NEW DELHI: Happiness rings in their voices as Dinesh and Pooja Arora – owners of Unplugged Courtyard and La Roca – narrate their story, over the phone. “We were in school when we met at a wedding in 1992. It started off as a friendship that bloomed into love,” says Dinesh, 44. They could only meet during Pooja’s 10-minute tuition break, and so Dinesh would make sure to reach Ashok Nagar from Rajouri Garden in time to spend those minutes with her. “I was in Class 9, and he was in Class 12.
It was a ‘no mobile’ era. So we fixed the timings for landline calls, keeping in mind our parents’ walk timings,” recalls Pooja, 41. They got more time to spend together when Pooja entered college. “Dinesh was adamant on getting married as soon as possible. He came to me one day and straightforwardly said: ‘Mujhe tere se shaadi karni hai. Tu apne ghar baat karle kaise karna hai (I want to marry you. Talk to your family and decide how can we go about it.). His family was okay about us getting married, but my dad wanted me to first concentrate on my career,” says Pooja.
Love and persistence triumphed, and they got married in 1999. “I was just 20. I took my final year exams after the wedding, when I was five months pregnant,” she reminisces. The same year they married, Dinesh ventured into the garment business till one day in 2008, he announced his desire to venture into the F&B industry. “It was shocking for Pooja and the family because our kids were growing up. But I took a bold step at that time. In 2009, I took the franchisee of Pind Baluchi. Being new to the business, I learnt the tricks of the trade at one of their outlets,” says Dinesh, admitting that the first year was tough, and that Pooja held it all together.
Things picked up when the couple started travelling overseas. “We brought back a lot of international concepts here. My first brand was Elf Bar in Hauz Khas. Then, I went on to establish other brands such as Tourist, Bombay Bar; Lights, Camera, Action; some of which were sealed following SC guidelines,” adds Dinesh. The couple now plans to open Unplugged Courtyard outlets in eight cities, including Lucknow, Kolkata, Kanpur, Agra and Jaipur. For the past two years, Pooja has been at the forefront. “Earlier, I was behind the scene, but now we are shoulder-to-shoulder, which, I think, is more enjoyable, as I get to meet new people every day. He always respects my individuality. While Dinesh is involved in every aspect, I take care of the marketing, social media and designing, and do weekly random checks at the outlets,” she says. Both follow different routines.
“I wake up at 5:30am to send my younger kid to school. Then I go back to sleep again and wake up at 10, get ready for work, and I am back by 5:00pm. Dinesh is more ‘ank khuli aur office chalo’ (he wants to leave for office the moment he opens his eyes),” laughs Pooja. “We play badminton and love going for walks, apart from vacations,” she says. “And I never party without her”, Dinesh quips, adding, “We are together every Friday and Saturday, and discuss the innovations we can make to increase the footfall and make the service better.” For Pooja, lockdown has proven to be a boon. “For 18 years, I have been begging him to make bed tea. He is finally doing it now, and I love it because he makes better tea than me,” she concludes.
ONE THING YOU LIKE ABOUT HIM
He accepts change quickly.
ONE THING YOU LIKE ABOUT HER
She is very calm.
He can sleep for hours and hours in a row. During the lockdown, he worked for 36 hours, and then slept
for 16 hours straight.
She is always up for shopping.