From Idlis To Cocktails, The Poojaris Prove Legacies Thrive When Batons Are In The Right Hands

Nikita and Ankita Poojari, daughters of the legendary restaurateur Narayan T Poojari, have taken it upon themselves to keep the parent brand relevant.

Published On Jun 28, 2024 | Updated On Jul 04, 2024


At the age of 13, Narayan T Poojari left Kundapur, the Karnataka district famous for its ‘chicken ghee roast’ and moved to Mumbai, where he worked as a cleaning boy at a canteen and went to night school. From there, he went on to work in various roles – from washing dishes to managing operations. 

Shiv Sagar

It was in 1990 that Baghubhai Patel offered him a job as a manager at Shiv Sagar, Kemps Corner. In about six months of working at Shiv Sagar, Poojari was made partner, and since then, in 42 years he built a hospitality empire that began with fast-food chains that offered comfort dishes like idli, dosa, pizzas, and pav bhaji, and then expanded into other F&B formats. 

As of today, Shiv Sagar Foods & Resorts comprises 15 branches of the popular Shiv Sagar fast-food restaurants in three cities; Mahesh Lunch Home in Pune, Thane, and Saki Naka, Butterfly High in BKC, Lower Parel, Vikhroli, Oshiwara, and Thane; and Big Small Café in Andheri. And then there’s Kyma in Mumbai and Pune. 

Nikita Poojari

Armed with two daughters – Nikita and Ankita – Poojari senior says that he could not be happier. “I feel immensely proud of the fact that my daughters are running the show. While one is spearheading operations and administration, the other is focusing on the marketing front. Together as a whole, they make a great team. It’s more about teamwork and growing together. I feel they are perfect for this role. Many often say, "Oh, you don’t have a son to carry on your legacy, but I always correct them. My daughters are more than sons!” he says. 

In fact, he says that he’d be happy to see more women leading restaurant brands. “Today’s women are no less than men, and I believe they can do fabulously well in this industry with the right amount of hard work and dedication,” he adds. 

Nikita ventured into the hospitality business seven years ago, shadowing her father and delved deep into various roles, understanding the nitty-gritty of the business and then joined hands with her sister to launch Butterfly High. The two are directors of the company at the moment. But when you come from a family whose legacy is immense, it must be difficult to diversify into something else. Nikita disagrees. “I never felt it as a challenge.  When I joined the business back in 2017, I started my career with an entirely new project called Fish n Bait. The vision behind this change was entirely my father’s. He believes in constantly adapting to the market and changing trends, a philosophy that Ankita and I have learned from him. We've learned to balance our legacy with modernity. With Shiv Sagar at the helm of our legacy brand, we have absorbed timeless practices and implemented them in our new ventures, such as Butterfly High, Kyma, and The Bigg Small Cafe + Bar,” she says. 

Ankita Poojari

Both the sisters are management professionals. While Ankita did her master's in commerce followed by an MBA in marketing & strategy at the Indian School of Business, Nikita earned a bachelor's in engineering followed by her MBA in Family Business Management from the Indian School of Business. “But that apart, we are both extremely passionate about music and love travelling, and of course food. Growing up, we were always encouraged to pursue our interests, whether it was the arts or academics, and it’s also how we had faith in our new F&B projects. The one thing neither of us like is complacency. We believe in constantly pushing ourselves to learn and grow,” adds Ankita. 

Butterfly HIgh Bar

What made them decide to open something that's quite the opposite to what the family is known for? For instance, Butterfly High is modern Indian bar, Kyma is a blend of both Asian and Mediterranean food and The Bigg Small Cafe + Bar is a casual spot that blends innovative cocktails with a fun and relaxed atmosphere. “Each venture caters to different moods and preferences, showcasing our versatility and understanding of varied customer needs,” they say, further adding, “We wanted to carve out our niche and create something that reflected our personal tastes and the evolving preferences of today’s customers. Our family is known for traditional dining experiences, but we saw an opportunity to bring something fresh and contemporary to the market. But obviously none of this would have been possible without our father’s vision, direction, and guidance,” they add. 

But the sisters learned their own lessons along the way as well. From understanding that people are their biggest assets to cutting losses, their journey might still be young but the road has been peppered with experiences. “One cannot be too emotional in making business decisions. When Nikita started her career with Fish n bait, within a year she had to shut shop. This was something that truly taught her that as a businesswoman she had to make certain hard decisions and move forward. This one decision led her to create what we have today- Butterfly High,” says Ankita. “⁠Navigating the legal and regulatory landscape is a constant learning process and then there’s adaptability; it’s key, and Covid taught us that. Being flexible and willing to adapt to new trends, dietary preferences, and market demands is essential for long-term success,” the sisters tell us. One of the most important things however has been to understand that a good business is not only about generating revenue but “also ensuring that we are building a sustainable and long-lasting business”. 


Talk being sustainable and we had to bring up the current F&B scene in India and what they thought of it. “It’s definitely dynamic and fast-paced, driven significantly by trends and hype. While this creates opportunities for creativity and innovation, it also poses challenges in maintaining long-term customer loyalty. Trends can be fleeting, so it’s essential to create a strong brand identity that can weather the changing landscape. Balancing trendy offerings with consistent quality and service is key to sustained success,” they tell us. 

And what have they learned from their father? “Attention to detail - we just love how he focuses on the minute details. Perseverance as well; his strongest trait is his ability to persevere and the dedication he carries for his work. He’s also taught us that consistency is key and always to maintaining high standards in food quality and service, and finally to have a customer-centric approach.” 

Narayan Poojari adds in, “My word of advice is to build strong relationships and trust in your capabilities. The industry needs your (women entrepreneurs) fresh perspectives and leadership. Embrace innovation, but never lose sight of the core values that define you and your business.” 


Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article reflects the author(s) opinions and do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher and editor.

Photo: Shiv Sagar Foods; Instagram/shivsagarrestaurants; atbutterflyhigh; atkyma