturdays, and it's going to be a different experience? 

Sanjay Kumar: Absolutely yes. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. So how are you sustaining that? I'm just, you said that you traveled, but how do you do that? Like do you just have such ... the two of you together have such a wealth of experience that you could just draw on that, you just know we're gonna go for this, we're gonna go for this. Is that what it is, this is a depth to learning? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes and no. Having learnt over the years, yes, but when we're creating a new menu each week, uh, Sunita spends a lot of time in ... going through her old recipe books, what we have collected-

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... Talking to her friends, talking to her guest-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... At the same time, and research on the net as well. To share with you, in last year August, in month of August, India celebrated the Independence Day on 15th August, and we said, "Let's do completely different theme." So what we introduced was international Thalis.  

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: So we picked up five ... I think we had five weeks that month of countries where Indian cuisine has been part of the country because of the migrant settlement, moved there. So place like Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Malaysia-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... Mauritius, the countries' cuisine which presented on month of August. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah, gosh. 

Sanjay Kumar: And when we put up the calendar for the month in [inaudible 00:42:39] also, one of our guests approached us that she was so thrilled that somebody is doing it for the very first time in Australia. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow, that's brilliant. 

Sanjay Kumar: And she shared her, uh, few of her ideas, recipes, the blog she follows-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... And she came and dined with us in the night, and she was almost in tears like us. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. You've got this openness to feedback, like from the business ... this is a business podcast, so what you're creating directly and indirectly is a, is a very strong feedback system where you're allowing both your staff to bring it to you from the floor, you're out on the floor. I think a lot of businesses we can lose that customer contact so that we don't know often exactly what the customer is experiencing. Even last week, I had a repair done on something, it was like 400 bucks, and I was astounded at the pricing. And I could figure out eventually why, but there was no way for them to gauge my experience of their product or service-

Sanjay Kumar: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

Jonathan Doyle: And I won't go back. And my point is that, there's no system by which they can tell how are the customers experiencing us, whereas for you guys, you're like, we're gonna be very open about this, we're gonna seek out the ... what people are experiencing. So for people listening, ask yourself, how much openness you currently have to customers actually shaping your offering and giving you that direct feedback. Some other key points to your brand, you talked about giving your best, and it's easy to say that, right, everybody could say, "Well, at our business we give our best. You know, how do you ... and related to that, you talked about challenging yourselves. 

So, again, I'm interested in the sustainability of that. How, on a day to day basis, what keeps you trying to challenge yourselves? What's the engine for that? Why not just settle, why not go, "Hey, we're doing okay, the numbers are all right, we're getting a good rep." A lot of businesses then plateau and settle, what keeps you challenging yourselves? How do you keep going? 

Sanjay Kumar: The menu and the offering which we have build ... brought in to Daana, I think that's the key factor constantly for everyone, all of us including myself and Sunita-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... every Saturday, our kitchen board is brand new. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... because we've got 15 new dishes lined up there (laughing). And there are days where we start like six or five in the morning because Friday night was busy, we really couldn't do anything prep, so we ... both of us start early and get things knocking. All our dishes are ... we're doing for the very first time on the Saturday morning. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh, wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: Again, I think the blessings have fallen for us, both of us that we know the recipe is asking for this flavor, that's how it's going to be turning ... it should turn out. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: And so far we have not faulted a single one. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Again, the feedback is the crucial, we have regulars, uh, who come in from that particular area.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: So they're the best choice to tell us how authentic the recipe is-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... The way it has turned out, yes or no, that's where it comes from. The feedback is absolutely critical for any business to sustain for that long. Now, sharing with that, we have few families who are weekly regular. I'm proud to share with everyone over here that out of 88 menu which we completed this Saturday, they have missed only four of them. 

