Juggling Between Catering And Cinema
Madhampatty Rangaraj is no stranger to hardwork and his passion for classy catering has always instilled the spirit of doing the best and learning out of every new challenge. Nothing has stopped him from putting tremendous effort and time, not even his step into the tinsel town as the hero of “Mehandi Circus”. Here, he talks to Grishma Raj about his journey and how he hoped to achieve the balance between catering and cinema.
Can you tell me about your journey into catering?
In 1983, my father Madhampatty Thangavelu started Lakshmi catering service. I joined the business around 2002. Since my childhood, I used to be fascinated by my father’s line of work and I used to go to dining hall or kitchen to see them in action. But my father always wanted me to be in the white-collar industry, to become a doctor or engineer as he thought the catering industry is a bit unpredictable. After schooling, I wanted to become an animation artist and I also did some courses related to that.
At last the day came when my father proposed the idea of me joining him for our family business. I immediately joined the business even though I didn’t even know how to brew a coffee. Before I took the reins of the business, I joined a yearlong catering course in government polytechnic college, in parallel I learnt ropes of the trade from my father. I always wanted to give our catering services a professional touch. We increased our menu items using creative ways and made it more elaborative. We also brought in industry’s best processes and trained our employees to be more professional. Coimbatore has really appreciated our new outlook.We have catering services where we have handled up to 1.5 lakh people in one event. Apart from that, we also cater up to 25K meals for the corporate companies.Currently, we undertake wedding orders from all over India, especially Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.
What are the challenges that you have faced in this industry and how did you overcome it?
One of the most challenging things in this industry is maintaining consistency in food taste, quality, services and manpower. Also, grooming employees into a process based outlook was also difficult. It took almost 5 years of time to make employees follow processes. So, perseverance is the key. Another major issue is waste management after the events. Waste could be because of a variety of reasons like over planning, over production and all. Extra food handling during catering was a big challenge. So, we came up with case studies which we discuss with our clients and help them decide on how many people are expected in the wedding. This way we plan better to reduce waste. Apart from this, we use bio degradable materials instead of plastic water bottles/cutleries, we do promote plastic free functions. In the food that we prepare, we do not add any artificial colors or any chemicals to preserve or enhance our foods taste. Our clients need homely food and we deliver them what they want.
What are the main areas of differences that you see between the way your family business is compare to how it was under your father?
When my father was managing the business, it used to be about everyone helping to get the results. Sometimes, the same employee used to help out in various aspects of a delivery to make the event a success. But nowadays, human resources are elevated so they are very particular about their roles and responsibilities. Also, skilled labor is still an issue in this industry. With every passing days and rapid globalization, our menu also had to evolve a lot between how my father saw it to right now. We have a R&D team who will work tirelessly to introduce new sweets, curries and all for the ever-evolving tastes of the clients.
What are your views on organic food products to be used in your catering services?
We as a company are all for organic food products but it puts extra pressure on the client by making their events dearer by at least 20 percent. So, unless a client demands a complete organic catering, we provide normal services.
Where do you envision your journey will take the company into?
I wish to start a catering institute, students can train in latest industry standards in catering industry. We already have started acting on our dreams by starting the process of registration of the institute. We also plan to introduce a new restaurant under the name “Fresh”, which will offer homely and delicious food. Also, there will be a surprise menu that will change every day and offer something new to the customers. Once it is progressing, we also wish to convert it into an app for online service in future.
What kind of menu and packages do you offer?
Majority of the enquiries and bookings that we receive are for southern Indian cuisine, only about 40 percent of our clients enquire for Chinese, Italian, Spanish and other cuisines.We have chefs and teams from all the states, who can provide the authentic taste and who also specialize in certain cuisines, so no matter what clients wish we always are ready to deliver the best quality food. Right now, we are only based in India, we do get requests for catering in overseas destinations but we haven’t started it yet.
You recently made a big leap in the film industry with Mehandi Circus. How did you land with role and how was the experience?
It has indeed been a great journey. I do believe that in between fulfilling your parents’ wishes, you should find time for your wishes and dreams. One such dream was to see me on silver screen. Frankly, I didn’t know acting. From my childhood, I was only into academics and I wasn’t interested in participating in any kind of cultural programs in school. But I desired to see me in me on big screen. One day through “Studio Green”, I got the script of Mehandi Circus from Raju Murugan, the national award-winning director of the movie “Joker” and through him I met the director, his brother Raju Saravanan. Mehandi Circus is a period film, and so I travelled with the script for almost 2 years. I was cast in the lead role and I had to play both the young and the old age character. Hence, I was completely involved in presenting the roles. I went for acting workshops, courses, also went to gym to reduce weight and make sure I give justice to the both the characters.I was so delighted when the movie garnered good reviews. It was an amazing learning experience. And I also started getting more offers after the reviews.
I had to work hard to prove to people that I am not leaving my family business to pursue my dream of acting and that I can manage both the tasks well together. I am planning to do like 2 movies yearly, I have my schedules prepared quite in advance which gives me opportunity to plan my shoots around my catering schedules. I had a great experience shooting for the movie and I am glad people have recognized the hard work that I have put into achieving the goal.
Every journey begins with an inspiration, who or what was yours?
Biggest inspiration in my life is my father. His life story has so many trinkets of wisdom which guide me throughout. My dad was born in Palakkad, Kerala and due to family reasons, he had to pick up work in his very early age. He started learning how to cook while working and started a hotel in Bengaluru, but due to various reasons he had to shut shop in Bengaluru and migrate to Coimbatore where he started small by selling vegetables. Gradually, in 1983 he started a small-scale catering service. In 20 years since then, he has brought up the business manifolds.
What are your two cents for young people who want to be entrepreneurs like you?
I am a big believer in constant learning and upgrading one’s skills. You should always pursue your passions, that’s when you will be able to concentrate. I always advice people to do what they love, and to learn every aspect of the skill that you want to pursue. You should always take time to learn the industry of your choice and see if you can survive it. If not, then pick yourself up and start something new, but whatever you do you need to master it. There will be many road blocks and challenges, the main thing is to keep yourself updated with latest trends and happenings. For example, before being cast as a lead in Mehandi Circus, I did acting courses to bring myself up to takes this job. Even for my upcoming movies, I am attending courses and workshops to better myself and to deliver my finest.