From IT Startup to Dhokla Empire: The ‘Mr Dhokla’ Founders’ Inspiring Journey

In their resolute pursuit of establishing a Dhokla business, the founding team of ‘Mr. Dhokla’ shared a determined commitment to their craft. This dedicated group consisted of not only the founders themselves but also their parents, siblings, and in-laws. Together, they embarked on their culinary venture, commencing their workday as early as 4 am.

The ardent endeavor to create and sell Dhokla from the confines of their home initially faced a challenge—a challenge that came in the form of the clattering of utensils in the early hours of the morning. This resulted in disquiet amongst their neighbors, who voiced their grievances about the noise. Some even went so far as to request their eviction from the premises. However, their landlord emerged as a pivotal ally during this trying period, offering unwavering support and ensuring that their tenancy remained unaffected.

One of the most significant hurdles the team encountered during their Dhokla-making venture was the absence of a dedicated rice-grinding machine. Given their limited financial resources at the time, procuring one seemed unattainable. Undeterred by the lack of specialized equipment, they resorted to resourcefulness, using a juice machine to grind the rice and prepare the Dhokla.

In an insightful interview with ‘Divya Bhaskar,’ the visionary founders of ‘Mr. Dhokla,’ Mr. Sameer Kalasaria and Mr. Sohan Kalasaria, shared the remarkable journey of their Dhokla business. What began as a humble venture with a meager profit of 2 rupees has now proliferated to reach every nook and cranny of Surat. The story is not only one of culinary success but also of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation.

The entrepreneurial voyage was marked by a pivotal decision when the younger brother, previously engaged in the IT sector, joined hands with his sibling to expand the Dhokla business. This move highlighted the potential and growth prospects of their venture, propelling them to new heights.

The early stages of their business journey were characterized by door-to-door sales of Dhokla, an operation that relied on the use of bikes for distribution. As the business flourished, they saw an opportunity to further expand and diversify their operations, leading to the establishment of franchise outlets.

What sets ‘Mr. Dhokla’ apart is not just the reach of their business but also the exceptional taste and quality of their product. Their secret ingredient, which has captured the hearts of the Surtis, remains a closely guarded trade secret. This dedication to culinary excellence has endeared them to a growing customer base.

Mr. Dhokla Founders

Even if There is a Drought, the People of Surati Will Still Need This

Mr. Sameer Kalasaria’s journey is a testament to his unwavering determination and resilience, despite his limited formal education. He candidly shared that his educational journey was interrupted, having only completed his studies up to class 10. The financial constraints at home, with his father earning a modest income of 8-10 thousand rupees, made it impractical to afford education expenses for all three brothers.

To support his family and contribute to their well-being, Mr. Sameer Kalasaria made a pivotal decision to take a gap after completing his 10th grade and entered the diamond industry. He honed his skills as a diamond cutter, a profession that he pursued for a span of 4-5 years. However, his heart was not entirely invested in this vocation, and he harbored a latent desire to explore entrepreneurship.

Subsequently, he ventured into the dairy business, establishing a milk dairy. However, after three years of operation, circumstances beyond his control forced him to close this venture. Undaunted by this setback, he returned to diamond cutting as a means of livelihood.

It was during this phase of his life that the idea of starting a Dhokla business took root. Mr. Sameer Kalasaria recognized the enduring popularity of Dhokla and Khaman in Surat. He astutely noted that these culinary delights held a special place in the hearts of the people of Surat, and their demand remained unwavering even in the face of adverse conditions, such as droughts.

Sameer Kalasaria Statement

Launched a Venture With a Profit of 2 Rupees

The inception of the business, led by Sameer Kalasaria and his father, was a modest affair, commencing in 2008 with a meager profit margin of 2 rupees. During the initial stages, they did not produce Dhokla themselves but rather sourced it from Sameer Kalasaria’s uncle. Subsequently, they sold this Dhokla in the Nafe market at the remarkably low price of 2 rupees per kilogram.

For a span of two years, they operated in this manner, procuring Dhokla from their uncle and distributing it in the market. However, during this time, a realization dawned upon them—that crafting Dhokla themselves could yield a more substantial profit. Despite their lack of expertise in Dhokla production, they embarked on the journey of learning how to make it.

