Arab Udupi sounds an odd combination. But it is true. It is a chain of restaurants spread across UAE. Arab Udupi Group was founded and is efficiently run by Shekar Babu Shetty and his team of dedicated staff, with the Head office located in Abu Dhabi, UAE. He is the pioneer in organised Udupi South Indian cuisine and restaurant, to be introduced in the Gulf in the late 70’s.
Shekar Babu Shetty is that breed of restaurateur business, who with no specific background in food or hospitality but just commonsense and honesty, in the late seventies changed the eating out experience in Gulf by opening casual places that served serious South and North Indian food and made a success of it.
Shekar B Shetty as a young man from a remote place in Kalathur, near Udupi left Indian shores in a dhow in the early 70’s seeking better opportunities. He survived this dangerous sea voyage; after landing in the foreign shores with out any valid papers or passport. He started working in Gulf, then known as Truchial States under British protectorate. After working for some small and big organizations; later he reached Dubai and worked for an Insurance company. Next he moved to Abu Dhabi to join a tele company. While on his job, in 1978 he founded Arab Udupi Group and the first restaurant opened in Khalidya served South Indian cuisine. It was welcomed and patronised by the large emigrant population from India and other Asian countries. The restaurant was a success. From here the growth story started. In the very first year itself the restaurant proved to be a grand success, in terms of popularity and business. Later Arab Udupi opened 9 excellent and well organized outlets in prime locations at Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Mussaafah with a dedicated and strong work force, majority of who were illiterate and of Indian origin thereby providing them employment abroad.
Today the group has over 20 well-designed, decorated and ideally located restaurants spread all over UAE – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Mussaffa, Ajman, etc serving South and North India vegetarian and non-vegetarian food along with Chinese dishes to a vast number of employees and families of emigrants. The restaurants are patronised by Indians, Asians, Arabs and Europeans. Some foreigners were introduced to tasty Indian food here. Now with over 20 restaurants, over 600 employees, it is an over 600 million company.
Apart from this the group caters to many large foreign companies providing meals to over 5000 – 6000 employees daily. The group employs over 600 skilled and non-skilled staff, mainly from India and other Asian countries – Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Philippines, etc.
There is an interesting story behind the name Arab Udupi Group. When Shekar B Shetty planned to start his first restaurant, he had to register with the local authorities. He registered the name as Udupi Group since he hailed from Udupi and Udupi was generally identified with South Indian cuisine. But the local Arabs were not convinced and were not happy with a name as they felt it did not mean anything the locals. Since Shekar B Shetty was keen to launch his venture, he added Arab and the name was registered as Arab Udupi Group. Today the name is synonymous with tasty India food at a reasonable cost, providing home-like food in Gulf to home-sick emigrants.
Last June a biography – ‘From the dust in Kalathur to the sand in Arabia’, on Shekar B Shetty, written by senior editor and author, Anil Kumar Naik and with a foreword by His Excellency Shri MK Lokesh, Indian Ambassador to UAE, was released in Kalathur, near Udupi in his own newly constructed modern auditorium built in memory of his mother, in the presence of dignitaries, religious heads and guests. The book covers Shekar B Shetty’s journey from a small place in Kalathur, to then Bombay and onwards to Gulf, his struggles there with great success following.
Kalathur Shekar Babu Shetty is a man of true dignity and a wonderful role model for the new entrepreneurs and the younger generation. He is somebody who overcame most extreme prejudices and circumstances, though coming from a remote place in Kalathur to Mumbai and from there to Gulf to take his rightful place on the Gulf stage, to be called the ‘Udupi King’ of UAE. The Arab Udupi Group has risen to its present position and has earned a distinct reputation among the front-runners in the restaurant industry and has capitulated Shekar Babu Shetty amongst the top entrepreneurs in UAE.