Jonathan Doyle: Really? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: So they've come in that regu- ... that often? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes. So last year, they were regular for 57 weeks-

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... Had a break for one week, and they've continued (laughing). They missed a few, but there are other families like, uh, we were calculating 30 weeks, 40, 50 weeks-

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... they've been regular with us.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. So good, all right, okay, I'm sold. Oh, um, well, I came across you guys on Instagram, you know we've got the, the Canberra Executive Coaching page on Instagram, and I just saw ... a photo was posted by the Canberra [inaudible 00:46:42] Women account.

Sanjay Kumar: Okay.

Jonathan Doyle: And it was the, you know, I don't know what night. And I was sitting in my car, just been for training, right, and I said, they look really nice, they're really happy. You two sitting there, and I thought, "Oh no, they'd be good to get on the show." When I hear that, you know, when you've got people with that level of loyalty, you're the ... you've got to be doing something right. So (laughing) just one more thing on this brand, this concept of generosity embedded in your ethos, you mentioned about this being an extension of your home, this generosity concept, so, what do you feel when people come in? What is it that you want people to experience? What is it that you want for your guests to, to experience when they're there? 

Sanjay Kumar: Very simple thing, the hospitality is, is exactly the same if one comes to our home.

Jonathan Doyle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sanjay Kumar: Genuine, warm, simple. There's no flashiness, there's no artificialness involved at all. You're absolutely welcome like you're coming home. That's what we have tried to create, a simple ambience in our, our place. And, again, feedback from all our guests is, is exactly the same that when they leave the place, is it ... it's just like we dined at home.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. Such a good feeling when that happens. Well, on that, let me ask you about your staffing. In almost every episode, we talk about this idea of people want their staff to feel what they feel for the business, and one idea is that you can't expect staff to 100% feel that. I mean, it's your business, so they're never going to feel exactly what you feel. How do you select people, what do you look for, and how do you try and bring them with you into that generous hospitable feeling? Because, if they're not right, even if the food's great, it's gonna be a disconnect, there's gonna be a sense of something not right. How do you find the right people, how do you keep them, what values do you try and share with them? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think very simple what we look for is the attitude. Each one comes with their own background and skills, and they have worked before or not worked before, that is the second part. First is, because we're doing so many new things, if a person is willing to unlearn first-

Jonathan Doyle: Unlearn. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... and then learn. 

Jonathan Doyle: So what does that mean? What do they have to unlearn? 

Sanjay Kumar: Unlearn like you have candidates coming in that they've worked in previous Indian, Indian-

Jonathan Doyle: Oh, okay. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... restaurant-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ,,, or a café, things are done in a different, the style. So from the very day when ... they're clearly told, you do the way Daana does. We have our own standards.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: And we teach them from day one. And that's what is the first thing that ... they have to unlearn what they have done previously and start fresh completely. 

Jonathan Doyle: Okay, so they have to be teachable? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes. Absolutely, yes. They're willing to learn, and same time, we're absolutely open to any ideas which will bring in more efficiency, more, uh, in terms of better customers service experience-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Absolutely open. They give us idea, it's implemented. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: There's no second thoughts in it. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: If something is workable and doable which brings in a great teamwork and the efficiency on the floor, we do it.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. These themes that keep coming through around the generosity, but around openness is not just feedback from your cl- your customers, but it's also feedback and ideas from your own people. So you've got to be relatively secure as a business leader to do that, to be open to that feedback. In the midst of all these complexities, so you're not just ... I mean, what is your single great passion in the business? Is it still cooking that you love to do? Like if you could do any one thing in your business, is that what you enjoy the most? What aspect of the, of the whole thing is, is your favorite? 

