Sunday, 25 August 2013

The first hotels of Bangalore

Bangalore is known as City of Darshinis and almost every busy street and road has a darshini or two. One of the earliest Darshini to come up in Bangalore is the Uphara Darshini on DVG Road in Basavanagudi.
Since then, Darshinis have mushroomed in every nook and corner and today there are no less than 5,000 of them. Some have a chain of Darshinis such as Adigas, Sukh Sagar, Woodys, while a majority are stand alone eat outs.
The Darshinis are essentially fast food joints that generally serve hot Indian cuisine and some have also specialised in north India, north Karnataka, Chinese and Jain dishes. However, it must be noted that Darshinis are of recent origin though Bangalore had hotels and restaurants going back to the closing years of the nineteenth century.
While many people go on and on about how and when West End and Windsor Manor and other hotels and eateries in the Bangalore Civil and Military Station or Cantonment came up, they tend to forget that the Pete or Peetah area or Old Bangalore too had its first brush with hotels around the same time and that they too had a romantic tale to narrate.
It is generally believed that the eateries first came to Bangalore when the city had a plague epidemic in 1898. The plague saw people emptying themselves out of Bangalore in thousands and many houses became deserted.
People in many homes were left to fend for themselves and in thousands of house holds women went out of Bangalore taking away children and the aged. Able bodied people and youth left behind were left to fend for themselves and while many managed to cook, others had to depend on someone for their daily food.
The Bangalore Municipality set up free boarding and lunch homes but they proved to be inadequate. Besides, the rich and orthodox refused to partake food with the rest of the populace as they felt it beneath their dignity to mix with people of other religion and other classes.
It was then that many entrepreneurs hit upon the idea of starting exclusive eating out joints. Sometime in 1898 itself, Avani Narsing Rao started perhaps the first hotel in Bangalore. The hotel came up at the Doddapet-Chickpet circle and it was a small establishment that offered limited food to people.
The hotel soon caught the fancy of people who flocked to it. However, very few women dared to come to hotels and those that came had a quick bite before bolting away. When the new establishment began making profits, another Bangalorean, Venkanna, set up a hotel a little away on Arcot Srinivasacharya Street.
Venkanna’s hotel was slightly different from Rao’s eatery in the sense that people had to reserve seats in advance. However, the first modern hotel and the true beginnings of hotel industry in Bangalore came when K.T. Appanna (1884-1962) set up his hotel in the Pete area.
Appanna was a man with a shrewd business sense and he quickly cahsed in on the demand from people for cheap and good food. His hotel served meals for two annas. He also began the practice of preparing fried south Indian dishes like bondas in the evening.
Even as the pete area began expanding, hotels also came to be set up in Cantonment area. The hotels in Cantonment primarily catered to Britishers, Europeans and aristocratic and rich Indians and they were out of bounds for natives and for a majority of  people living in the Pete.
When Sir M. Visvesvaraya took over as Dewan of Mysore in 1912, he decided to industralise the Mysore Kingdom and his motto was “Industralise or perish”. He recognized the importance of the hospitality sector and urged people to open more hotels in Bangalore ands Mysore.  
He personally took the initiative to give a fillip to the hotel industry and directed the Mysore Government to promote the industry by giving several sops such as subsidy, loans, low rate of interest and in some cases even business loans.
One of the first people to realise that hotels could be a gold mine was Kolar Thirumalaswami Appanna.  He was one of the thousands of people in Bangalore who were affected by the plague. Appanna had lost his father in 1898 and the burden of running the family fell on him.
Not skilled in any trade and not having the finance to start any other business, Appanna hit upon the idea of starting a hotel. He approached his neighbour, Ramaiah and his maternal uncle and took a loan from them. The same year, he opened his eatery which he named as Hindu Coffee Club and this was also in Chickpet.
Appanna’s mother helped him in running the new venture. The Club;s popularity as the best eat out in Bangalore soared when Appanna decided to add south Indian dishes to the menu. The hotel soon became crowded and earned a name for itself as one of the best eating joints of the Pete.
With crowds streaming in at the club, Appanna decided to provide comfort to his customers. He introduced for the first time the concept of chairs and tables, cups and seated his customers. Coffee was served in cups and saucers and soon they became a hit with the customers.
Till then, people had to either squat or stand to eat and drink coffee. The seating pattern of Appanna’s hotel worked so well that large crowds thronged to his eatery. When other eateries spied his innovation, Appanna decided to serve meals at affordable rates f two annas. Students and visitors to Bangalore flocked to have the meals.     
Very soon, Appanna’s business acumen caught the attention of the Mysore Government, including Dewan Visvesvaraiah. By then, Appanna had taken up catering to visitors to the Bangalore City Railway Station where he opened an eatery in 1905.
Then came the landmark Modern Hindu Hotel in 1916. Appanna started it after encouragement from Visvesvaraiah and the then Wodeyar King.   
The Modern Hindu Hotel became the first eatery to cater to people of all communities and religion. Soon Modern Hindu Hotels came up in Mysore and Ootacamund.
Appanna died in 1962 and today Bangalore celebrates October 10 as Hoteliers Day. That was the day when Appanna was born.
Today, setting up eateries is reckoned to be one of the easiest ways to make money. This is what people think when they see even road side vendors and push cart sellers making a profit.
What they seems to forget is the services of  Avani Narsing Rao, Venkanna and  Appanna in starting out hotels and the role of Sir M. Visvesvaraiah in encouraging hotels and restaurants in Bangalore and Mysore.

No wonder, Bangalore today is overflowing with hotels, restaurants, Darshinis, bakeries and motels and the credit for this must go to these three early entrepreneurs and Sir M.V.    

3 comments:

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