Brands do not have to be big always. Brands are not always multi-national or cross-continental. Brands can and do exist in smaller markets, carving a niche for themselves. Not many might know of the existence of a brand called Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani. If you are not a resident or a regular visitor of the state of Tamil Nadu, that is!
Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani is a chain of restaurants operating in the state of Tamil Nadu, known for their special non-vegetarian dishes. The brand was established in the year 1957 by Mr. Nagasamy Naidu under the name 'Anandha Vilas Biryani Hotel' in Dindigul near Madurai. Mr. Naidu always wore a turban or 'thalappa' as it is known in Tamil. The name thappakatti is derived from the turban-wearing owner, and over the years it became synonymous with his brand and the cuisine offered at his outlet. He was nicknamed "Thalappakatti Naidu".
Mr. Naidu, from the beginning, was bent upon making the most delicious and unique biryani in town. This was ensured by selection of high-quality ingredients which go into the making of the dish. Superior quality 'Seeraga Samba' rice, and high-quality chicken and meat are still used in the making of the trademark biryani. During the initial days, Mr. Naidu took great care in ensuring that the biryani always tasted the best, and was cooked by himself. Over the period of 50 years, the recipe and the meticulousness of selecting the right ingredients have been passed on to his family, and the authentic taste of Thalapppakatti Biryani still remains.
The unique taste and deliciousness of the biryani was well recognized by the people, and other dishes and the brand started becoming popular. The restaurant was frequented by former Chief Ministers of the state of Tamil Nadu, and many movie stars and celebrities over the years. One of my friends from the far north once visited me in Chennai, and as I asked him what he would like to eat, he said "MastBiryani Khilade, Tal-pa-khatte wali!!", with a wide-wide smile on his face. Later I got to know that he was told about the chain and the food by his brother who works in Coimbatore.
As the popularity of the brand began to rise, the chain started to expand within the state and now operates with 11 branches across four cities.
The restaurant places key importance on quality and taste. By ensuring this, and not compromising on it over the past fifty years, the name Thalappakatti has become synonymous with high-quality biryani. The name Thalappakatti has also been associated with many other chains, who wish to draw leverage out of the popularity. But Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani is the original Thalappakatti, and this is also reinstated by a public notice by their lawyer, on their website, that all others claiming to be the brand are false.
The brand is continuing expansion, and has been serving people from all strata of society, rich and poor, and delighting them with a uniqueness in an otherwise common product, by establishing and maintaining the highest standards of quality. They are also implementing a unique design language for the facade of all their outlets: another indication that the traditional family business has taken a more professional outlook. A lot can be learned from this fifty-year-old brand:
- High Quality always has takers
- Consistency is the key
- A person can be a brand ambassador without being a celebrity
- Over a period of time, with consistency, and excellence, the person can be the brand
- Once the message reaches out to the people, they look for you
- Once the people come to you, and are delighted, they keep coming back
- You do not have to expand throughout a country to leave an impression
For regularly making the foodie in me happy, and similarly many food lovers across the state, for selecting a niche and bringing excellence to it, for standing the test of time, and for cleverly adding to the product portfolio, and for wisely expanding presence only within the state (thereby not diluting the brand), Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani wins a round of roaring applause from me!
Image Credit: Clubnoor