Nikhil & AB
Chalk and cheese
The head rules one, the other do as he please. One is vegan, the other loves his meats. Together they’ve travelled all the seven seas. Can there be a pair more opposite than these? Perhaps, perhaps not, but on this they do agree:
To share with you
Two years, and a whole lot else, separates the Brothers Gupta. What brings Nikhil and AB together is the promise of The Pizza Bakery. Here they are, riffing off each other, as only brothers can.
AB: He’s orderly and organised, and totally obsessed with details
Nikhil: He’s free-spirited, artistic, easy-going – in my face, all day, everyday
AB: No one can believe we’re brothers! We look so different. And I’m sporty. Nikhil is happiest staring at a screen, pottering about with gadgets…
Nikhil: We’re different, but similar in so many ways… And in this business, starting from scratch, we bring different strengths to the table.
AB: If we’re doing something, there’s a certain telepathy; we know what the other likes and wants.
Nikhil: When the decisions are risky, it’s important to be aligned. It’s very hard to imagine doing this with anyone else.
The best pizza ever?
Milan. Quaint little pizzerias dotting the streets, serving up simple Margheritas and Marinaras, and if AB was lucky, the occasional Parma. They discovered what authenticity meant, and passion. Just a few products, but the attention to detail, the whole vibe, was staggering.
Why Neapolitan? Why sourdough?
AB: When we started, sourdough was relatively unknown. Back then it was difficult to make, but has so much more flavour, and it looks amazing – slightly charred, seriously crusty… no one was dedicated to pizza then, and definitely not sourdough.
Nikhil: We experimented with a lot of styles – but after sourdough, it’s very difficult to go back to anything else. It’s a celebration. You’d maybe see it on the menu of the 5-star or mass chain – no one was heroing it.
When they started The Pizza Bakery in 2017…
Nikhil: My wife took orders, mum billed, we waited tables – we roped in anyone we could to help out, and were happy to see the restaurant full. There were no grand plans, no expectations. We weren’t even sure sourdough would work, and would go, table to table, explaining it. We started out with a staff of 12. We’re now at 300, and growing.
AB: How were we going to fill 60-70 seats? We didn’t anticipate Bangalore would have such potential – we started with nothing, and we’re hitting double digits with the number of outlets.
On what happened then, and what lies ahead.
Nikhil: We were clear from Day 1 – start with pizza – only expand when we were genuinely happy with the product, until we hit a level of quality and consistency, that people accept. We didn’t want to be bogged down by the traditional set-up. We wanted to use our lack of experience to advantage.
AB: We’re really enjoying the growth and the love we’re getting. We don’t want to be the typical VC-funded, scaled-to-be acquired story. This is a rapidly growing family business, and we enjoy operating independently.
Nikhil: The goal post keeps shifting, but the direction is clear, and the journey is important.
AB: Considering we hire people from all over India, I do wish he’d speak more than one language fluently…