Transitioning Industries as an Entrepreneur | Ramesh Manian

Episode Transcript of: Transitioning Industries as an Entrepreneur | Ramesh Manian

Alan
Welcome back. I have here today with Ramesh Manian. And from the station cafe in San Carlos, Ramesh, you have an interesting background. I understand that you’re a mechanical engineer. And then you got a degree in software development. But how did you go from all of this into owning your own restaurant?

Ramesh
Firstly, thanks very much, Alan, for inviting me to have a conversation here. Really enjoyed meeting you and talking about this. Yeah, the I do have a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. Then I started, I got an opportunity to come and work in a computer science in a Unisys Corporation back in early 90s. I was working at one of their subsidiaries in Bombay in India. And this guy, who was who was the head of unity cooperation of the project that I was working in came and asked me if I would do a project with him for a few months. Next thing I know, I’m in Mission Viejo, California, doing software programming. And then I did that for several years, and then started to do marketing and sales for the startup company. At the time startup. Now, it’s a billion dollar organization software company called Tibco. Software. I did that for a few years. And then I went out on my own, doing a couple of technology startups. And during, during the time, I took an interest in cooking. And it was kind of really surprised how much I liked cooking. Then I started doing it at home and started to expand it. And I said, Okay, let me learn to do professional cooking. So there was a little tiny Italian restaurant across my, across the street from my house. And I went up to the chef and asked him if you teach me and he said, Sure. Next morning, I was elbow deep in pizza dough and making bread and pizzas. And over the next six months, I learned a lot of the professional cooking techniques, especially Italian cooking techniques. And after that I became a Sunday chef. And then that restaurant got sold and became a Polish restaurant, I found myself out of my Sunday job, then ultimately decided why not start a restaurant and that was two years ago, actually two years ago, this month.

Alan
So when you when you started into this venture of being self employed, first of all, did you did you buy an existing business?

Ramesh
I did, I took a small deli that was existing, and tended into a restaurant, doing pizzas. And now we also do specialty coffees. It’s probably our coffee making method is a very special coffee making method called pourover method. And we do that and we are one of the highest rated Italian restaurants in San Carlos independence.

Alan
Wow. So sorry, a little bit of plug fire. And that’s fine. Wait, yeah, but you went it was just a process of experimenting, what worked and what didn’t with your customer base?

Ramesh
Absolutely. Like most things, when you’re doing a small business, you start with an idea. And you iterate over it, you keep fine tuning it, you keep changing many aspects of it till you get it right. And once you think you get it right, you’ve got to start all over again, and do the same thing again, because business doesn’t stand still. And you can’t just do incremental changes. And suddenly, all of a sudden, you have the magic bullet.

Alan
So what’s the difference between working for yourself versus somebody else?

Ramesh
I can No, I never quit on this to about working for oneself or working for somebody else. You’re always working for somebody else. You’re working for your customers, you’re working for a particular cause working for a particular event. Granted, working, not having a boss might give a little bit of benefit in terms of time and flexibility, that kind of things. But end of the day, you’re always working for a cause. And when you have that in your mind, I think you have a chance of being a successful business.

Alan
It does business come easy?

Ramesh
No, it’s probably especially restaurant businesses, probably the hardest business toughest business I’ve worked in. I’ve worked in software, businesses and industries. I’ve made several years that are much, much larger than my restaurant ever takes in a year. That said, Sir, restaurant business is a microcosm of a large business. It has all the aspects of a large business, customer service feedbacks, crisis management, you know, logistics and you name it personnel, difficult personnel. You have all of that all crammed into one tiny little business and it takes every minute that you can give it. I’ve never worked in a tougher business, but it’s also one of the most rewarding businesses.

Alan
What do you what’s rewarding about it?

Ramesh
Well, there is immediate gratification that you can feel you serve some. You have somebody who has come in hungry and you serve serve them. They’re very happy. They’re content, and you put a smile on their face. That’s incredibly gratifying. But beyond that, it’s also gratifying that many of the small changes that you can do to the business, the feedback is fairly quick. You can fine tune that kind of a feedback loop is very good.

Alan
So I’m visiting here today with Ramesh Manian and he’s the owner of the station cafe in San Carlos. Ramesh, we have to take a quick break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
Welcome back I’m visiting here today with Ramesh Manian and he’s the owner of the station cafe in San Carlos. Ramesh before the break, we’re talking about what it’s like being self employed. And have you ever run your own business in the past?

