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Scaling up on fun

New beginnings are always celebrated with much fervour and enthusiasm, and it was two years ago, when Sampath Srinivas Tummala, the founder of Spicy Venue restaurant in association with Hyderabad Foodies Group announced the first edition of the 'Telugotsavam', the new beginning of annual festivities celebrating Telugu cuisine, culture, music and tradition. The restaurant was decked up in the bright yellow marigolds, the menu included the best of the Telugu cuisine, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, and the traditional sweets as well. And then there were soulful Telugu film melodies performed by the then new on the block band 'Capricio'. What started at the restaurant with 100 people has grown to 350 by the third edition of the festival, recently organised at Phoenix Arena. Spicy Venue under the stewardship of Sampath continues to organise the extravaganza, and has roped in associates like Almond House, Westin Hyderabad Mindspace, Golisoda to better the experience and scale up the size of the event. This year, like always, the proceeds from ticket sales amounting to 3.5 tonnes of rice was given away to be distributed for charity to Rice Bucket Challenge founder Manjulatha Kalanidhi.

"It feels good to give away selflessly after the entire year working for profits and making money," admits Sampath, who plans to make it bigger and better next year. "Next time we hope to attract at least 1,000 people, we will have a bigger venue with outdoor and indoor space," he shares. The charm of 'Telugotsavam' in today's world of stress and chaos is that people from all around the city come together in their best of silks to celebrate the oneness of culture, a common love for traditional food and revel in festivities. The lively venue bustling with people in their best silks, children in pretty langas (long silk skirts), a parrot reader, mehendi stall, mindboggling array of dishes, music, dance and merriment marks the event organised every year to herald Ugadi.

Sampath started Spicy Venue in 2002. "I come from a family of restaurateurs. My grandfather and father had restaurants in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam, Mayuri and Nataraja. My father was also a partner at 'Southern Spice' that was probably the only proper dining outlet to serve authentic south Indian food in Hyderabad. We opened Spicy Venue after I completed graduation in Hotel Management. However, I had to struggle for a year before settling down. Eventually, my father too joined me, and we made a success of the restaurant. Today, we have customers who come and order even without checking the menu," he relates.

Spicy Venue is a multicuisine restaurant, but it has gained its loyal clientele by serving authentic Telugu food, vegetarian curries, seafood like Bommidayala pulusu and regional delicacies Natu kodi Iguru, Pulaos and Chapala pulusu. "Even though it was easy to source seafood and meats like country chicken until we started serving, no restaurant in Hyderabad thought of including these dishes on their menu," Sampath adds. He is evidently right. Today we have many restaurants serving these dishes, and Road No 10, Jubilee Hills, where the restaurant is located, that was once considered interior and not conducive to the food business, is today a thriving eat street.

Despite the popularity and many requests to open franchise outlets, Sampath is in no mood to give it away. "We have a restaurant by the same name in Vizag and a convention space called 'Venue' in Vijayawada. I am not interested in franchises. I believe in being hands-on with daily operation of the restaurant," he states. Instead, Spicy Venue thrives on loyal customers, catering and food delivery model.

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