Sanjay Kumar: Besides cooking, I think I mentioned that interacting with them, my guests is the second thing which I love most. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Feedback comes from the, that's the second part, but it's not the feedback which I'm looking for, it's the personal rapport which I'm building with them-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... as a friend. It's never on the table that when I'm, say, meeting for the first time, blessed to remember most of them what they like, what they don't like, and for the first time, or they've come again. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: And it's not what they like to have, my question is always that, if they need any help, I'm here to help. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. So let me ask you, you know, how do you sustain you because you don't just get to cook and you don't just get to walk around the floor, you've got [inaudible 00:51:19], you've got staffing and HR, you've got spreadsheets and payroll and insurance, and all the stuff. How do you handle that tension in yourself? Do you get stressed? How do you manage you, how do you run yourself? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think both of us together. Sunita, takes care of most of the admin, payrolls, marketing part of it, spreadsheets. I would say 99%, um, one person involved in those things-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: The other hand, I take care of the ... most of the operations part of it. And then we both split in the busy times. She manages the kitchen, I manage the floor with my other team outside. 

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Sanjay Kumar: And in between, both together. So it's just that balancing part of it. It's very, very hard because just two of us.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: We haven't been lucky yet to find the real, right person to take over and learn to being part of the kitchen part of it. We have a good team, but not at that level that both of us can say, okay, you take over. No, not yet. So that's the hard part (laughs). 

Jonathan Doyle: Yes, I know that. Look, one of the things that occurred to me when I was preparing, was ... I don't know if you've ever read the E-Myth. It's a famous book by Michael Gerber, came out about, it will be almost 20 years ago now. 

Sanjay Kumar: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

Jonathan Doyle: It was the entrepreneurial myth. So his theory was that what a lot of people do is they have a passion, they have an interest or a hobby, and they think, "Well I don't wanna work for this business over here anymore, I'm gonna start my own business. I'm gonna take my hobby or my passion and I'm going to create a business out of it." And he said that's a real risk. He said success for businesses often have standards, processes, you document all those processes. But how do you stop a passion, you know, I mean, a lot of people have passions around different things. How do you think you take a passion and make it a successful business, longterm? How do you move from a one off, "I love this, I'm gonna start this," to something with sustainability and longevity? What do you think are some of the elements to take a passion and make it last? 

Sanjay Kumar: As we're talking and I'm going through that, like at the moment two of us doing the most of the role part of it. To sustain for longer for business, it's so much of new challenges constantly in part of it. I think once we have a team to go along, the life of business extends even further. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: We need to have a good team along to be part of the journey. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah, I think that's the learning for us. At the same time that, how long we're able to sustain this way. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: We have to build up a team. Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: I think there's a constant tension, I mean, you know, we've had people in here who've got huge businesses, people with smaller businesses, but for all of us, there is this moment of staffing where you go ... that step you take out of the day to day and you risk. I mean, I know a lot of people, it's a crucial moment. So I wanted to ask you on that, where do you want to go with this? So if we were looking in 5, or 10, or 20 years time, I could see you with several properties with amazing relationships across this town with diners and so many good people building something ... that's what I could see you doing, what do you want? 

The reason I ask is, essentially, this will sound terrible when I first say it, food is a commodity item, so we're selling a commodity then your only compete essentially on price. But you're not doing that, you're actually bringing such diversity, and complexity, and experience and changing it regularly. So you're bringing something unique in that space. But what is your dream Sanjay, what do you ... you've got an amazing story, like you started at Domino's and you've built this great restaurant, and I want you to win. What do you want? Where do you want to go with this? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think the journey is never going to stop, I think both of us are very clear, it just begun. I haven't thought really what 20 years where we want to-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... But at the same time, we definitely want to be known across Australia and throughout the world that this is the Indian cuisine is all about. I haven't thought of many properties yet, but if we can manage a single place which is known for service and food together-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... I think we should be happy with that. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Absolutely, yes. 

Jonathan Doyle: So it's a patience game, it's making sure you can build one the way you want it, successfully with sustainability, longevity, and then go from there? But what you talk about being recognized, you know, one day, I don't know, have you ever seen that ... the movie, uh, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, have you ever seen that? 

Sanjay Kumar: No, not yet. 

Jonathan Doyle: It's on Netflix. 

Sanjay Kumar: Okay.

Jonathan Doyle: So it's, uh ... the people haven't seen it, it's called Jiro, it's spelled J-I-R-O, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and it's about a man who they think is possibly the best Sushi maker in the world. 

