Bengal and Bengalis can go on for years debating over Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, CPIM and Trinamool, and Ilish and chingri. But one thing that all bengalis seem to agree on is Chinese food and music. And Kolkata-based Debaditya Chaudhury seems to have made it to the heart of Bengalis through both.
The musician-turned-entrepreneur is the founder and Managing Director of Kolkata’s leading chain of Chinese restaurants, Chowman. Starting as a small restaurant in Kolkata in 2010, today Chowman has 15 outlets spread across the city. It has also extended its wings and recently launched a cloud kitchen in Bengaluru.
“My aim was to create a human character, similar to KFC and McDonald’s. I wanted to go with Mr Chow in Town, but we were not able to get registration for that name. I then decided on Chowman, which sounds similar to Chowmein — the first thing Indians think of when they think Chinese,” Debaditya tells SMBStory.
Chowman claims to have recorded a ten-fold increase in its delivery and takeaway services during the pandemic, and has also managed to retain its set of loyal customers.
Love for food and music
After completing his graduation from St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, Debaditya went on to pursue MBA from IISWBM. However, his mind and heart was always towards music and food.
“Growing up in a house next to Kim Wah (a popular Chinese restaurant in Kolkata), my passion for Chinese food started at a tender age. I dreamed of opening a restaurant in my hometown since my college days,” says Debaditya, who is also the founding member and keyboardist of Bengali rock band Lakkhicchara.
His love for the cuisine was almost innate and it took physical form in 2010. Debaditya invested Rs 15 lakh and started Chowman as a 20-seater restaurant in South Kolkata’s Golf Gardens.
Along with his brother, Shiladitya Chaudhury, Debaditya has also founded Oudh 1590, a period dining Awadhi restaurant.
Swimming through hurdles
“My goal with Chowman was to democratise fine dining and make the five-star quality experience available at affordable prices,” Debaditya says.
When he first started the restaurant chain, he sourced all the raw materials — spices, sauces, and even chopsticks from various parts of Hong Kong and Thailand. “Even the decor at our outlets were designed by craftsmen from China,” he says.
However, with expansion, Debaditya made a shift and now sources all the raw materials from various parts of India in order to “support farmers in our country,” he adds.
The Chinese restaurant chain initially faced challenges in terms of finding the right neighbourhood to set up the restaurants. Since most of Chowman’s restaurants are located at key locations across Kolkata, neighbouring