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How Little India cooked a small business idea into a national chain

Indian-born Sukhill Gill and wife Joanna moved to Dunedin in 1986, where Ravensbourne locals grew to love their home-made curries. Now their business Little India has 17 restaurant franchises, a cookbook and some hot tips for carving a successful niche.

Why did you start the very first restaurant?

We owned a dairy and takeaway in Dunedin, initially a fish and chip shop. We introduced Indian food while my mother was visiting us from India. We were living on top of the dairy. My wife and my mother would cook a lamb curry on a Friday and we would sell this in the takeaway. It became very popular. That’s when I saw a gap in the market. The first Little India opened in Dunedin in July 1991.

When did you realise you were potentially on to something bigger?

The feedback was very positive from our patrons. People from out of town would encourage us to open in their city or town. That’s exactly what we did.

What have been the top ingredients for success?

Self-belief, lots of hard work and delivering what the customer wants.

What’s the Little India point of difference?

Our recipes come from my mother’s kitchen. Our food is prepared in the traditional way and is not changed to suit the local palate.

How do you market the brand?

The best marketing of the brand has been through word of mouth. Marketing has changed over the years and now we concentrate more on the web.

The biggest business lesson we’ve learned is…

Keep recreating ourselves whilst keeping our core values.

What tips do you have for anyone hoping to start a business in the hospitality space?

Proceed with caution!

Our philosophy at Little India is…

Ensuring our patrons are happy spending their hard earned money with us. That means quality, consistency and great service.

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