The tandoor had always been used to make chewy rotis, when Kundan Lal Gujral thought of using it to bake chicken, marinated in lime, yoghurt and spices. Legend goes that, that is how tandoori chicken, with its crisp skin and tangy meat, came to be, from one of Moti Mahal’s owners. Monish Gujral is Kundan Lal’s grandson and at the helm of one of the country’s oldest tandoori/Mughlai cuisine chains, established in 1947. Their enviable client list includes former Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, Shah of Iran, Kennedys and Jawaharlal Nehru. From 2010, the chain went overseas, even to UAE, Saudi Arabia, Muscat, Tanzania and New Zealand, among others. Next is China, informs the 54-year-old Gujral.
Though he has been aggressively expanding his business over the past five years, when it comes to personal finance, Gujral remains conservative, particularly for someone who deals with real estate day and night — adding two restaurants a month. Over the past four to five years, he has stayed away from realty because it has not yielded the returns his business gives. “It has been best to invest in my own business,” he says. That said, from earlier investments, 80% of his wealth is in real estate and other investments. Gujral recalls the good old days — nearly a decade back — when one could buy a property and dispose it in six months. But today, conventional wisdom advises diversification. “We have now entered into ready-to-eat foods and consultancy for food and beverages businesses,” shares Gujral. A part of his wealth is invested in financial assets such as mutual funds and insurance policies.
Over the past ten years, a new asset class in the form of venture funds and start-up investments has emerged in India. But Gujral keeps away from it, though he has been approached by many start-ups. He decided to open one on his own instead, under the Moti Mahal umbrella. That’s how Gujral created a separate food court brand, for Tier-II and Tier-III cities. Next, he plans to open cloud kitchens. “It’s always best to back the entrepreneur you know — yourself,” chuckles Gujral.