Sanjay Kumar: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

Jonathan Doyle: He's like ... he's about 85, and he has a restaurant in a subway in Tokyo. 

Sanjay Kumar: Okay.

Jonathan Doyle: And it's the size of this studio. So it's, it's about the size of most people's sort of kitchen area or something. But his passion and, and knowledge and attention to detail is so extraordinary that people literally travel all over the world just to this tiny little room that he has. So I think for you guys, building this diversity and this experience, I really hope that this notoriety will grow for you guys.

Sanjay Kumar: Thank you. 

Jonathan Doyle: So the question, one of the questions ... actually one thing I did wanna mention was, uh, I always ask people about a moment of crisis, which I think you've got some good learnings on. Take us quickly to this story that you shared with me about one of the first big catering things you did. You had 500 high-profile guests.

Sanjay Kumar: That's correct. 

Jonathan Doyle: And the night that this is about to happen, two staff call in sick, and what's the quote you have from hospitality, the right thing ... the wrong things always happen at the right time or something or? 

Sanjay Kumar: Things go wrong at the right time. 

Jonathan Doyle: At the right time. So take us through that. What happened at that moment of crisis? 

Sanjay Kumar: Okay, uh, that was last year and-

Jonathan Doyle: Last year. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... got a call that two staff, that time, such a small team we have, so we can say literally 50% is not there.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: Just me and Sunita there. And next day was the lunch. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: I think the learning was, the biggest thing over that there was absolutely no other options, just two of us.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: And we went right through for every prep and dishes which we had to do. And we delivered, we were a bit late there, but we managed to, served everything on time-

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: Everybody loved it, and we came back, opened the restaurant, guests were waiting outside (laughing).

Jonathan Doyle: So you still had to open your, your restaurant as normal? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes, we did that (laughing), yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh well. 

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: And I like how you said that, you know, you did this, but one of the things you learned was that if you're gonna accept the possible successes, you're gonna have to accept the risks as well. 

Sanjay Kumar: Absolutely. I think that was the biggest learning that any crucial big job which we're taking, we make sure that if we're depending on somebody, it doesn't happen, can we pull off by ourself.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: That's what we do now-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: ... and we've done bigger events after that, and we plan preps, uh, logistics much in advance. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Having taken care of those factors and we deliver absolutely, brilliantly, really happy with that. 

Jonathan Doyle: Where did you learn to work, your work ethic, and Sunita has got it too, where did you learn that work ethic? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think it started back in India when we started, uh, initial hospitality education and training along with it. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: I started with the Taj Group of Hotels, worked with them for almost five years in Bangalore, and then I moved to the airline catering, uh, now it's called Air India, national airline.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Worked with them for 14 years with them. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: And that's how we got different location posting. I traveled for a bit to different countries, worked there.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: So it was learning all throughout every new location we lived or I traveled, worked with different nationalities-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... And great learning always there. 

Jonathan Doyle: Well I think, if people haven't worked in hospitality, I did years ago, it's a lot of long hours, and it's hard work for people especially who wanna make a career out of it so ... And if you could see him ladies and gentlemen, he's looking pretty rested today, it's Monday so it's the day off for hospitality people, and he's not looking too bad after another weekend of work (laughing). So Sanjay, last real question I wanted to ask you, it's what I ask everybody which is, if you ... looking back on your journey so far, I mean, I've picked up themes listening to you of generosity, openness, uh, acceptance to feedback, innovation, being ... challenging yourselves, these are great business principles.

So if we can ask you to imagine, in parting, the essence of what you've learned so far on your journey in business and life, you walk on stage, there's 100 young entrepreneurs in front of you. It might be an MBA course or something, and you've been asked to give three pieces of advice. 

Sanjay Kumar: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

Jonathan Doyle: From all that you've learned, three things that you would wanna share with people about business and life. What three things do you think are gonna be good for young or business operators to know? 

