One Bite Different Expressions: Suraj Bahirwani shares his journey leading to the father of buns, Papparoti

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In 2003, Papparoti opened their doors to customers in Malaysia, selling freshly baked, hot out of the oven roti buns, with their surfaces coated with a sweet caramelized coffee cream and a secret pocket of salted butter in the middle, making them irresistible to anyone who takes just one bite. The crisp, crunchy exterior and its hot, fluffy interior which is the perfect mix of sweet and salty keeps enthusiasts all over coming back for more. Papparoti is the perfect example of food binding different cultures together and thus perfectly fits in a multi-cultural country like India.

The buzzing neighbourhood of Lower Parel provided the perfect setting for Papparoti’s Mumbai outlet. During our time there, we caught up with Suraj Bahirwani, one of the India Licensee holders for Papparoti, who shared his exciting entrepreneurship journey with us, and some of the challenges he faced early on.

Upon completion of his schooling years in 1995, he moved to China in 1997, with just $500 dollars in his pocket. The language was a definite barrier, but having worked there for 5 years, he can now speak fluent Chinese.

The need to do something bigger in life resulted in him quitting his job, after which he travelled to remote villages in Nigeria to foray into the medicine industry, supplying medical and surgical equipments. When he quit, he was told that he’d never succeed, but he was determined to make it big. A two-year struggle and 20 hour work days got him recognition from various clients, who were impressed by his focus and determination. Today, his company Eternal Mark has 600 registered medical products in Africa itself, and supplies to governments in Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, Uganda and other parts, in addition to supplying products to India, with a Rs. 230 crore turnover.

He then set foot into another territory, supplying architectural hardware, and founded his second company Emcorp, with Godrej being one of his loyal clients even till today. On the opposite side of the spectrum, he then ventured into the F & B industry with NK Hospitality, which he founded with his friends Nitin and Kunal (hence the name ‘NK’). The trio travelled to Dubai where they sampled some of Papparoti’s world-famous buns, which Bahirwani says is an “advanced version of a bun maska”, something that Indians were already familiar with, yet an unchartered territory in the subcontinent.

However, their challenge lay in obtaining the franchising for Papparoti in India, especially with their non-existent F & B background. But their strong portfolio, consistency and focus got them through. Eventually, Papparoti was brought to Hyderabad, and a couple of outlets in other cities later, it finally reached the city of dreams.

“The buns are impossible to replicate, and the ingredients are specially flown in from Malaysia, where Papparoti was born. The staff is specially sent to Dubai and Malaysia for their training,” said Suraj. The mouth-watering buns come with a number of toppings such as Nutella, Caramel, Lotus, as well as savoury options like cheese. For their Indian menu, they’ve introduced pizza, wrap and sandwich options that are just as delicious. They also plan to further expand their menu to cater to the Indian palette.

With a knack for understanding the workings of a new industry, Suraj remains confident that this new venture will echo the success of his previous projects. He also reveals that in three to four years’ time, India will be home to 100 Papparoti outlets!