A “don’t worry, be happy” philosophy appears to be the winning formula behind the success of a Hong Kong-Nepali entrepreneur’s restaurant businesses over the past 25 years.
“I am always happy because I work from my heart. I don’t care how much other people are making or what houses they are living in. I only care about me and my job,” Pram Bhai said.
“As long as I can pay rent, salary and suppliers on time, I have nothing to worry about,” said the 49-year-old descendent of the famous Gurkhas, who owns three Indian restaurants in Sheung Wan, Sham Tseng and Kennedy Town.
“This Sheung Wan restaurant, Basmati, makes me very happy. Everyday I meet new people, mostly tourists in this area,” Prem said. “I hire Indian, Nepali and Chinese people, and I like their attitude to work. We work together like a family.”
Prem was born in an army camp in Darjeeling in India in 1968, where his father was working as a Gurkha. After his father retired, Prem learnt his cooking skills by working in Indian restaurants and hotels.
In 1992, he arrived in Hong Kong with a work visa and had a job in an Indian restaurant in Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui. Four years later, he switched jobs to work in a restaurant in Sham Tseng, where he now lives. Chungking Mansions is known as Hong Kong’s ghetto where some of the best Indian food can be found and the cheapest accommodation.
In 2002, he started his first Indian restaurant in Sham Tseng, thanks to a decline in rent amid a weak Hong Kong economy.
Seven years later, he took advantage again of a low-rent environment in Hong Kong after the 2008 global financial crisis and opened a second branch in Kennedy Town.
In 2013, he started his third restaurant in Sheung Wan, opposite the Shun Tak Center and now he has 19 employees in his restaurants.
“It’s very difficult to make money running restaurants now as rents are high,” Prem said.
He said the monthly rent in his Kennedy Town restaurant had now surged to HK$75,000 (US$9,646) from HK$20,000 in 2009, mainly because the MTR station opened in late 2014. He has no plan to expand his businesses at the moment.
Prem said he was glad he came to Hong Kong and see his two children growing up in the city. “I am proud to be a Hongkonger and I want to keep contributing my expertise in cooking to the city.”