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Friday, Aug 06, 2004

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Toasting the good times

Menka Shivdasani

Corporate guffaws, high-flying fun and lounging trans-national style... Mumbaikars keep their party hats on.

At the rate at which bars are opening in Mumbai, you'd think its people do nothing but party. There's a new international lounge bar in Bandra — 6,000 sq ft and a choice of four locations. There's an open-air terrace, the lounge, the bar and the restaurant, and you can walk in any time of day or night, for a swish evening, or even a business breakfast.

What's interesting about Zenzi is that it is international in every sense of the word. The group behind it, Torch Hotels and Resorts Pvt Ltd, is an alliance of entrepreneurs from the Netherlands, Israel and India. The Dutch partners own a lounge bar and restaurant in Amsterdam The group has other credentials as well. They run a few other restaurants, including one in Tel Aviv.

Chef Shahaf Sabtay has spent five years as a diver with the Israeli Navy, "doing what other people see only in the movies". Now, for reasons one finds hard to understand, he's decided that real adventure lies in cooking, so he's been scouring Mumbai's markets to put together the right ingredients. As someone who has to trudge through slushy markets and organise dinner after a long working day, I wish I could share his enthusiasm!

Then there's David Miles, who's studied politics and economics, but made a profession out of ballet dancing — 14 years in the business, including a stint in the famous musical, Phantom of the Opera. Now he has the fascinating designation of `chief cocktail shaker' at Zenzi.

So what drew all these varied people to aamchi Mumbai? Shareholder Georgy Bedier De Prairie, co-owner of several bars in Amsterdam, chose Mumbai over other Asian cities for its "energy and pace" and claims he walks a little faster here! We've heard of all kinds of reasons to open lounge bars in this city — primarily to do with making money — but perhaps this one is as good a reason as any.

Just for laughs

Prriya Raj, `India's answer to Dilbert' in author John Kao's words, has just launched two volumes, Business Cartoons and Corporate Cartoons, both from Vision Books, with forewords by Edward de Bono. Prriya, who has over 24 years of varied management experience, dedicates the books to "all the players in business, who unwittingly make corporate world the most amusing place to work in".

The books were launched on July 30 at Crossword's new store in Kemps Corner, with a panel discussion whose participants included ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar, Neeraj Roy, MD and CEO, and Madhukar Kamat, MD and CEO, Mudra Communications. Discussion of any kind was almost impossible over the sound of the café, the cash register and the animated yelling of the kids at the bookstore.

Crossword's new store is spacious and swanky and, if you are a book-lover, you will walk out with quite a hole in your pocket. But as the function progressed, one missed the old store where events took place in a secluded corner and you could hear the participants speak.

Still, Kakkar managed to make an interesting point or two. Speaking of how cartoonists observed life and then distilled the truth, he said, "If you have the capacity to laugh at yourself, you have the capacity to laugh at failure, and go on." Most people in the corporate world, he pointed out, were much too serious. In

Prriya's books, you will find many truths, and you will recognise them with a smile. Haven't you, for instance, met the boss who tells his secretary to keep the e-cards ready — so he can add his personal touch by clicking the Send button!

A dab of glamour in the mundane

Liquor baron Vijay Mallya with Katrina Kaif, Brand Ambassador for Kingfisher Airlines.

One person in the corporate world who does know how to have fun is liquor baron Vijay Mallya. There is something in his flamboyance and energy that always reminds one of Richard Branson. Like Branson, Mallya makes his millions and has a good time while he's at it — a unique skill which not everyone has. Now, like Branson, Mallya's even starting an airline to give you `highs' of a new kind.

He promises low fares on his Kingfisher Airlines, but you can certainly expect the famous Mallya style — in fact, there's even going to be a Kingfisher Flying Models Contest across India to choose flight attendants. Trust Mallya to bring the glamour in, even with something as mundane as hiring air hostesses.

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