The initial attempts were marked by inexperience and a learning curve. They persevered, adopting a trial-and-error approach to perfect their craft. It wasn’t uncommon for them to discard batches of Dhokla due to inconsistencies and imperfections in their early endeavors.

This phase of experimentation and dedication to learning and improving their Dhokla-making skills set the foundation for their future success. The story of Sameer Kalasaria and his father reflects their willingness to take risks and their commitment to mastering their craft, even when the odds seemed unfavorable. Their journey from sourcing Dhokla to eventually creating it themselves is a testament to their entrepreneurial spirit and their relentless pursuit of excellence in the culinary domain.

Established From a 10×10 Shop and Now Operates Franchises

Sameer Kalasaria’s unwavering dedication and commitment to his business venture have been the driving forces behind its growth and success. He shared insights into his daily routine, emphasizing the rigorous work ethic that propelled their business forward. Beginning their workday at 4 o’clock in the morning, they diligently completed their tasks by 6 o’clock. Following this, Sameer and his father embarked on their bikes, loaded with all the necessary supplies, to commence their business operations.

In the early days, their enterprise was housed within a compact 10×10 shop. Over time, as their business flourished and the demand for their Dhokla continued to rise, they expanded their shop to accommodate the increasing customer base. Their growth trajectory was marked by a gradual progression, which included the addition of staff members to help manage the burgeoning business.

However, challenges arose as Sameer faced health issues related to his legs, necessitating an operation that significantly impacted his mobility. Recognizing the need for additional support, he made the crucial decision to invite his younger brother, Sohan, back from Ahmedabad in 2016. This move was instrumental in ensuring the continued success and sustainability of their thriving Dhokla business.

Sohan Kalasaria, who played a pivotal role in the establishment and growth of ‘Mr. Dhokla,’ has an interesting background worth noting. In 2014, Sohan completed his education in the field of Information Technology (IT) and embarked on a journey into the startup ecosystem within the IT sector, alongside a group of friends. However, despite their enthusiasm and efforts, the anticipated success eluded them.

Reflecting on this period, Sohan Kalasaria candidly shared, “The startup was good, and we were having fun, but financial success remained elusive, and investment was a pressing need.” To address this financial gap, he dedicated two years to earning money independently. Unfortunately, despite their dedication and financial investments, their IT venture failed to yield the desired results. This led to a dilemma where they were consistently contributing money without witnessing any substantial returns, creating a sense of frustration and disillusionment.

Moreover, during this challenging period, Sameer Kalasaria, his brother, faced health issues related to his ankle, necessitating a surgical procedure. This health setback prompted Sohan to reevaluate his priorities and recognize the necessity of his presence in the family’s Dhokla business, which was also undergoing a critical phase.

2016 Sohan Kalasaria’s ‘May I Come In…’

In 2016, Sohan Kalasaria, driven by his entrepreneurial spirit and prior startup experience, made a significant return to the world of business. Although circumstances had led him to leave the IT sector, his unwavering determination and commitment to his dreams remained intact, and he channeled these aspirations into the ‘Mr. Dhokla’ venture.

Sohan Kalasaria’s passion for entrepreneurship was evident in his desire to transform the traditional Dhokla business. Having previously ventured into startups and businesses in Ahmedabad, he recognized the importance of giving the Dhokla business a modern, high-tech makeover. He understood that merely selling Dhokla in conventional shops would not suffice if they aspired to establish ‘Mr. Dhokla’ as a recognized brand.

This forward-thinking approach highlights Sohan Kalasaria’s vision for the business, emphasizing the need for innovation and a contemporary touch in an industry that traditionally relied on conventional methods. By infusing technology and modern business strategies into the Dhokla business, they aimed to not only meet the evolving demands of the market but also to position ‘Mr. Dhokla’ as a brand that transcended traditional boundaries.

