Chakraa Indian Restaurant chain breaks new ground in Korea
What could an Indian restaurant chain in Seoul and the blossoming IT cooperation between Korea and India possibly have in common? This is a question one might well ask, but after meeting with the charming couple, Prince Jacob and his wife Shanthi, who own and run the chain of five restaurants in Seoul, the answer becomes perfectly clear.
Popularly known as "The Real Indian Kitchen," it comes as no surprise to hear from the owners that they are now providing daily meals (prepackaged) to several hundred IT software engineers now working in R&D and other IT business operations of some of Korea's large conglomerates (chaebol) like LG and Samsung. Many of these young IT experts far from home and from their mother's kitchen are well looked after by being provided with their daily authentic Indian food thanks to the smooth delivery operation run by Chakraa from its central headquarters in outer Seoul.
Chakraa , literally meaning 'wheel', as depicted on the Indian national flag, was started in 2001 in an old district of Itaewon in Seoul, called Haebangchon, mainly catering to Indian families and IT engineer bachelors. It is now the only restaurant chain which has one branch specializing in South Indian Food, and the only such restaurant in Korea.
After this initial success, Chakraa opened its second branch in Hannamdong, adjoining Itaewon, where most embassies and foreign residences are situated. After this branch was opened, at which stage the main clientele was Indians and other expatriates, Koreans started developing a taste for Indian food, showing their liking for it in increasing numbers, and that was how Chakraa has within just five years expanded its number of outlets to five, four branches in Seoul, and one 60 kms away from Seoul in Songtan, near Osan Airbase. This trend is evidenced by the fact that already Chakraa's clientele is 60% Koreans, 20% Indians and 20% other foreign expats and visitors to Seoul.
Prince Jacob and his wife Shanthi have a hand-on approach to managing their business and refuse to compromise on quality and authenticity of ingredients and taste. They manage and run their five establishments with the loyalty and enthusiasm of their staff of nearly 35 staffs, chefs, managers and waiters.
In addition to the increasingly popular catering for IT Engineers working in and around Seoul., Chakraa professionally manages indoor and outdoor parties, from small home parties to large gatherings of up to 300 persons, providing the full range of equipment and serving dishes.
What is more, Chakraa is staying ahead of the game, with the growing shift toward e-commerce for daily needs and transactions among Korea's consumers, it will shortly be launching a Portal which will be a shopping mall offering a rich and exotic variety of Indian handicrafts, silverware and other accessories for women, Indian furniture pieces, Indian groceries and cooking ingredients, exotic recipes, and much more. This portal will promote the food and accessories mall so that people can order online and even pay online and enjoy the convenience of free home delivery.
Chakraa also offers membership cards to its loyal customers, with mileage points and special gift and discount structures. With the burgeoning ties between Korea and India, particularly in the IT software industry, and with growing numbers of foreign residents and visitors to Korea, Chakraa is clearly a restaurant chain on the move, with a bright future vision, including the possible opening of outlets in some of Korea's other major cities in the not too distant future.