How I got here: Arjun Varma

By Georgia Bronte contact

- Last updated on GMT

How I got here: Arjun Varma

Related tags: Restaurant, Catering, People

Arjun Varma founded the Indian restaurant Vama in Chelsea, as well as the V8 Gourmet restaurant group. His newest project, Indian restaurant Chakra in Kensington, is set to launch a major expansion drive.

Why restaurants?
I have always been passionate about creating brands that can compete on the national and international stage. Food played a part of my early childhood on North Carolina and Toronto and hence London seemed a perfect place to launch. The restaurant scene here, particularly in the last 10 to 15 years has become so vibrant and exciting with Indian restaurants coming up in leaps and bounds.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Juggling work life with family commitments can be a tricky balance! 

What do you do in your spare time?
Spend time with the family, our dog Ginny and play tennis and golf amongst many other sports.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
As I love Chinese and Pan Asian, the stable from Alan Yau being Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Wagamama, etc are my favourites. Then again, I appreciate all good food.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
Become a professional tennis player earlier on and then in sports management or ownership.

What motivates you?
A challenge and to create sustainable brands and businesses from an idea to fruition and see it come alive!

Where was your last holiday?
Like all summers, driving to Southern Austria and Croatia as we can’t leave Ginny behind. I love that part of the world.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Various over the past 20 years, at different stages of my career. My immediate family starting from my mother and then amazing Chefs like Andy Varma (my brother) Ritu Dalmia from India and the unique brands that started up in London like Wagamama , GBK, Cote , Ivy, Dishoom, etc. They are all very exciting brands.

What keeps you up at night?
Paying the staff salaries, rent, rates and statutory commitments. Having a good and loyal team is very important and one has to look after them. 

Worst business decision?
To sell the amazing brands I had developed over a 10 year period to an operator who could not manage them. It’s heart breaking to see that.

Best business decision?
To create Chakra as our new brand, following on from the above.

What are you reading at the moment?
Due to numerous work and family commitments I don’t get time to read much though The Sunday Times is always a good companion on a relaxing Sunday morning.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?

Be prepared to:

  1. Work crazy hours
  2. Forgo weekends and holidays
  3. Get a real buzz from achieving the targets and concepts
  4. Meet people who one would never in the normal scheme of work and interact with them let alone get close to them.
  5. Work with a great bunch of people from all walks of life.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Make the operating platform more business and entrepreneur friendly such as immigration for good chefs and managers from overseas. It’s an industry wide problem that needs to be addressed. Lowering the business rates , lowering VAT and providing incentives to businesses to create employment at the start up stage.

Born: Calcutta , India 1963
Education and/or training: BCom, BCom Hons, BBA , MBA in International Business and Finance
Companies worked for/founded:
1997 to 2008 – Vama Group , Co Founder and Operations Director, London
2008 to 2011 – V8 Gourmet encompassing Vama , Bombay Bicycle Club, Tiffinbites – Manging Director , London
2011 to Present – Chakra Group , Co-Founder and CEO encompassing Chakra Kensington, Chakra Riverside , Chakra Wimbledon , Chakra Events

Related topics: People, Profiles

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