Mr. Dhokla' Was Derived

The Name ‘Mr. Dhokla’ Was Derived From This

The intriguing name ‘Mr. Dhokla’ was not chosen arbitrarily but was the result of careful consideration and a desire to create a memorable and attractive brand. Sohan Kalasaria shed light on the process behind selecting this distinctive name, stating, “I wanted to make a brand for the shop, and the most important aspect of establishing a brand is an eye-catching name.” To achieve this, they brainstormed several options, ultimately narrowing down their choices to four or five potential names.

Among these contenders, ‘Mr. Dhokla’ stood out and resonated with all involved in the decision-making process. The name possessed a certain allure and popularity that made it instantly captivating. Once the name was finalized, they wasted no time in securing the corresponding domain on the internet and creating a presence on various social media platforms.

Recognizing that simply selling conventional Dhokla wouldn’t suffice, ‘Mr. Dhokla’ embarked on a journey of diversification. They introduced a range of innovative Dhokla flavors and varieties to cater to a broader customer base. These offerings included ‘Sandwich Dhokla,’ ‘Sour-Mitha Dhokla’ to entice fans of Kathiawadi cuisine, and ‘Mexican and Italian Dhokla’ to capture the interest of younger consumers. This strategic move not only expanded their product line but also allowed them to cater to the evolving tastes and preferences of their clientele.

McDonald's in Gujarat

Are You Familiar With McDonald’s in Gujarat?

The ambitions of Sohan Kalasaria and Sameer Kalasaria, the founders of ‘Mr. Dhokla,’ extended far beyond merely establishing a Dhokla business. They aspired to create a brand that would be synonymous with quality and variety, and their vision was nothing short of making ‘Mr. Dhokla’ the ‘McDonald’s of Gujarat.’ This grand vision was underscored by their determination to offer customers a wide array of Dhokla varieties.

Their commitment to branding and creating an appealing interior for their first outlet was evident. The attention to detail and the attractive ‘logo’ and ‘interior’ design were so impressive that, even before the grand opening, people inquired whether ‘Mr. Dhokla’ was a franchise. This early response served as a testament to the power of effective branding and the rapidity with which a brand identity can be established.

However, while the branding efforts initially attracted attention and piqued curiosity, they also presented a challenge. Some prospective customers assumed that such an attractive shop would come at a premium cost, leading to hesitancy in visiting. Sohan Kalasaria and Sameer Kalasaria, mindful of this perception, were quick to clarify that ‘Mr. Dhokla’ offered its culinary delights at prices aligned with the norms of Surat, assuring customers that quality and affordability could coexist.

The decision of Sohan Kalasaria to transition from the IT sector to the Dhokla business undoubtedly drew varied reactions from relatives and friends. His choice to leave a seemingly promising IT startup for a culinary venture might have puzzled some. However, Sohan’s unwavering passion for the Dhokla business and his deep love for it outweighed any skepticism.

Sohan Kalasaria candidly shared that many people questioned his decision, asking why he would leave a lucrative IT business for something like Dhokla. This skepticism was a common sentiment among his relatives and friends. Despite the external doubts and inquiries, Sohan remained steadfast in his commitment to ‘Mr. Dhokla.’

For him, the fulfillment derived from running the Dhokla business and the positive response from customers became the ultimate rewards. Sohan’s perspective underscores the significance of pursuing one’s passion and being driven by a genuine love for one’s chosen endeavor, even in the face of societal expectations and conventional career paths.

Samir Kalasaria’s journey into the world of Dhokla started with a keen understanding of the basics. As a Surat native, he, like many others in the region, was aware of the traditional methods for preparing Dhokla at home. He possessed the knowledge of the essential measurements required to make 1 kg of Dhokla, serving as a foundational understanding of the culinary art.

However, the transition from making Dhokla for personal consumption to producing it for a shop brought its fair share of challenges. In the early days, they encountered difficulties where batches of Dhokla would occasionally go to waste due to inconsistencies in the preparation process. Nevertheless, with persistence and dedication, they honed their craft and achieved a level of consistency that they deemed to be the perfect size and taste.