Sanjay Kumar: Few simple things which I can think of to share. First thing is believe in yourself, is the skills which you carry, the basic skills no matter what profession you're in. In the early years of your education and training, spend those extra hours and get those basics absolutely perfect. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Because that's the key which gives you the edge in learning or sharpening it further. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Second one is really trust your customers. The better you know them, they teach you more about your business. 

Jonathan Doyle: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

Sanjay Kumar: And, I think what I have learned with my sales career and with Daana, people like to be acknowledged that they're there, presence is there. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Feel it, and respect that. 

Jonathan Doyle: So those three, self-belief, trusting in those core skills that you have, trusting your customers. I haven't heard that before, you know, it's an interesting, a really good idea that thinking ... you're saying the customer the customer is always right, right, no matter what happens, they're right right so we might as well learn to trust them and ask their feedback. And I think this [inaudible 01:01:57] just acknowledging people, just being aware of their presence, making them welcome, making them feel like they're home and that you want them there. I mean, you can go to plenty of restaurants, and I've been to them, and I'm sure you have where you actually feel like you're inconveniencing people by being there. I think we get that in [inaudible 01:02:13], we have a lot of restaurants staff that can honestly make you feel like you're just annoying them by being in the room, which is very (laughing) counterintuitive.

So, with all that you've experienced, what are your hopes for your own kids now? This is a great story of coming to a new country, doing the very hard work, taking whatever is on offer, what do you hope for your own children in life and business?

Sanjay Kumar: I think we are very, very open. My son is in year 10 at the moment, he's just started his journey of choosing his subjects for year 11 and 12. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: We both are involved with him in, uh, helping him, but he wants to be something different, but he likes, he likes cooking as well. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: He's taken the subjects, hospitality in his school. My little one is always interested in the kitchen and, and of course, she's youngest she keeps changing few things here and there.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: But, uh, both are equally independent and we just help them what they want to do eventually. Then I think I have fixed that, okay, one wants to be chef, take over the restaurant-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Not yet, but-

Jonathan Doyle: So when, when they look at you, as in when they're older, what would you want them to have learned by looking at you and Sunita? What values or character traits would you like them to have learned? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think we share with them on a regular basis that any work we do is with respect. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Be it any other job. Okay, so for us, is the restaurant, is the main core for family at the moment. And that's what they learn. Both of them come with us on and off to the restaurant and they see the work happening or what we do; cooking in the kitchen or cleaning of the floor or the table.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: So they do realize that what it takes to be served properly to our guests.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And a lot of hard work it takes to get what it takes to bring the family together. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: And really happy and pleased both of them really share that and understand that. Otherwise, I think without their support, what we are today wouldn't have been possible at all. We get to see them only few hours in night time.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: There are times like son is gone to sleep, daughter is fighting to sleep so see us.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah (laughs). 

Sanjay Kumar: ... Until she, she doesn't go to sleep till we reach home at 11:00, 12:00 in the night. So they know that it's hard, at the same-

Jonathan Doyle: Sacrifice. 

Sanjay Kumar: Sacrifice, same, that's part of it that one has to do it. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Feel bad at times, but there are ways and we try to ... we spend as much time and give quality time to them also.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: My mum stays with us, she's been a great, great support-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... Managing lot of things when we are not at home. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: And I think that's what we try to share every day, like my son regularly now, he's mature enough, he do ask questions about business, how we're doing.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: He's interested in lot of new things. We get him involved, we get his ideas on presentation of food, the, how does the menu look, and if he want it to be changed.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: And he's definitely more technology advanced than both of us.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: At times, so there are a few things he does help at this stage. So-

Jonathan Doyle: I think it's interesting most people assume that, you know, being in business and business that's growing and doing well is just, you know, sunshine and rainbows, and you just sit around counting the money. They don't realize the sacrifice, like with you guys, as a husband and wife trying building a business with a young family that it's, uh ... there's always that tension and trade off between trying to be great parents, trying to be great business owners. So ... but if we didn't have people like you in the community doing that, we'd be missing a lot. The last question I want to ask you is, what do you most admire about Sunita? 

