Expat Entrepreneurs: Bringing The Taste of Delhi to Brno – The Story of Namaskar

Melis Karabulut’s series profiles some of Brno’s foreign entrepreneurs to explore the challenges of running a business in a foreign country. This week, she spoke to Krishan Gopal, owner of two Indian restaurants in Brno and another in Bohemia. Photo credit: MK / BD.

Whether it’s your personal taste or not, we all know that Asian food has theprominent place in the Czech Republic’s international culinary scene. But while the choice and variety of Asian food is increasing in Brno and across the whole country, you might be struggling to finding the authentic taste that belongs to its people. Just as I was searching for that authenticity and an inspiring story, Krishan Gopal gave me a warm Namaskar at his restaurant on the corner of Smetanova and Veveří, where he shares the spice and taste of Delhi with his customers. His assistants Akhil Mahajan and Dilshad Shaik, a couple, were there to contribute their insights as well.

Mr. Gopal is yet another dedicated entrepreneur that I have met who has an enduring strength and a very positive mindset against all troubles in business and in life. He is the owner of one Namaskar restaurant in Příbram, a small town in Bohemia, and two other Namaskar restaurants in Brno, soon to open his third. While he has so far succeeded in his endeavors in the restaurant business, like many others, he has been through sunny and rainy days.

Inside Namaskar. Photo credit: MK / BD.

Back in the day, when he was working as a chef at a restaurant in India, he didn’t have any intention or idea of moving abroad. In 2010 his life changed when a friend offered him a job opportunity in Brno, which he accepted. Mr. Gopal was renowned as a successful cook, which allowed him to work at several different restaurants in the city. He helped more and more Indian restaurants to flourish here, and offered his help with the menus, design and concept. Later on, he decided to open up his first restaurant in Příbram, to bring Indian culture and cuisine to a different place. Initially, however, his business did not thrive there, as there was more demand for international food in cosmopolitan cities like Prague or Brno.

He then decided to continue his business dreams in Brno. As the years went by, with hard work and dedication, he managed to open two more restaurants, one in Židenice, one in Veveří, soon to be joined by one in Nove Sady and hopefully one in Austria in the near future. He is the proud owner and still the head chef of these restaurants. Even though he gets help from his people, Mr. Gopal is working more than 12 hours a day to manage 14 employees, keeping track of his kitchens to make sure that the food remains authentic to Delhi, while he fulfills his husband and father duties to his Czech wife and 18-month-old baby. While he has a lot of responsibilities in his daily life, he gets joy from these, and the burden and tiredness goes away. “Taking care of my business and my people is my ‘time for myself’,” he says, “I feel the happiest when I share my food with others, it gives me the life satisfaction I need. This way the workload does not bother me at all.”

Mr. Gopal is always trying to create a welcoming environment in his restaurants. Photo credit: MK / BD.

The 37-year-old business owner tells me that he named his restaurants “Namaskar” (“hello” in Hindi and other languages) as he usually welcomes his customers with that word and would like to create a welcoming environment. On the other hand, his fourth restaurant in Nove Sady will be called Delhi 6, as a reminder of his hometown. “All of my restaurants have the traditional Indian food that we are proud of, and so will Delhi 6. We are also planning to serve some grab-and-go food there, which is our new initiative. As Delhi is a crowded town and our capital, people usually don’t have time to sit down and eat as they rush to work; so they just grab a quick bite to eat on the commute or at the office. We will bring some specialities that would serve this aim, as Brno is growing and getting busier as well,” he says.

In addition to the restaurant business, Mr. Gopal sells Indian food at festivals and also organizes Indian celebrations with his friend Akhil, such as Diwali and Holi. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they were able to gather hundreds of expats from India and all over the world to join their events, where they served the Indian food as the Indians like it – spicy! “The Indian level of spiciness may not be for everyone, but people always like our food and they are interested in our culture, and are happy to experience a piece of it,” says Akhil. They tell me that these celebrations are always so much fun, as people perform their talents, sing, dance, pray, get colorful, eat and cherish the culture. They are keeping their fingers crossed for the next Holi celebration on March 19th.

India’s brightly-coloured Holi celebrations in Brno. Photo credit: Akhil Mahajan.

With almost 20 years of cooking experience, Mr. Gopal has been working hard on improving his recipes through the years and serving with consistent quality. Once a week, he cooks at his restaurants to keep his cooking muscles trained and to quality-check the kitchens. His spices and rice are imported through European vendors with connections to India, and he does not hesitate to spend extra money on getting the real ingredients. “I care a lot about quality, and I believe that mine is among the best Indian rice in Brno!” he says. Even though the Indian food in Central Europe needs to be cooked with less oil and spices due to the customers’ taste, Mr. Gopal puts effort into keeping his recipes as genuine to India as possible. His Butter Chicken, Korma and Vegetarian Kofta are some of the most popular dishes.

Mr. Gopal puts effort into keeping his recipes as genuine to India as possible. Photo credit: MK / BD.

He tells me that the majority of his customers are regulars who have been visiting his restaurants for years. The reason for that is his friendly and generous approach to customers, which is another Indian value that he enjoys maintaining. “In India, restaurant owners offer surprise discounts, free soup, drinks or dessert to customers to show kindness, and to keep them coming back. This makes the customer feel valued. I keep the same tradition here, as I would like my customers to get the real experience. It has actually proven so well, it has given me regular customers and friends. Many of my friends in Brno were once my customers, and now we do things together, help each other out, and have fun. Thanks to that I found a new family here,” he says, while Akhil and Dilshad agree with a smile.

Mr. Gopal (centre) with his assistants Akhil and Dilshad. Photo credit: MK / BD.

Mr. Gopal adds that this friendly service cannot be experienced through delivery services. “When COVID-19 hit, in order to allow my businesses to survive, of course I had to build partnerships with delivery services. Regardless of the government support, this was the only option. My regular customers kept on supporting me, but as we lost the busy lunch hours when we served many people in the premises, our business suffered. Even though this partnership is essential, it leaves us with little profit. Almost 40% of what we charge the customer goes to the delivery service. Considering the other costs such as getting the ingredients, cooking, paying the employees, rent, and bills, I can honestly say that our profit is around 15%. At the same time, since Indian food is saucy, there is a high possibility that the customer gets a food package with the food spilled all over. Even though we try our best to pack the food nicely, sometimes it is unavoidable as the couriers travel around the city. This creates dissatisfaction, and we have to cover for the damage. As we want to be known for the quality of our food and our generous service, we would like to invite customers to visit us at Namaskar.” He underlines that even though his business is getting back on track compared to last year, he would appreciate seeing more expat customers visiting Namaskar.

You can get a taste of Delhi’s renowned chef in Brno on Táborská 456/157 or 341/3 Smetanova, open from 11am to 10pm on weekdays, while weekend hours may vary.

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