Shyam Sunder Aggarwal. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
When we call on the landline of the Bikanervala office in Delhi, we are greeted with a call-wait tune: ‘Namkeen ke shaukeen ko, is baat ka aitebaar hai/ Bikano mazedar hai’, sung in the tune of the Kaho Na Pyaar Hai title track. Past the entire chorus, a secretary connects us to Shyam Sundar Aggarwal, co-founder of 67-year-old Bikanervala halwai shop.
One of six siblings, the 63-year-old moved to Delhi from Bikaner to join his father Juggal Kishore Aggarwal and uncle Satyanarayan Aggarwal to help out in the mithai-farsan shop at Chandni Chowk, that they had set up in 1950. “My father had told me, ‘padhai karo, ya kaam’ (either you study or you work). So, I found myself in the factory making kaju barfis, rasgulla, bhujia and samosas from 6 am to 10 pm,” he says. Six brothers and cousins from five uncles are involved in the business, manning 71 outlets spread across the globe including Dubai, New Zealand, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Delhi.
The kitchen starts early at 8 am. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Their latest offering is a swanky, three-storeyed mithai-farsan shop and restaurant in Vashi. Here, you’ll find 30-40 varieties of Bengali sweets, dry-fruit sweets, pedhas, ghee mithais, packed dry snacks under their brand Bikano and a vegetarian menu that covers Chinese, South Indian and North Indian cuisine. The desi ghee ke laddoo are their specialty, we are told.
At the store and restaurant sprawled across 8,000 square feet, their bestsellers include matthis, pethas and sonpapdis. “We have not tweaked the food menu for Maharashtra. We want them to try our version of the pani puri, pav bhaji and chaats,” laughs Shyam Sunder.
When we ask what took them so long, he is prompt in his response: “Aapne bulaya nahi (You didn’t invite us). But, the response is overwhelming already. At the launch people asked me the same question.”
One of the delicious treats available at the shop.
While his younger son mans the Dubai store, his elder son Manish handles operations in India. He took his time to join his father in 2000, taking the liberty to study hotel management in Australia. This year, Manish helped him launch the Bikanervala Boutique Hotel at Banjara Hills in Hyderabad.With a ‘250 crore budget plan for the next three years, by June, the company plans to open outlets in Jaipur, Singapore and the US. And after that, they will make a foray into the UK, Australia, Canada and Bangkok. “I knew I wanted to join the family business, but I wanted to gain experience first. This is our first outlet in the city, but we won’t stop here,” says the 39-year-old. “We have been doing well in North India and have had plans of setting up shop abroad too. When the right opportunity came, we grabbed it,” he says.
At all their outlets, Shyam stresses, the focus remains quality – the kesar comes from Kashmir, and cashew nuts from Goa. Till date, he makes regular visits to the factories. “I worked as a karigar for five years at the start of my career, so I can tell what is wrong. My forefathers were halwais for 100 years before we set up Bikanervala in Delhi. We are carrying on the artist legacy of food,” he signs off with pride.