Old-timers reminisce as Nirula’s turns 75

By Shilpa Raina, IANS,

New Delhi : They got us our first hot chocolate fudge, burger, pizza and lots more. As the quintessentially Delhi institution Nirula’s turns 75, its popularity remains intact among all from 80 to eight.

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For P.C. Khanna, 80, who has been visiting Nirula’s for over 40 years, the popular eatery that is much more than a fast food joint holds a special place in his heart.

As Nirula’s celebrates its 75th anniversary, Khanna reminisces: “Earlier I used to take my wife and children to the Connaught Place branch for a feast once in a while. It used to be a perfect family outing.

“After so many years, I still go there with my wife, children and grandchildren to eat mutton chops. It is not only about the food but the place has various memories that are associated with my life. Every time I come to this place, I have a story to tell my children and grandchildren.”

Since June 2006, Nirula’s has been owned by Malaysia-headquartered private equity fund Navis capital partners and Samir Kuckreja, a relative of the Nirula family. The privately held firm declines to reveal its turnover.

Nirula’s was the first to introduce burgers in India. Later it added Indian dishes, sizzlers, pizzas and ice creams to the menu with an emphasis on quick service and convenience.

“Nirula’s has a rich Indian heritage as we have always kept our customers in mind, his likes and dislikes, what he wants to eat, his spending power, and the ambience. These things set us apart from our contemporaries,” Sudipta Sen Gupta, Nirula’s senior vice president of marketing and sales, told IANS.

“Initially we started as a quick service outlet but after seeing the response from our customers, we added Indian dishes and made some changes to our menu,” she added.

According to Sen Gupta, it’s the spirit of innovation that separates Nirula’s from other fast-food joints.

“We believe in experimenting and innovation; as a result we are ahead of our contemporaries. There was a time when we hit a bad phase, but that taught us the key to survival,” Sen Gupta explained.

What also sets this food chain apart from the rest is its ice-cream that is loved by people of every age group.

“I have been relishing Nirula’s ice-cream ever since I was a kid. I used to love their triple sundae and I still love it. Even though the markets are flooded with so many ice-cream parlours, Nirula’s just can’t be beaten,” said Rachna Seth, a PR executive.

“Their lime ice and hot chocolate fudge is unmatched. They have maintained the same quality and taste for so many years.”

Sen Gupta said: “It is a fact that ice-cream is the backbone of our existence, we just can’t afford to ignore it. We have been introducing a new flavour each month and this experimentation makes people come back to us.”

But Nirula’s is much more than an ince-cream parlour, of course. Sen Gupta said: “We are a typical family style restaurant and our menu offers loads of options for every age group. Hence everyone in the family is happy because there is something for everyone.”

Aamit Jaivir, 30, who lives in Noida, still remembers that Nirula’s was the only place where he used to hang out with his friends.

“We all used to sit there for hours and hours. It was the only place where we used to hang out. Now so many malls and new eating joints have come up. Still, I prefer to come to this place,” Jaivir said.

“The only thing that has changed is that I now come here with my girlfriend.”

Starting from the first outlet in Connaught Place, Nirula’s has now grown to as many as 62 outlets across Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.

CEO and MD Samir Kuckreja told IANS that they are planning to have around 200 outlets by 2011.

“We will soon be entering new territories like Mumbai, Kolkata and other cities in the eastern and western regions. Along with metros, the focus will also be on second-tier and third-tier cities like Pathankot, Moradabad, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Agra,” Kuckreja said.

“We also have plans to make a presence in the US, the UAE, Nepal and Pakistan very soon,” he added.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at [email protected])