Sanjay Kumar: I think her risk taking ability. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: I think she was the first person to make that decision that we're going to start Daana. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: I think she has the natural ability to foresee what this risk involves, and what it's going to be eventually.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Sanjay Kumar: Yes. 

Jonathan Doyle: I think everybody we've had on the show soon or later talks about that one sort of special person that makes, uh, makes it all worthwhile and, and challenges them and supports them. I have to ask you this, um, when you're at home, do you still enjoy cooking when you're at home? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yes I do. 

Jonathan Doyle: Do you really? 

Sanjay Kumar: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: I (laughing) just think-

Sanjay Kumar: 'Cause normally now it's with the kids now. 

Jonathan Doyle: Okay. 

Sanjay Kumar: Especially the little one. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: Like yesterday morning, she wanted pancakes and we said okay, oh, pancake is not ... normally you get toast, ready-made stuff is not there. I said ... she was a bit, bit sad-

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: So I said, "Okay, we'll make fresh pancake batter." So-

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. 

Sanjay Kumar: So she saw it for the first time. I [crosstalk 01:07:11]. I got her involved to mixing everything (laughing) by herself. So-

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah. 

Sanjay Kumar: ... it was interesting.

Jonathan Doyle: So good. 

Sanjay Kumar: So that was a good start for the morning (laughs). 

Jonathan Doyle: Well, I wanna thank you for giving us the generosity of your time and, uh, your warmth and your learning and wisdom. I, uh, I just wanna ... I'll put these all in the show notes and then the, the ultra, but if you haven't yet been to Daana, then you need to go. So head to Woden, and it's in Curtin, so if you don't know Canberra well or you're not sure where they are, they're in the Woden area, it's on Curtin on Theodore Street, there will be links in the show notes. I'll put all the stuff in there, but you need to go and you need to tell people about this great restaurant. I think we need to support really dynamic, innovative, creative, risk-taking businesses. So whoever is listening to this, you've gotta go. I'm gonna bring my wife, I'll see if I can go this afternoon actually because we're going away for a while so I have to get there today. 

Sanjay my friend, thank you for your risk-taking, for your humility, for doing the hard work and risking your life in a new country, and not settling. You've come here but you've made such a contribution, a generous contribution to charities, to this local community, you deserve every success genuinely. And I would, I really hope that this podcast in some small way will drive more great longterm customers who hopefully come every week for 89 weeks or whatever, but my friend, thanks so much for making time to be on the Canberra Business Podcast. 

Sanjay Kumar: Thank you Jonathan. Thank you so much. And on behalf of everyone from Daana, I'd like to thank all our listeners for listening and supporters whichever way you can, and we look forward to see everyone in Daana. Thank you so much. 

Jonathan Doyle: Thank you Sanjay. 

Hey guys, Jonathan with you once again. How good was that, huh? I mean, the humility, I, I just ... there was such a humility in so much of what he shared. I mean, this is a man with a huge knowledge, you know, professional, five-star restaurant chain experience, comes to Australia and starts at Domino's making pizzas, and then now goes on to build this awesome business. So, I was really impacted by that, I just thought it's, it's really what business is about, you know, taking the work, it's there, building, you know, your presence in the community, starting from scratch, but having a great product and service that reaches people. So I really hope that you took something out of that, and I really think we should get behind his business and support it. 

So I'm gonna be there more regularly, I want you to go and check them out, it's on Theodore Street in Curtin. I wanna just type in Daana, D-A-A-N-A, or just check the show notes, we're gonna have the links there to the restaurant. Go and check them out, just do it this weekend. Go down and make yourself a booking, take some friends, and I'm sure you're gonna be back. That's it from me for this week, please make sure you've subscribed to the podcast, share it with a few people. I'm Jonathan Doyle, I'm going to have another episode for you of the Canberra Business Podcast next week.