At Funding Societies, we are committed to improving society through funding worthy SMEs deserving of recognition. FS Featured SME is a series of videos produced by Funding Societies to showcase the struggles and triumphs of Singapore SMEs.

We spoke with clients from different industries to understand what it takes to be a successful business owner in Singapore.

Meet Mr. Prasad Raja, Owner of Homely Raj Pte Ltd – a vegetarian F&B restaurant chain that has been around for more than 10 years. Exposed to restaurant operations since he was a little boy at his father’s restaurant, it’s no surprise he has a powerful passion for food!

As he rightly pointed out, cash flow is king in the F&B industry! We are heartened to know that Funding Societies has helped him open his new food court outfit at Changi City Point.

Watch our interview with Mr. Prasad Raj as he shares his story, challenges, and successes.

Actually, the original Raj was started by my father in India, in Calcutta. So, he had a passion for food and he started Raj.
That Raj was started over 51 years back and we still have the Raj in Calcutta.

When I came to Singapore, I came as a Finance Director of a company that was dealing with tea. But a year after coming (to Singapore),
my father suddenly had a massive heart attack and passed away. But fortunately for me when I was in India, I used to help him out.
I had quite a good background in the Restaurant business so when my Dad passed away I took over the business.

This was the first Raj, and with this success, we opened the Biopolis (Raj), and subsequently opened Jade but Jade had been up and down,
it did well and it went down and this (Raj) got affected during those three years when the roads were dug up so I got into a little bit of trouble because the footfalls really fell.

Forecasting Business Flucuations

The number of people coming to the restaurant fell by about 50%. When I tried banks and I found it really tough, there were some calls that came and asked, “Sir, would you like any help?” I frankly told them the problems I’m having they see losses and they say sorry, so I asked if there any other way you can help me? Because I have a lot of plans, we’re doing well, we’re profitable but our past is still haunting us.

So they said, “Sir, we can help you.” and that is how I got introduced to SME digital lending and alternate source of finance. Getting the finances on time was a big help. We were actually setting up a new unit(in Changi), we were renovating one of the kitchens and we’re also renovating Jade of India. All that requires funds. I would recommend to them (fellow SME owners) if they have some projects that cannot be entered into because of lack of funds. Because in this business, cash flow is king. You need cash flow. So the more we sell, the better it is for us. But in order to sell more, you can’t have just one restaurant because now customers, they’re so distributed, they want convenience.

Capturing the New Market Share

You got to have outlets close to them so one of the ways I look at it is that I have more outlets, they may be small, but it’ll be within the reach of customers. One of the reasons why I opened at Changi Point, towards the food court is that there is a huge contingent of customers there and most of them work in the IT field and many of them are from India and want Indian food.

When I open the very first day, we had phenomenal sales. So that’s what I’m looking at, you have to be where your customer is. You can’t expect these days to be like those days when you had one or two restaurants where the customers will come looking for you.

Being Where Your Customer Is

Now I have 20 other competitors so you have to be where the customer is. In order to do that, you need funds. In a way, it helped me and I was able to set it up. And I’m actually going one step further and I’m going to be installing e-menus in Biopolis because I have 120 seats there and taking care of 120 seats in the afternoon (is tough) as it gets full. To take care of so many seats is a problem. I’m thinking of having an iPad on each table, so customers can just order and all we have to do is deliver So i’m working on that. And technology really does help. But of course, the right technology at the right time.