HYDERABAD: Pista House, the restaurant chain known for its haleem and biryani, has been winning hearts and taste buds of customers with its mouth-watering dishes for more than two decades now. But, there’s a story waiting to be told: about how the brand has managed to dish out deliciousness consistently, making people go back to it for more.
Life hasn’t been a bed of roses for Mohammed Abdul Majeed, the owner of Pista House. He, along with his sons Mohd Abdul Mohsi and Mohd Mohddis Ali, speaks to CE about how the family has clawed its way back out of poverty — after losing all their wealth to a failed textile business — making their mark in the food industry not only in Hyderabad, but across the world.
Excerpts from the interview:
How did Pista House come into being?
We started Pista House in 1997. Before this, we had a textile business. But, in the same year, the way people sold clothes had changed; textile merchants from other States began to set up exhibitions here. This hit our business hard. That’s when we thought of venturing into the ever-bustling food sector. We opened our first outlet at Shalibanda, which came with a lot of ups and downs. There were times when I didn’t even have Rs 10 in my pocket. We had sold everything so as to return the money we had borrowed. We had a tough choice to make — to either helplessly migrate to another city or push harder and pursue an idea. God and our well-wishers were kind to us, and we did well.
What got you started on haleem?
We chanced upon the idea of making haleem (back then known only as a Saudi Arabian dish) and exporting it to the country. The kind of spices that we have here in India cannot be found elsewhere in the world. We experimented with various other dishes to curate a menu and that worked out well.
Tell us a little about the R&D that went into making it a well-known brand today.
We have changed our recipes several times; we worked on them for about two years. We ensured that people of all age groups gave us feedback. Taking them all into consideration, we made a few changes to prepare the kind of food and taste you have today. The then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was instrumental in helping us make use of the Postal Department to export haleem to different places across the world. Hyderabad had become famous for Pista House’s haleem and before we knew it, somebody in Delhi had started selling it using our name. That was what pushed us to seek and procure a geographical identity (GI) tag.
Today, our haleem is relished by the Khans of Bollywood — Salman and Shah Ruk Khan during Ramzan. We have 30 outlets in Hyderabad and hope to become world-famous soon. We’re banking on our outlets in the USA and Canada to help us achieve that. Our brand has generated employment for hundreds of people, and joy for millions of customers.
What are some of the challenges you faced along the way?
We worked nonstop, even at a time when one of my daughters was unwell. All I could do was give her a tablet as I couldn’t afford to take her to the doctor. A similar challenge came in the form of Covid-19 that struck my son’s health, our business and the staff too. We had to shut down everything, but despite that, I took care of my employees. I made up my mind and fed the homeless, and God has brought everything back to normalcy soon.
‘Want to open 100 branches in Hyd’
Do you worry about competition?
No, I don’t, because I haven’t seen anyone who does and offers what we do, yet.
What keeps you motivated?
The way people receive us and our food make me happy. Everyone has shown immense respect and I want to take this brand to greater heights. I aim to open 100 branches in Hyderabad and 1,000 in India. Food is never meant to be limited to one religion; our food has the whole of Hyderabad, the country
and globe enjoying it.
As a successful business in the food industry, what message do you give to start-ups?
Work honestly and always believe in serving fresh food to your customers.
Your favourite dish on the menu?
Mutton biryani and haleem.
What is new at Pista House?
We started selling Zafrani tea and fried chicken too, which have received a great response. We have a few others in the pipeline too.