60 years of Vijay Singh Rathore had a very difficult childhood. He remembers the days when his family had to sleep on an empty stomach. His father used to work as a laborer and cook. Vijay lived in a small house in Indore with seven siblings. The situation was such that everyday needs were also hardly met. After the marriage of the five sisters, Vijay and his two elder brothers started earning money for the family. For a few years Vijay worked as a tea-drinker, from which he used to earn 5 to 8 rupees a month. In 1978 he started a food stall named Johny Hot Dog at Indore’s Chhappan Shop Gali. And 40 years later, he has earned a profit of 3 crores from the same small shop and Mahshur ‘Hot Dog’ sold there today. Not only this, he has also been rewarded by UberEats, India.
Businesslend While talking with, Vijay has shared the story of his journey. He spoke in detail about the hard work and patience behind his success.
Bring something different to the table
Vijay did not have any kind of schooling. At the age of just 8, he started working in a canteen at Government Engineering College, Indore. He served tea, bread and omelette to the students throughout the day. But he never tired while working.
Vijay worked there for about one and a half years. He explains, “Students are the bright future of this country. Food is the energy that will help them to study, so I made sure that whoever comes inside the canteen goes out in full. My bread omelette was popular among students, because sometimes, I used to put eggs in the loaf, then sometimes in bread. Therefore, some students named the dish Banjo and since then the name stuck in my mind. ”
At the age of 11, Vijay decided to start his own food stall. He collected Rs 4,500 from his savings and loan from his mother. With this amount, he purchased a food outlet in a 120-square-foot space, at Chhappan Shop Street.
Vijay wanted to do something different. He did not want to sell samosas and kachoris like many other stalls in the city.
Vijay explains that there were two reasons for this. He says, “The first reason was that I wanted to sell something that stood out from the crowd. The investment cost of making the second samosa or kachori was high. Therefore, I sought help from my mother again. Mother taught me how to make potato tikkis. I further worked on it and filled it in between the breads. Finally, I cooked the sandwich in ghee. ”
To create curiosity among customers, he decided to call the dish a ‘hot dog’.
Vijay says that till date he has not tasted the original hotdog. He says, “I knew of a dish called Hot Dog, because there was a theater in our city where only English films were shown. In their canteen, a snack named Hotdog was available. But in the 70s the theater closed, and with it, the hot dogs also moved. ”
With this simple idea, he devised two other varieties made of chicken and mutton. He used the rest of his investment to buy a large pan to fry the patties, bowls to make the mixture, and some cutlery. And with this, they started selling veg hot dog and non-veg hotdog for 75 paise at 50 paise.
According to Vijay, in those days, most shop owners named their shops after their surnames. There were Jain sweets shops, Singh Samosa stalls and more. He knew that the name ‘Rathore Hot Dog’ would not be attractive. Furthermore, he knew that his family would also not accept it, as he objected to selling eggs and meat under the family name.
Once again taking inspiration from an English film poster, he named his stall as Johny Hot Dog. Many customers also called him Johnny Bhai, but he is popularly known as Dadu.
Vijay says that initially not a single day went by when he did not think of closing the shop. He says, “In the first few months, I used to get only 15 or so customers. But, on some occasions, there were 30 customers. In the first year, I earned only 500 rupees and this trend continued for the next few years. Although, to no avail, I spent my money wisely to meet Rosemara’s needs. ”
Even if he had a loss, he would go back the next day and wait patiently.
Vijay continued to sell the same three items from his small shop in Chhappan Shop Gali. By 2005, his business gained momentum. From 11 am to 11 pm, customers waited outside their store, and Vijay sold over 100 hot dogs every day. He would fry the tikkis on a hot griddle and some of his helpers would do the work of cutting vegetables and washing dishes.
Customers who used to come to the shop used to always tell Vijay that they have never tasted such a taste. Some even said that it is even better than a dish served in restaurants like McDonalds or KFC.
In 2018, the journey of Johny Hot Dog took another turn when Vijay’s youngest son, Hemendra Singh Rathore, decided to join the business. Hemendra, 34, is a graduate in mechanical engineering. Hemendra saw how hard his father worked every day to provide for his family, the education of children, and the marriage of his elder sisters.
Hemendra takes over the online ordering and delivery of food. He says, “I wanted to help him expand his business and keep him updated with the new trends of this generation.” Since many people started ordering food online, I helped them register food stalls under UberEats. ”
Within a few days, the business gained momentum and ‘Johny Hot Dog’ started receiving a minimum of 100 orders every day. Soon, Vijay started selling 4,000 hot dogs every day and the price of each hotdog went up to 30 rupees.
In 2019, Johny Hot Dog generated a turnover of Rs 3 crore, and their vegetarian hot dog was rated the most ordered dish on UberEats. Vijay also went to Hong Kong to receive the award.
However, since the COVID-19 lockdown, sales of Johny Hot Dog have slowed. Despite this, Hemendra says that despite this, some customers take goods from the store and some from Zomato and Swiggy.