Born in the family that owns the famed Pritam Group of Hotels in Mumbai’s Dadar, Abhayraj Kohli cut his teeth on the restaurant business at the hotel chain.
After completing his M Com from Mumbai University, Kohli, a fourth generation restaurateur, studied for a Master’s in Hospitality from Cornell University in New York. On his return in 2006, he launched Indyaki in Pune. Not just content with running the family hotel business, Kohli’s dream of running his own restaurant in Mumbai saw the launch of Bombay 72.
His success in Mumbai and Pune inspired him to collaborate with friends to start two ventures in Mumbai, Please Don’t Tell and The Roll Company. Soon he was out with his version of a gaming bar—MRP—My Regular Place which first opened in Mumbai and recently in Pune. In 2017, House of Lloyd came up in Juhu, Mumbai.
Inspired by his grandmother, Kohli launched Grandmama’s Café in 2015 on a shoe string budget with almost every item of furniture upcycled from restaurants previously run by the family. The popularity of the outlet saw them expanding to Lower Parel then Juhu, followed by Kemps Corner, and Chembur. Grandpa’s den, a travel-themed cocktail bar followed suit.
In his leisure time, Kohli loves to travel and explore local food which inspires him to make additions at his restaurants. He shares how he Thrives as he answers the Thrive questionnaire. Excerpts:
Thrive Global India: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Abhayraj Kohli: My mornings are spent mostly with my daughter, she leaves for school at 8.30 am so 7-8.30 is time with her.
TGI: How do you unplug and recharge?
AK: I love travelling and playing poker. These are the best ways of unplugging on a yearly and monthly basis.
TGI: What’s your favourite well-being tip?
AK: Yoga and gym on alternate days in the morning is my mantra and a keto diet for a month twice a year helps me to shed my extra festive weight.
TGI: Tell us about your relationship with your phone.
AK: I am inseparable from my phone as I have to be reachable to firefight issues, know what people are taking “good and bad” about my restaurants, watching the operations via CCTV etc. Basically the phone keeps me on top of my game
TGI: How do you deal with negativity on social media?
AK: Firstly, there is nothing like negative feedback, we always view it as constructive in nature and take every constructive remark seriously, discuss it over our weekly meetings and try our best to make improvements.
TGI: When was the last time you felt burned out?
AK: Last year we opened six restaurants at the end of which I felt exhausted, however, I still haven’t ever felt burnt out. The reason for that could also be that I love my work and its every facet.
TGI: What would you do on an ideal day?
AK: My ideal day would be one spent with family and friends over a lovely and exciting meal.
TGI: How much sleep do you generally get? Do you notice any change in your performance on the days of less sleep?
AK: Six-eight hours. If I don’t get enough sleep my immunity invariably goes down and I catch a cold instantly which can at times adversely affect my work performance.
TGI: How do you incorporate well-being into your daily life?
AK: My entire family is very fitness driven. Every morning I spend one hour at a minimum doing some form of workout be it yoga or weight training.
TGI: What benefit do these habits have on your ability to perform?
AK: I have more energy and definitely feel a lot more focused on the task at hand.