K.R.Pushpam Complex, Aarthi Theatre Road, Dindigul, 624001
Kodaikanal

                                               Dindigul Biriyani

Fourteen branches in Chennai distribute 7,000 Biriyani plates a day! D. Nagasamy talks with Shonali Muthalaly about the formula for the success of the newly trademarked Dindigul Thalapakatti.

Dindigul Biriyani
Dindigul Biriyani

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He is wrapped up in the silent satisfaction of victory. And the Biriyani scent. We’re settling down in D. Nagasamy ‘s bustling restaurant Nungambakkam, one of 14, describes his new triumph: a turban brand.

The Clamour of customers in the background vies with the incessant rattle of pots. It’s 4 p.m., and there are no signs of thinning in the lunch crowd. Nagasamy strongly claims that this turban, or ‘Thalapakatti,’ attracts the crowds. That is why he went to court for it.

He goes back to 1957 to explain its significance when a man running a betel nut shop realized his wife’s unique biriyani style had the ability to go places. “Nagasamy says,” My grandfather Nagasamy Naidu used to make and sell Paan. “His wife, my grandmother, had a very popular recipe for biriyani.

Dindigul Biriyani
Dindigul Biriyani

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A special blend of spices, a form of short-grain Seeraga samba rice called Parakkum Situ, and meat from Kannivadi, which comes from tender grass-fed goats, was used. (Kannivadi is a small town in the district of Dindigul). “This rice has no particular taste of its own, unlike basmati, so it completely absorbs the flavor of the spices.”

When Anandha Vilas Biriyani Hotel opened in Dindigul, despite its grandiose name, it barely seated four people. However, the mutton biriyani of Naidu’s wife attracted fans from all over town, and then eventually from neighboring towns. No one referred to the restaurant, however, by its real name.

They called it ‘ Thalapakatti. Everyone linked it to my grandfather, who would sit in a white shirt, white dhoti, and, always, a white turban at the cash counter. The turban was inspired by freedom fighter-poet Subramanya Bharathi, who he greatly admired.

His son, Nagasamy ‘s father, renamed the restaurant Thalapakatti Anandha Vilas when Naidu passed away in 1978, realizing that the term Thalapakatti had become synonymous with biriyani.  Dindigul Biriyani He decided it was time to expand as imitations started springing up across Dindigul.

So he bought the Coimbatore estate, where he opened up 3,000 sq.ft. of the estate. That restaurant. “He took the chefs from  Dindigul Biriyani to make sure they enjoyed the same biriyani,” Nagasamy says. The bulk of our workers are villagers: herdsmen working in the fields. Nobody is leaving us because we work more like a family than a business. My dad will execute weddings, resolve disputes.  Dindigul Biriyani We have individuals that have been with us for more than 40 years. Like our Dindigul head cook, who still oversees the biriyani.

Dindigul Biriyani
Dindigul Biriyani

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Meanwhile, in Mangalore, Nagasamy was studying hotel management. In Dindigul, I had my schooling done.  Dindigul Biriyani Growing up, I would eat what they call a ‘half biriyani’-it’s about 250 gm-he chuckles every single day. “But I never considered joining the family business seriously. I was a regular guy at college, watching movies, relaxing with friends … “The Biriyani family business had an influence on his popularity, though.” Friends of mine loved it! They asked me every time I went home to get the parcels.

He learned how to cook it along the way, much like his grandmother. I did a Masters in Hospitality Management at Thames Valley University, London … I wanted to make it myself when I missed the biriyani. I had to use basmati, but there was easy access to the spices: cinnamon, cardamom, ginger … The blend is what makes it taste different. “He adds,” My roommates have always made me cook biriyani for lunch on Sunday.

Friends will drop in — I’ve cooked for up to 25 people! I was advised to start off in London. Yet I have been hesitant. I don’t know the market there. “He pauses,” And maybe — I was a little afraid, too.

So he worked for four years on reservations for Best Westin, postponing the inevitable.  Dindigul Biriyani At that point, I did not really want to come back to India, but fate compelled me. In 2000, I came back and started working at my father’s restaurant.

But I decided to do my own thing. I was told by a friend about a room in Vathalagundu near Kodaikanal … It was just an investment of Rs. 10 lakh.’ He called Dindigul Thalapakatti, his biriyani-specialty restaurant. “I Realised that was our strength. The brand. “They sold 350 plates a day in six months.” (Each plate is around 500 gm.)

When he got married to a girl from Chennai in 2008, Nagasamy decided it was time to open a restaurant here. “In Anna Nagar, we opened up. They all said that without basmati, Chennai would never accept biriyani. But I was confident. “But, they had no customers for one month.” “I didn’t think we’d succeed. Then I realized it was because we didn’t do any ads. So we began to make the turban the main priority. And people began to come.’ A rash of imitators culminated in success.  Dindigul Biriyani “There were seventy restaurants at one point using some variant of Thalapakatti in their name.” Nagasamy finally went to court when Chennai-based Rawther Thalappakattu Biryani opened in 2005. In the legal battle, during which both sides defended their right to use the turban, there were lots of twists and turns. Finally, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board ruled in favor of Dindigul’s Thalappakatti a few days ago, noting that there was no substantial phonetic disparity in Rawther ‘s version of it, Thalappakattu.