Their commitment to delivering a consistent and satisfying culinary experience extended beyond mere uniformity. They recognized the diverse preferences of their customer base, taking into account the varying spice preferences of residents from different areas of Surat. With meticulous attention to detail, they crafted a Dhokla recipe that catered to a wide range of taste preferences. For instance, people from the Katargam side preferred a milder spice level, while those from Mahidharpara favored spicier variants. ‘Mr. Dhokla’ was able to strike a balance that appealed to both sets of customers, creating a signature taste that remains consistent across all their outlets.

Dhoklani Cake

Have You Ever Heard of ‘Dhoklani Cake’?

The ‘Dhoklani Cake’ from ‘Mr. Dhokla’ is indeed an innovative and unique culinary creation. This inventive fusion of two beloved food items, Dhokla and cake, has garnered significant attention and acclaim. It offers a delightful twist on traditional Dhokla preparation by presenting it in the form of a cake.

Sohan Kalasaria shared that since the introduction of the ‘Dhoklani Cake,’ they have received an overwhelmingly positive response from customers. This cake retains the appearance of a conventional cake but substitutes the typical cream and bread layers with layers of Dhokla. It is a culinary delight that combines the best of both worlds—a cake suitable for celebrations and a snack infused with the flavors of Dhokla.

The ‘Dhoklani Cake’ is a creative and versatile treat that has swiftly become a favorite among the residents of Surat, offering a unique and convenient option for various occasions. Its appeal lies in its ability to serve as both a cake for special events and a satisfying snack for everyday enjoyment, eliminating the need for a separate breakfast. This innovation exemplifies ‘Mr. Dhokla’s’ commitment to culinary experimentation and their dedication to crafting delectable and imaginative dishes for their customers to savor. It is indeed a culinary creation worth trying for those seeking a delightful fusion of flavors and textures.

Brothers-in-law Have Sweated Day and Night Without Seeing

The journey of ‘Mr. Dhokla’ to its current status as a household name in Surat has not been without its share of challenges and sacrifices. Sohan Kalasaria vividly recounts the trying times they faced, particularly during the early stages of their business. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented unforeseen challenges, and they found themselves navigating through a period of uncertainty.

During these difficult times, the core team of ‘Mr. Dhokla,’ consisting of Sohanbhai, his brother, and his sister-in-law, were dedicated to the business, sometimes working tirelessly across three different shops. Their commitment to ensuring the continuity and success of the business often meant that they spent months away from home, enduring the sweltering heat of the region. Preparing Dhokla at night in high temperatures even led to physical discomfort, with blisters forming on their bodies.

Yet, amidst these trials and hardships, the founders persevered. They remained unwavering in their determination to overcome challenges and steer ‘Mr. Dhokla’ towards growth. Their collective effort and resilience have been instrumental in the business’s sustained progress over the past year.

The growth of ‘Mr. Dhokla’ under the leadership of Sohan Kalasaria and Sameer Kalasaria was marked by rapid expansion, and they quickly established a significant presence in Surat. Their Dhokla had become a beloved culinary delight among the people of Surat, cementing their reputation as Dhokla Brothers.

However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought unforeseen challenges to their business. Like many others, they had to make difficult decisions, including temporarily closing three of their outlets. During this period, Sohanbhai and his team encountered a valuable lesson, which he candidly acknowledges as a mistake in their franchise model.

One of the key takeaways from this experience is the importance of thoroughly vetting potential franchisees and assessing their financial capability. Sohanbhai acknowledged their oversight in not checking the backgrounds and financial capacities of their franchisees. In retrospect, he recognized the significance of ensuring that franchisees have the financial resources to sustain the business for a minimum of six months, even if they do not immediately turn a profit. This foresight is essential to guarantee the long-term viability and success of the franchise.

Sohanbhai’s experience serves as a reminder to aspiring entrepreneurs and franchisors of the importance of due diligence when expanding through franchising. It emphasizes the need to carefully select franchisees who possess the financial stability and commitment necessary to weather unforeseen challenges and contribute to the growth of the brand.

Akash Shrivastav

My name is Akash Shrivastav, and I am a Blogger. I have 8 years of experience in blogging for Finance, Business, Investment, Stock Market, Cryptocurreny and more. Through my writing, I aim to provide readers with insightful and informative content.