DevanshiTripathi is the Founder of Oyster Bar & Kitchen, Bangalore's only pet friendly bar. In the following Q&A she sheds light on her venture’s growth journey, her views on the Indian F&B sector and shares sound advice for aspiring restaurateurs.
Bangalore is known for its thriving pub culture. The market is home to a vast variety of F&B players who play host to Bangalore’s diverse demographic. From new-age joints to old timey bars, fancy pubs to understated ‘hole in the wall’ drinking holes, the city has something for everyone. However, the only missing link was a pub and kitchen that could also accommodate our furry friends. Not anymore, as the city now has Oyster Bar & Kitchen, Bangalore's only bar that welcomes customers with pets on all days and at all times.
The brain child behind this unique F&B endeavor is DevanshiTripathi. Brought up in Lucknow, Devanshi hails from an army background. She received her Bachelor's degree in Economics from Pune, followed by an MBA in rural management from Anand, Gujarat. Devanshi then worked in the development and edtech sectors with various startups.
Devanshi always nursed an entrepreneurial dream which she turned into reality in 2019, as she started her first venture in the hospitality sector, Oyster Bar & Kitchen.
The Women Entrepreneur India team spoke to Devanshi about various facets of her entrepreneurial journey, the Indian F&B industry and much more.
Take us through the genesis of the idea to found Oyster Bar & Kitchen. What were you trying to do differently that hadn’t already been done in the highly competitive Bangalore F&B sector?
Being an entrepreneur had always been a dream, but there was uncertainty about "how and where to begin." I began my career by working with various startups and developmental organizations. My entrepreneurial journey began in 2019 when I moved to Bangalore and launched "Oyster Bar & Kitchen." Despite having no educational or familial hospitality background, Bengaluru's incredible pub culture inspired me to consider starting a business in the F&B sector. Initially, efforts were concentrated on speaking with industry experts in order to gain a better understanding of the market landscape and restaurant management techniques. It took a lot of effort to get everything in place in order to start the business, the licenses, the permissions, etc.—and every effort was made to establish and sustain overtime, Oyster aided my growth as an entrepreneur.
Oyster is Bangalore's only bar that welcomes customers with pets on all days and at all times. Customers are welcome to bring their pets into Oyster Bar & Kitchen and enjoy the restaurant with their friends, family, and their furry friends. While some establishments in Bangalore do allow pets, they do so only on certain days of the week and for a restricted time period. Hence, Oyster Bar & Kitchen becomes the go-to choice of pet owners, as they feel we are pet friendly in the true sense. Additionally, we have a pet menu, specifically curated for pets, which really attracts pet owners.
The F&B industry is considered a tough nut to crack. Enumerate the challenges that you had to face as a new restaurateur who was building a place from scratch.
Being an entrepreneur was always an aspiration, but there was a lack of clarity as to "how and where to begin." I started off by working with startups, with the desire to learn more. My entrepreneurial journey began in 2018 when I moved to Bangalore and subsequently launched "Oyster Bar & Kitchen." Although I had no hospitality background (educational or familial), Bengaluru’s astounding pub culture inspired me to consider establishing a business in the F&B space. Initially, the efforts were more focused on speaking with industry experts to understand the market landscape and the methods of restaurant management. Since Oyster is a bar and we serve liquor, a lot of legwork was required in acquiring the necessary licenses.
Every little effort that was given to establish and sustain Oyster helped me grow as an entrepreneur over time. The journey has definitely not been smooth. The biggest challenge was setting up a business in a place where you do not belong. From encountering gender discrimination to geographical restrictions to the world coming to a standstill during the pandemic, the journey in the F&B industry has been full of challenges and learning. However, it’s all worthwhile when you realize you are providing employment to so many people. As an entrepreneur, I feel liberated to work and make my own decisions. Although my past working experiences have been quite helpful in instilling confidence, I am glad I took the risk of quitting my job and becoming an entrepreneur.
The bar and pub sector is largely a male-dominated industry. How did you navigate through the sector as an up-and-coming entrepreneur? Can you recount a telling incident/anecdote that demonstrates the challenges faced by women in the aforementioned sector?
I had several fears about being able to set up and run the business successfully, but questioning my capabilities just because I am a woman was never a hurdle in my mind. I am the sole manager and operator of the company. Yes, it was difficult at times. I remember getting asked who the "man" in the business was when I was scouting for properties. They would ask directly who would speak to the police and take care of legal things in my business. They would not consider me the owner and would always keep asking who was the final decision-maker and who would be running the business. My journey as a female entrepreneur in the male-dominated F&B sector has not been easy. Despite this, I have been able to propel Oyster to new heights in the last three years and am optimistic about making a name for myself in the hospitality industry.
How do you envision the Indian F&B sector evolving and growing in the near future? Are there any specific industry trends that you see developing in the sector going forward?
India has experienced growth in all facets of the economy and technology, which has had some effect on people's lifestyles, including eating and fashion choices. For the F&B sector in particular, the trends that are predicted to emerge in the upcoming years are sustainability, wellness, affordability, veganism, vertical farming, more robot kitchen assistants, alternatives made from plants, and personalization.
How has Oyster Bar & Kitchen’s growth journey been so far? How has the venture fared in terms of revenue and footfalls?
Oyster Bar and Kitchen opened in 2019 and has been on an upward pathway ever since. We did face a few challenges in the beginning; however, we worked to expand our customer base. Moreover, when the pandemic hit us in March 2020, we also shut down for a while. As a result, we had to rebuild our customer base. Despite the obstacles, post-lockdown, we began growing. It's been a great journey, with each month getting better than the previous one. Starting with just a few customers every day, we've now grown to the point where we're completely booked every evening, especially on weekends, with a long waiting list.
When we had a seating capacity of 150 people, it used to constantly get filled, so we've increased it to 250 seats now. In terms of revenue, we broke even in four months and have been growing steadily since then. We've made decent profits, however, because it's a seasonal market, our profits keep fluctuating. We're investing our profit margins in acquiring more customers, improving our marketing positions, launching new marketing initiatives, and so on. Overall, we're now in a position where we can generate decent revenue with a healthy profit margin every month.
What is your plan for Oyster Bar & Kitchen's next phase of growth?
In the future, once my brand—Oyster Bar and Kitchen—has established itself in the city, I would like to expand and open two or three more branches in different locations in Bengaluru. In fact, we have already expanded in our current location, where we added an extra floor to our restaurant so that the seating capacity increased from 150 to 250. Once I've established a stable brand for Oyster Bar and Kitchen with multiple units in Bangalore, I also wish to expand into other cities like Goa and Pune. I also intend to launch a new brand under TripGo Hospitality, which will be very different from Oyster, Bar & Kitchen and cater to a different TG.
Any words of advice for other young and aspiring women restaurateurs?
My advice to young and aspiring women entrepreneurs is to be open to change, be agile, and take advice, especially from industry professionals whose mistakes you can learn from rather than repeat. Second, understand what the market requires and be ready to tweak your strategy to meet those requirements. It is critical that you modify your ideas and remain adaptable to changing market conditions. Finally, keep in mind that very few start-ups succeed, so take it one step at a time and listen to your mentors to achieve your goals.