Nagasamy was clearly happy about the verdict. I felt that fighting for our brand was necessary.  Dindigul Biriyani This was the name people gave us. We haven’t selected it … he says.

They now have 14 branches in Chennai with a central kitchen in Velachery, dishing out 7,000 plates of biriyani every day.  Dindigul Biriyani Nagasamy estimates that they will be making 10,000 plates by the time they open their next three branches, in Medavakkam, Thoraipakkam, and Chromepet.

“Then we’ll be India’s largest seller of biriyani,” he grins. “(It’s Paradise in Hyderabad right now, which makes 9,000  Dindigul Biriyani a day.)” We want the taste to be consistent, so in our central kitchen, we’re now moving to automated machines. To ensure standardization, we use equipment from Taiwan: timing, temperature control, quantity…’

And no. He no longer eats it every day. I am the owner, but I must be very honest. I feel like eating somewhere else sometimes, ”he laughs. But I come back when I have been traveling for 10-15 days, and that’s the first thing I want to eat!

The roots of the Thalappakatti Biriyani Hotel can be traced back all the way to 1957.  Dindigul Biriyani It was founded under the name Anandha Vilas Biriyani Hotel in Dindigul by Mr. Nagasamy Naidu. He always wore a turban called THALAPA (a traditional headdress), which became synonymous with his brand and cooking styles over the years, leading him to earn the nickname “Thalappakatti Naidu” that ultimately became our brand and restaurants’ name.

He always emphasized the taste right from the beginning and ensured that the Biriyani made at his hotel was both delicious and special. This has been done and is still maintained through a careful range of ingredients made from quality masala products. Using superior quality Seeraga samba rice, known as Parakkum sitter, Biriyani was prepared with meat obtained from top-class cattle breeds, especially found in the popular cattle markets of Kannivadi and Paramathi.

Thalappakatti Biriyani’s unswerving nature and mouthwatering taste can be attributed to the fact that Thalappakatti Naidu, himself, prepared all the ingredients and took great care in doing so. He also prepared a palatable dish known as “Dalcha” by making use of mutton bones and adding to it vegetables such as brinjals, potato, though, and dhal (a useful combination dish with Biriyani).

Despite its origins going back 50 years, his style of cooking and secrets passed on to his family members are strictly followed meticulously and have ensured that the taste of “Thalappakatti Biriyani” remains unchanged.

High quality and taste are of primary importance, and our brand of Biriyani and other food products have achieved widespread popularity throughout South India as a result of this. There are numerous articles about our Biriyani and other food products published in various journals. The word “Thalappakatti” for a common man in South India today refers to Biriyani of high quality as a result of our efforts.

The flavor of Thalappakatti Biriyani has all been witnessed by politicians, former Chief Ministers of South India, and South Indian cinema legends. Great South Indian Cinema Legend Sivaji Ganesan who would always stop at Dindigul Thalappakatti Biriyani without fail while visiting his farmhouse at Soorakottai. Thalappakatti Biriyani has been delighting people for the last 50 years, from rich to poor, and the journey continues!!!

Comparing the original ‘Thalapakatti’ Nagasamy Naidu with Colonel Sanders, KFC’s founder seems almost unreasonable. But the tales are equal.  Dindigul Biriyani What started as Anandha Vilas became so strongly associated behind the counter with the white-turbaned man. He was the face of the Biriyani that he had made famous. It only seemed natural to rename the restaurant to what had made it so famous. That’s exactly what they did after Nagasamy’s grandfather’s demise.

It is said that the sincerest compliment is imitation.  Dindigul Biriyani Competitors with similar-sounding names such as Thalappakaatu and Royal Thalapakattu soon spawned the success of the Thalappakatti brand, which could have, over time, taken away the brand equity of the original. Nagasamy chose to take the legal route and won his brand name rights.

With that, my architect helped me. To protect our brand, I got a logo with a photograph of my grandfather,  Dindigul Biriyani and that’s how we differentiated ourselves from those in the market,’ says Nagasamy.

Next up was establishing brand differentiation by providing a casual fine-dining look to the new restaurants.  Dindigul Biriyani The biriyani was served in a small hut-like outlet in Dindigul with the enormous Deghs used to cook the outside biriyani to serve as visual signatures. But in an urban environment, this would not work, so the “look and feel” for the expansion was more in line with what was appropriate to the average Chennai client.

The customer that the company targeted belonged to the middle and upper-class groups, mostly people wanting to enjoy good food with their families.

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