College days are all about dreaming about several things and wanting to make it big in the real world. “Let’s grow up and live together!” “Let’s grow up and start a company together” A lot of times, the best ideas tend to pop up at 3 am on a night of drinking. “Let’s grow up and open a bar together!” If you love alcohol, this idea has definitely crossed your mind at some point in time or the other. Our next set of #Forkers is a trio who actually made such an idea happen! Their teenage minds had this idea hovering in them since the time they were 18. And today, at the young age of 25, they have set up one of Pune’s most loved bars and have been running it successfully for the past six months. Yes, we are talking about none other than Elephant and Company and the boys who started it, Karan Khilnani, Anuj Solanki and Karan Kulkarni! Situated in the heart of Kalyani Nagar, Elephant and Company is essentially a cocktail-bar with some good food and music to go with. We got in touch with Karan Khilnani to get an insight into the journey so far.
1) How did Elephant and Company come into being? Did you always want to open a bar?
It all started with me working as a waiter for two years when I was 16. I earned a salary of Rs. 2000 a month but I really enjoyed the work so I kept doing it. That is what triggered it and by the time I was 18, I knew that opening a bar was what I wanted to do! Anuj, Karan and I studied hotel management together in IHM, Aurangabad and we happened to be roommates. We discussed the idea several times at Nandadeep, a tiny bar across the road where we would love to go have beers and unwind after a long day. By the time we graduated, the thought grew stronger and thereafter we never looked back.
2) What is the ideology behind the name Elephant and Company?
The name Elephant and Company entirely revolves around our guests. Irrespective of whether the guests come in for a quick beer or an elaborate cocktails session with food, our responsibility is to make them feel royal. People come out and spend money at bars because they want to feel special. Or they could just get a beer at home, right! The concept is that of ‘larger than life’. Our guests are, and always will be, the most important aspect of our bar for us.
3) What do you think is the one thing that every bar should have?
VIBE. And it’s the people of the place who play a major role in creating it.
4) What is the one thing that differentiates Elephant and Company from other bars?
We are a cocktail bar and are proud of the exquisite cocktail collection we have on our menu. We believe that taste is extremely important when it comes to both food and alcohol so we strive hard to always deliver the best. We also take our customers’ feedback very seriously and implement it. Customising things to give our customers exactly what they want is something that we don’t mind doing as long as they are happy. Not a lot of bars tend to do that.
5) Describe Elephant and Company in three words/phrases.
‘Ladies and gentlemen serve ladies and gentlemen!’ What I mean to say is that there is no position in this industry that is high or low. No task needs to be looked down upon. Unfortunately, in a country like India, the general notion is that maids and mothers are the ones who should be running the kitchen. But that is absolutely wrong and we, at Elephant, are trying to change that.
6) Who are Karan, Anuj and Karan when they are not behind the bar at Elephant and Co?
Honestly, when we’re not at the restaurant we really don’t know what else to do! We drink and sleep. Haha! This restaurant is our baby and it’s all we can think about. In fact, the restaurant keeps us so busy that we are from Mumbai but have managed to visit it only once during the last six months. We do like to travel to new places though because it exposes one to the world and opens up new perspectives.
7) What are the challenges that you faced being such young entrepreneurs?
People taking us seriously! Which is why I have the beard. Haha! Apart from that, we obviously don’t know everything about the business so we keep learning new things with every passing day. We do know a lot about food and drinks but the hospitality industry is huge and there is always scope for more.
8) Who do you think are your biggest competitors?
All of Pune city! We are not competing with any specific bar as such. The first six months when we came here we simply went around visiting different bars and exploring the market. Each place is great in its own way.
9) What is the weirdest/strangest/funniest incident that you have dealt with at this bar?
Well, the list is endless! Every day, there are all kinds of people that come here so there are crazy things happening all the time.
10) What is your take on food bloggers and the way food reviews hold so much significance in the restaurant industry today?
A lot of food bloggers exist in the industry but I feel like everybody is a food critique. Social media gives everyone a right to share their reviews and opinions. But bloggers do have the potential to make or break you. So they are important. I respect the certified bloggers and their views.
11) What is the one thing you would like to change about the restaurant industry in Pune?
Nothing. I think everybody has already upped their games and are very competitive with whatever they do and offer. This helps motivate us. We want to be everyone’s favourite neighbourhood bar, where they can walk in anytime they feel like.
12) A word of advice for chefs or budding entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry?
Get your experience right before telling somebody else to do something. Do it yourself, show them how it’s done and they will automatically learn.
13) Which is your favourite bar in Pune?
Euriska! Because of the hospitality. I love the vibe there.
14) Rate in order of your liking: Classic Rock Cafe, Little Door, Cafe Columbia, Mineority, Farzi Cafe
15) What is your favourite drink?
Amaretto Sour – It’s a whiskey-based cocktail.
Well, they say it is the people of the place that make a place what it is. This is definitely true for Elephant and Company and after reading this, you know exactly why!