Feature

That sweet taste of success

Adyar Ananda Bhavan has grown from a single outlet in a small town to an ₹8 billion global business, selling highly commoditised food. All it took was quick thinking and rigour

RA Chandroo

KT Srinivasa Raja, the managing director of Ananda Bhavan, is jetlagged this Tuesday morning in February. He landed the previous day after a 55-day whirlwind tour overseas, across three continents. His longest stint away from home. “For the first time in my life, I was away for New Year and missed Pongal sales at the outlets,” he says, bleary eyed.

What started as a trip for his daughter’s convocation in Sydney quickly turned into a lengthy business tour, with partners calling to check locations to expand Adyar Ananda Bhavan’s international footprint. After checking on the outlet that was getting ready in Sydney, the next stop was Singapore, to meet his existing partner, then the US and finally Toronto.

His is a household brand in the South, with more than 140 outlets in India and nine overseas. Growing up, for most of us, festivals such as Diwali, Vinayaka Chaturthi or Krishna Jayanthi meant darting in and out of the kitchen to nick the goodies that our mother or grandmother fried out of gigantic vats. Now, no festival is complete without a trip to Adyar Ananda Bhavan, to bring back murukku that crumbles easily, the evenly sweet adhirsam or the ghee-soaked Mysore pak. In fact, the crowds at the stores, during the run-up to these festivals, resemble those in the US during Black Friday sales with customers jostling each other to shop their list before stock runs out.

Dreaming big

The business that was built over three decades by Srinivasa, his father KS Thirupathi Raja and brother KT Venkatesan posted revenue of Rs.8 billion in FY19. It began as a sweet shop in 1975 in Malleswaram, a locality that still retains the old Bengaluru spirit. Here, in the ’70s, eateries that remain popular even today were opening for business or upping their game. Into this bustle came Thirupathi, who is from an agricultural family, and this was a second attempt at being an entrepreneur.

His first was with Guru Sweets, in 1965 in his hometown of Rajapalayam in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district. Though there is a textile industry here, it is primarily dependent on an agricultural economy. After one bad harvest season, customers came few and far between, and soon it was shutters down for the sweets business. To tide over the bad patch, the older Raja decided to move to Bengaluru, where his friend ran a nursery. But, he could not stop thinking about bei

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