Giving up on a successful career midstream and retiring to Goa, to start a restaurant or a bar, is a common fantasy. Meet some men who have actually done it.

Sunder Aaron

Partner at Pizza Mia and Chicken Man

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Aaron gave up a successful career in television, working with Sony Pictures in Los Angeles and Mumbai, where he launched their English channels PIX and AXN. Eventually, he quit Sony and moved to Goa a year later.

Having felt a gap in the market for quality fast food, he got together with some others and launched Chicken Man, a rotisserie chicken specialty outlet in Panjim. Soon, other locations followed, and now Chicken Man is ready to spread its wings beyond Goa. Pizza Mia, a New York style pizzeria, opened in Panjim as well. This time, a bar and gelateria were attached. Similarly, new outlets cropped up in other locations, with home delivery as a key part of the business model. Here’s what Sunder has to say about his serial restaurateur success.

What I love about Goa and running a business here

We decided to incubate our QSR brands in Goa because of the low cost structure. While there are other challenges that don’t exist in Mumbai or the other major metros (labour pool, low population density) we were correct about the low cost compared to Mumbai to get the brand up and running, and then to proof them. Now we are at an inflection point, and are excited to take the brands into the major metros. Of course, another thing to love about running a business in Goa is the option to reward yourself by taking a trip to the beach after a particularly hectic run of days!

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What it takes to succeed

It takes failure to succeed. There’s nothing like experience, and through the bad experiences, that’s when your mettle is made, your soul is formed. Challenges strengthen your resolve and sharpen your skills. They also tune your instincts and make you pragmatic enough to know what a business requires.

Address: No. G-2, Nizmar Centre, Dr. A.B Road, Off 18th June Road, Near EDC Complex, Panjim.

Phone: 0832 242 3333


Gaurav Arya

Cafe Cotinga

Owner Gaurav Arya

A familiar face at some of the most exclusive parties in Goa, Arya has his finger on the pulse of the expat hubs of Anjuna and Vagator. His gregariousness is partly what attracts many long-time residents, who are seen at his restaurant Cafe Cotinga in their charming Assagao hotel. Starting out his career at the advertising agency Grey Worldwide in Delhi, Gaurav moved to the UK to study music, but “missed the sun” and decided to move to Goa in 2006. His father Ram Arya has been a veteran in the hospitality business and his mother Param has a keen eye for design and baking. This may be why the desserts are huge hits at Cafe Cotinga. In fact, everyone in the family has played a role in making the restaurant and hotel a success. His brother Avijit is behind Media Moguls, a leading digital marketing agency, specialising in boosting revenue for hotels. Sister Simran owns a designer women’s wear brand, Carousel, which has an outlet at the hotel.

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Gaurav’s favourite cuisine is Indian, which is also Cafe Cotinga’s specialty, along with tamarind-inspired dishes like Tamarind Chicken and Margaritas, and a host of continental mains and desserts. He says, “The gratification one gets from feeding people is the best thing about owning a restaurant. While the criticism and the love is immediate and strong. It’s a big responsibility because it’s dealing with fresh produce and people’s health, mood as well as their holiday experience.”

Address: 1286, Kumar Vaddo, Opposite St. Michael’s Church, Anjuna.

Phone: 0832 651 9999


Prahlad Sukhtankar

The Black Sheep Bistro

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A few years ago, Prahlad Sukhtankar’s ‘modern, social and urban’ bistro took Panjim by storm. He and his wife Sabreen had moved to Goa, where Prahlad’s family lived, after meeting in Switzerland. The Black Sheep Bistro opened its doors serving a kind of contemporary Goan and international menu that no one had seen before. Today, the Inspired Chorizo Pao, Spicy Chocolate Pasta or the Amante Picante cocktail have probably featured on dozens of celebrity’s Instagram handles. So if you would like to be next, here is some insight into the restaurant business from Prahlad, who’s also an international guildcertified sommelier.

What inspires me

I am inspired by my travels, which are centered around the food and people of that region. We learn from our experiences across the world and continually strive to challenge our team to work on new ideas and inspirations. I am also inspired by creativity. I enjoying cooking and working alongside my team to create something new.

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What it takes to succeed

The restaurant business is great for people who are passionate about hospitality. By hospitality, I mean when things happen ‘for you’ as opposed to ‘to you’. For instance, if I go out for dinner with my wife, I’d like things to happen ‘for me’ and not ‘to me’ and if one can understand the science behind ‘for you’ vs ‘to you’, then one will be a successful restaurateur every step of the way. That said, one also needs good leadership.

My outlook on the restaurant business

It is a fantastic business, with great prospects for entrepreneurs with the right attitude and skills. However, it is also vastly misunderstood. Many assume that it is a very easy business to get into because of some idea they might have had on their travels, or seen on TV or some fad concept they might have experienced in a big city, but this is a very serious business that requires a scientific approach and systems for all processes. One has to remember to be open to criticism and always wear a smile, no matter the pressure.

The prospects for this business are positive in India. We are a great nation with a rising middle class and increasing disposable income. I am happy to see interesting new concepts popping up all over the country and I am hopeful that with the passing of new GST tax laws, curbing black money and transparency in licensing laws, things will be even better in the coming years.

Address: The Black Sheep Bistro, Swami Vivekanand Road, Panjim.

Phone: 098817 31901


Bilal Dar

Tamarin Mediterranean Bistro

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On the busy Calangute-Candolim road, one walks into an oasis of calm at Tamarin. Set in an urban garden atmosphere, with an extensive menu of unusual dishes from all around the Mediterranean, and an impressive wine list, travellers are awed here. Everything is just perfect, from the Moroccan Prawns to the Lebanese Beef Kibbeh Kebabs and Tunisian Briouats. Part-year residents of Goa from Europe mingle with local domestic tourists, enjoying the live music here in the evenings. Bilal is responsible for the impeccable flavours and is hands-on in the kitchen, while his wife Jennifer is out front interacting with guests.

After moving to England and getting married, Bilal began working in hospitality, where Jennifer had already carved out a reputation as a chef and later a manager. After completing his training, Bilal worked as a chef at London’s top restaurants, such as Quaglino’s, Carluccio’s Cafe and the Digby Trout restaurants at the British Museum and Barbican Centre. Inspired by their travels, they decided to fulfill a longheld ambition and opened Tamarin in 2012, serving Mediterranean cuisine. The Kashmiri Wazwaan menu was developed in the second season..

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What makes Tamarin unique

The dual menus. The flavours are bold and authentic, whetheryou areeating Mediterranean or Kashmiri.

What led him to becoming a restaurateur

Bilal was a passionate home cook, having been inspiredby his mother from an early age. When he started travelling, his passion and love of Mediterranean foodevolved. His wife has always worked in the industry, so it seemed like a natural step to start up on their own.

What it takes to be a successful restaurateur in Goa

Bilal thinks it takes a lot of hard work and stamina, as well as courage, to bring something new to the food scene whilst staying true to your goals and vision.

What his experience has been like

It is a constantly unfolding story, as he develops with the restaurant and the Goan food scene. Things have not always been as expected. Ultimately it has been an amazing experience, where he continues to grow as a chef, and as a person.

Address: Guarra Vaddo, Calangute, Calangute.

Phone: 095454 7767