Jayaram Banan’s second coming: North Indian veg hotel chain
Jayaram Banan

Jayaram Banan, founder of the Delhi-based South Indian food chains Sagar Ratna and Swagath, is turning a serial entrepreneur, albeit with a change in flavour. Banan is eyeing the North's large vegetarian population of Marwaris and Jains, with a new chain of restaurants called Shraman. It will serve food without adding garlic and onion. The first of such restaurants will be inaugurated in Delhi next week, The Economic Times reported.

VCCircle could not reach Banan for his comments.

In August 2011, Banan had sold a majority stake in his south Indian food chain Sagar Ratna Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. to private equity fund Indian Equity Partners (IEP) for about $40 million. IEP has also hired Arvind Nair as CEO of Sagar Ratna.

The minority owner Banan is still the chairman of Sagar Ratna, and it's not clear if IEP has any stake in the new venture. A text message to confirm the same to IEP Co-founder and managing director Gaurav Mathur went unanswered till the time of publishing this article.

Banan is also venturing into packaged snacks, pickles and ready-to-eat meals, which will be looked after by his son Roshan Banan, the ET reported. Packaged snacks, to be sold under JRB brand, will compete with Frito-Lay's and Haldiram's.

Earlier his JRB Group had diversified into hotel business as well, with Ocean Pearl, a 4-star hotel in Mangalore.

The Swagath chain presently has 11 restaurants, which the group intends to increase to 15 this year. The 26-year-old Sagar Ratna chain, which specialises in vegetarian south Indian cuisine, plans to open 50 outlets over the next one year through a combination of franchise and company-owned stores. Currently, it has 28 branches and 42 franchisee outlets, mostly in North India.

Restaurant space has been a favourite of Indian private equity investors. Specialty Foods Ltd attracted funding from SAIF Partners and recently listed on Indian stock exchanges. Mumbai based Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality Pvt. Ltd has raised PE funding from Beacon India Private Equity, while Delhi based Pan India Food Solutions Pvt Ltd has raised capital from Everstone Capital. In April this year, New Silk Route (NSR) invested an undisclosed amount in Bangalore-based south Indian food chain Vasudev Adiga's.

(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)

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