The Anjappar Story – Gopal Arumugam, the Entrepreneur Talks about the start, highs and lows
Toronto [Canada]: Gopal Arumugam is a self-made man, who achieved far greater success than his original circumstances would have indicated possible. He overcame great obstacles to achieve his goals and dreams while building a reputation for him, creating a community, and giving back to society in manifolds.
Born with a golden heart, Gopal has a zest to grow, contribute to society and had always been ambitious about his dreams. His passion for serving others and being of service is what inspired him to be who he is today.
So, what turned Gopal into a Success Story? In 1995, Gopal flew to Canada, back when there were very few Indians residing in the country. He went with no personal connections or relatives, sheer willpower guiding him. The driving force that made him choose Canada was it being known as the ‘land of opportunities.’ No one could predict that he would not only go on to live here but also build his empire in unknown lands.
Initially, Gopal struggled to get jobs and had to begin from scratch. He had completed his graduation in BSc (Agriculture) from India. However, he found his first job in Toronto, Canada at a Gas Station. Through years of hard work and determination, he became the owner of a downtown Gas Station in 1999. In a short time, he was recognized as the No.1 fuel provider for all Shell Gas Stations across Canada.
However, his ancestors came from a business background, he wanted to build and contribute further to the entrepreneurial space. Gopal’s passion for food and providing quality ethnic food to the Diasporas, got him to venture and look into restaurant businesses. When the first South Indian restaurant chain opened up at a location in Toronto in 2002, it caught Gopal’s attention. Following that in 2004, the first Anjappar restaurant location was floated in Scarborough, Canada. Gopal, who was a frequent customer of that restaurant, took over that restaurant which was ailing and turned it around to be a successful profitable business.
On New Year’s Eve of 2005, Gopal met Mr. Rangaswamy (co-founder of Anjappar chain of restaurants) and connected with him strongly. This became a defining moment for Gopal. Following the first location, Gopal opened another Anjappar restaurant in Brampton, ON in 2006. In 2008, Gopal opened up the first Anjappar Restaurant location in the United States of America in North Brunswick, New Jersey, followed by another location in Edison, New Jersey, and 1 in New York City. In 2010, he opened another outlet in Mississauga. In 2018, Gopal took over the Coimbatore branch in India and later, opened another one at the foothills of Ooty, India.
On being asked about the key secret for the success of his ethnic Restaurant business, he shares training Anjappar employees and chefs. The hardest part is making sure that they don’t feel lonely, having left their families behind in India. Gopal has supported over 6 chefs to get their legal Permanent Resident status in Canada. He does not think of them as his employees but considers them to be his own family. He is aware of each of their stories, struggles, and successes, and has been strong emotional support, guiding them to be successful in their lives. Gopal has made his employees’ welfare the most important aspect of his business – Happy Employees, Happy Customers, and Successful Business!!!
So what works best for restaurants? Gopal believes that good taste, consistency, and customer service are the 3 essential secrets to running a restaurant well. All the ingredients used in his restaurants are imported directly from India to maintain authenticity and original flavors. They cook fresh food every day, at all the Anjappar outlets, to maintain the quality and freshness. He concedes that such practices can lead to higher expenses and increased pricing, but he is not willing to compromise on the quality they serve. Gopal recognizes that stress from operations and finance is an obvious part of any business. But when it comes to Anjappar, at the end of the day, when his customers are satisfied and happy, it makes him happy too. Gopal feels like his guests have come over for dinner and he finds great delight and pleasure in serving them.
A lot of Indian celebrities – all the way from politics to movies and other entertainment industries have never missed visiting Anjappar and cherish Gopal’s hospitality. He is popular for giving them a home away from home dining experience and has ensured that they never missed anything while they are here in Canada to entertain the diaspora.
There are always challenges associated with running an ethnic restaurant in a foreign country – they need to maintain authentic taste and experience, no matter where they are. As an Entrepreneur, Gopal believes in giving his full to the business, all the time has contributed to his success. The results while growing a business are always unpredictable. But if the passion is there, then it would be an easy sail.
On being asked about the COVID-19 situation, Gopal agreed that it has been a difficult period for all businesses. For Anjappar, the challenge has been to run all his locations as take-outs with all the COVID restrictions in place. But with the loyalty of his customers and his employees, all his businesses are thriving through this pandemic. Besides, the Anjappar location in Coimbatore has been distributing free food to the needy, sending food to hospitals, and cooking meals for the local policemen who are serving during these challenging times.
It is no wonder then that Anjappar has received love worldwide and Anjappar Canada has been bestowed with the following titles:
“First South Indian Cuisine In Toronto,”
“Best Chettinad Cuisine In Toronto,” and
“Top Three Indian Restaurants In Toronto.”
Beyond service during these hard times, Anjappar has also been involved in regular Community Outreach and CSR activities across the globe – countries India, Sri Lanka, Phillippines, and Panama.
Gopal considers the main core value that has led to his success as “Trust”. Trust in self, trust in others – besides giving more than a 100% towards one’s dreams. His 3 main life principles are: “Do what you think is right, be positive and never give up. Success will always be by your side.” “Foresee the future; be in it for the long term.” “Always think about the customers first, and never compromise.”
At a time when most of us are stuck inside, unable to do anything, this eminent patron is doing everything in his power for those who need help. Gopal is pooling his staff, resources, and networks to help others all around the globe, as well as in Canada. By Mid-May of 2021 over 500 packets of food are being distributed to hundreds of needy people per day!
The world is changing and we are finally recognizing the Real Heroes living amongst us!