Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Namita and Camellia Panjabi, Ranjit Mathrani, Masala World

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Namita and Camellia Panjabi, Ranjit Mathrani, Masala World

Overall ranking: 53 (ranked 46 in 2010)

Restaurant ranking: 16 (ranked 14 in 2010)
Namita and Camellia Panjabi, Ranjit Mathrani - Snapshot

Namita Panjabi, her husband Ranjit Mathrani and her sister Camellia are the masterminds behind the award-winning Masala World restaurant group

Namita and Camellia Panjabi, Ranjit Mathrani - Career guide

The trio were born in India, where Camellia launched 40 restaurants over a 30-year period as marketing director of Taj Hotels , including the Bombay Brasserie and the Ile de Kashmir in Paris.

Namita, who started as a merchant banker, became fashion merchandising manager in Bombay for the Associated Merchandising Corporation. She moved to London in 1986, where she married merchant banker Mathrani and set up a business designing Indian jewellery for department stores, which she still runs.

The couple opened Chutney Mary in Chelsea in 1990. In 1997, they bought London's oldest Indian restaurant, Veeraswamy, which dates back to 1927.
Camellia, who had been involved from the start, came on board full-time in 2001 when the group opened its first Masala Zone in Soho. There are now seven in London, in Bayswater, Camden Town, Covent Garden, Earls Court, Fulham and Islington.

Camellia spearheaded the group's third upmarket restaurant, Amaya, which opened in Belgravia in October 2004 and won a Michelin star in 2006, which it still holds.
In April 2011, Namita and Camellia were named in the inaugural Women 1st Top 100 Most Influential Women listing. They were also named in the Outstanding Entrepreneurs category in the Shine Awards.

Namita and Camellia Panjabi, Ranjit Mathrani - What we think
Namita and Camellia are regarded as leading authorities on authentic Indian cuisine, which they have researched extensively in people's homes, maharajas' palaces and wayside stalls rather than conventional restaurants.

They devise the restaurant and food concepts. Camellia refines the cuisine and handles marketing and PR, while Namita fine-tunes the food presentation, decor - which features stylish Indian folk art - and kitchen management.

Mathrani handles the financial, commercial, human resources, front-of-house and site-finding aspects. He arranged the funding for Chutney Mary under a Government business expansion scheme with input from Neville Abraham and Laurence Isaacson, the founders of Groupe Chez Gérard (now Paramount Restaurants ).

The restaurants are all different. Chutney Mary, in Chelsea, serves cuisine from diverse regions, while Veeraswamy focuses on food from the north and west of India. Amaya, in Belgravia, offers ancient grill techniques new to the UK, while Masala Zones are hip cafés offering affordable street food and thalis.

The restaurants have won a number of awards, most recently with National Geographic, the travel magazine, naming Veeraswamy as one of its 10 Best Destination & Special Restaurants in the World.

This year [2011], Mathrani voiced an ambition to take Masala Zone nationwide to at least 40-50 sites, which would make it one of the few Indian restaurant brands to do so. The main barrier to expansion is a lack of suitable sites in densely populated areas, but he is looking seriously at Brighton, Oxford, Cambridge, Guildford and Kingston-on-Thames.

Expansion will initially be funded organically, but to hit his target Mathrani says he is looking to adopt a franchise model.

Namita and Camellia Panjabi and Ranjit Mathrani's ranking in the 100 >>

Hospitality recognised in Queen's Birthday Honours >>

Women 1st's Top 100 Women in Hospitality and Leisure >>

Chutney Mary Menuwatch >>

Masala World's Ranjit Mathrani appointed High Sheriff of Greater London >>

Masala World website >>

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