Ronak Rochlani, The man who chose Hospitality over Dentistry


In conversation with the Owner of RR, Keiba, Label and DSTRB. 

How did a student of dentistry become a party animal which soon led him to organizing  parties and events on his own?

Ronak Rochlani:- I began organising events much before I started studying dentistry. It initially started off as an additional pocket money based job which eventually turned into my profession. Although I don’t ever think I was or am a party animal, I always looked at it as work. I chose Dentistry as I always wanted to be a doctor and it gave me the flexibility with time so I could always work on another business as well ( the Sindhi genes have to kick in somewhere) . Somewhere down the line I had to choose between the two and since events and hospitality was well established it only made sense that I went ahead with that.

What made you start Keiba, even after you were progressing well in your event management company, RR?

Ronak Rochlani:- It’s always been a dream to open my own restaurant. At the age of 25 when Received the opportunity to launch my own restaurant in Mahalaxmi racecourse (which is a dream in itself), it was almost a no brainer. There was this point where I had to choose between pursuing cosmetic dentistry at UCLA or opening Keiba and I chose the latter. RR is doing really well but in the long run I have to branch out. I always want to do more and till date I get hundreds of ideas but I only work on ones I know will actually be successful. With events I got great experience and  established connections with alcohol companies which eventually has really helped me take Keiba to where it is today.

What were the biggest challenges of  conceptualizing and implementing the idea of RR?

Ronak Rochlani:- I started off with events, working for Criss Cross Entertainment followed by White Knight entertainment after which I realised I wanted RR to be a brand and not only a name. Back in the day, before social media made everything so accessible, getting into events was not as easy it is today. It was very difficult conceptualising, curating and implementing events single-handedly, which was the toughest aspect while ideating for RR.

What made you feel that you should start  your venture Label and what was the gap that was missing in the industry before Label was launched?

Ronak Rochlani:- LABEL started off initially as an artist management and music programming agency which later on evolved into Curated by LABEL which specialised in F&B consultation, turnaround management , international artist tours, venue launches and programming. We realised that there were many venues which had great interiors and locations but could not capitalise on the same either due to marketing, brand building or financial expertise and we knew we could fulfil these gaps and help them achieve their maximum potential. 

Keiba has strong Asian flavours in its menu. What made you choose this particular cuisine. Tell us about some exciting delicacies on the menu?

Ronak Rochlani:- The Indian palate has a strong resonance with Asian cuisine. We felt like people could relate a lot more to Asian cuisine and hence if they were dining out they would choose that over most other cuisines. We have some specials which our regulars order without even looking at the menu such as our edamame truffle dim sums, turnip cakes, green Thai curry, the unagi and salmon sushi, cheung fun and a lot more.

How much has  the Keiba Privilege Card positively helped the restaurant? How have your guests responded to this service?

Ronak Rochlani:- We introduced the Keiba Privilege card as a part of our 2 year anniversary programme. It was to give back to our regular guests at Keiba since they are loyalists. It has really helped create a lot of buzz around and everyone is loving their personalised cards. It indirectly helped us  in marketing as well since all the card holders took to social media to show off their cards. The Card holders love this program as it gives them even more reasons to come back to Keiba . Besides getting 15 % off on their bill they can avail happy hours from 11 to closing on weekdays and get first access to our special menus.

Tell us about the events that you organize in Keiba?

Ronak Rochlani:- All the events at Keiba are food oriented. Since we have an enormous number of regular guests we feel like the new menus entice them to come back and try the new dishes as there’s always a lot of thought that goes behind each of these menus.

Some of the festivals we’ve celebrated are the Sakura festival which is a famous cherry blossom festival in Japan or the Lost heaven festival which celebrated the yuan cuisine or the Asian sizzler festival or the on going Chinese new year menu which boasts of Duck pancakes, Garoupa fish , crab meat, mushroom pot rice , stuffed potato’s etc. Besides the festivals we have also focused on our Sunday Brunch for which we have introduced a 7 course meal with or without alcohol which has been an absolute success.

How important are events conducted in restaurants or cafes for their success?

Ronak Rochlani:- Music is an integral part of setting the vibe and tone of the restaurant . I feel like there’s never enough importance given to music and pipe music in India. We have an in-house DJ every night and at  the Sunday brunch at Keiba so he can set the vibe according to the guests present at that time gauging on whether they are in the mood for retro, commercial or house, whether they want to have conversations or groove to the music. Events is a whole different ballgame. The latest trend is for restaurants to turn into pop up bars on the weekend to amp up their monthly sale but this needs to be done tastefully and tactically or it can dilute the brand and lead to a loss of regular dining crowd.

Does your restaurant help you with your event management company? How do you maintain a balance between the two businesses? How positively are they co-related?

Ronak Rochlani:- All the work that I do whether for RR, Keiba, Label or DSTRB go hand in hand with each other. The relations you make in one place can help you in another and the credibility only increases and validates it. Initially all the clients we got with Label were only because of our individual backgrounds with events and hospitality and now its made a name for itself.

You’ve collaborated with Five-star hotels for providing services of RR. How difficult was it  to convince them that your services would enhance the hotels guest experience?

Ronak Rochlani:- Fortunately it was the hotels who approached me for events. They felt like the crowd profile and kind of events curated matched the experience and hospitality offered at their hotels without compromising  on their guidelines and profile while also boosting their sales, as well as the vibe at their venues. I started off with events at 5 stars with table-only events where even a couple had to reserve a table with a minimum billing to attend the event which ensured sales as well as ensured that everyone was drinking and had a great time while also making sure the events were not too packed to enjoy and everyone received t great service . Now most of my events are only at 5 star hotels or the very premium stand alone restaurants that match the crowd profile that I am targeting.