Ramesh
Yeah, I have. I’ve had technology startups before, and had a software company back in 2000, which really focused on new technologies to make information very relevant to an individual did that for a few years. But coming back to the current business, it is one of the most as I was telling you last. It’s one of the most interesting businesses, but it’s not without its challenges. You know, we started in 2010 in November, and having known really next to nothing about the business, it took me several months to get it started understand what it means to run a business, small business, you a technology business is vastly different from something like a restaurant, why and the principles are still the same. That said, when you have live customers coming in, you learn a lot from them. And, and having having done that now for about 18 months, I’ve we now have our customers are very happy with. Like I said, we are the highest rated restaurant in San Carlos. We are the Yelp ratings going by Yelp rating, we average about 4.6% 4.6 out of five stars. Wow. And which is unusual for a restaurant that’s been around for two years. And part of it is keeping things simple. Our whole goal is we are more displays, we have great food, great service and let everything else work itself out. And when after having taken that, keep it simple attitude, which has really benefited us a lot. Now our weekends are fully booked all the time. And like I said, we also make incredibly good coffee and great, great Italian food. And that particular way of doing the business keeping keeping things really true to the core has always been very, very good to us over the last several months.

Alan
So Ramesh, a lot lot of people listening to the show will be thinking, you know, I’m a software engineer or I’m doing, you know, I’m an employee to business, maybe I want to go start my own business. What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned in this process of transitioning from Silicon Valley, high tech field, into a restaurant?

Ramesh
I don’t think a restaurant business is any different from a technology business, in the core aspect of what you want to be as an entrepreneur, you have to have an idea. You have to believe in the idea. And you want to you want to change. You want to you have to want to change something. And in my case, I wanted to change my life. My life as a technology as a technology entrepreneur was not only was it very busy, I felt like I was not really giving back something to the immediate community. All for that matter for my own self like it was talking about instant gratification and personal gratification. And I decided to change that. And much as much as as much as the restaurant itself was a little bit of an accident for me, because I just went to learn how to cook from the restaurant right across my street. I fell in love with it. And when I fell in love with it, I wanted to change the way I did the business and I in a restaurant, most Italian restaurants, when you go to for example, you are not really treated. You’re treated as one of the many customers, people don’t remember your names. They don’t remember what you ordered. And I wanted to give a very personal service to you. And that was my unique, unique selling proposition to this restaurant. But end of the day for anyone who wants to change their life, you still have to believe in what you want to do. And you work very hard and never give up.

Alan
Good. Good advice, sir. It’s I liked the way you summarize that having a clear vision, firm conviction, this is what I want to do, believing you can get it and then making change changes not only to yourself, but also the lives of others around you. For which we need to take a quick break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
Welcome back. We’re visiting here today with Ramesh Manian. He is a owner, and founder of the staff station cafe in San Carlos. And Ramesh before the break, we’re talking about, you know, the greatest lessons learned and what drives you in your business. And I think he has some key points. First, establishing that you have a belief, a vision, and that you believe in fulfilling this and changing the lives of not only yourself, but also the lives of others. You know, but I’m going to move, move away from this a little bit more, because you are really a true entrepreneur. You don’t stop at one idea. You have many ideas going simultaneously. What else you most entrepreneurs are that day, they’re the way they’re visionaries, and they’re constantly seeking to solve the problems of this world. Yeah. So what do you see out there also, in addition to the restaurant business,

Ramesh
I think the world is full of opportunities to solve real problems, real problems, including, you know, how to build how to build the build a country to adapt to new, new demands, from the technical world of technology and world of money and all the growth issues that we are having two very simple things like, you know, where’s that next big thing? is a big thing in water and environment and clean tech, when where is it? There are so many opportunities that are out there, I think we have just barely begun our I don’t know industrialization 2.2 2.0.

Alan
How do you answer that question? What what’s the next big issue that we have to solve out there?

Ramesh
I think I think education is one of the biggest issues that we have.

Alan
Education in what respect?

Ramesh
Well, for one thing, I’d say that I’m actually paraphrasing Nicholas Negroponte, who is one of the I think he was the head of the MIT Media Labs. Until recently, he he suggested that until the 20th century, you considered somebody intelligent, when they gave you the right answers. And he he goes on to say that in the 21st century and beyond, you’re going to call somebody intelligent. When they when they ask you the right questions. Interesting, and odd education until now has always been talking about, you know, how much do you know? But these days you have Google, you can look up just what anything you want. So answers are not the problem. Having all these various answers and information and tidbit. Can you craft questions Can you identify what’s the next best thing to solve? Where do our problems lie? Are we going to be? Are we going to run out of water very soon, so that we need to identify how to solve that?

Alan
You know, it’s interesting that as you crafted that so cleverly, in the past, it always been about are you at? are you answering the questions? Right? And and so depending on who is asking the questions, you would get the expected results. But now, with knowledge so readily available, the iPhone, the androids, people can Google what they need to know. There seems to be a crossover, you know, is it may be that wisdom is now becoming more important than knowledge itself.

Ramesh
Absolutely. I think it’s always wisdom has always been more important than knowledge, knowledge of a particular subject itself. It’s putting interdisciplinary is the key key phrase, you know, we see that in technology now. Technology is now part of everything. Technology is part of solving military problems. Technology is part of solving wealth problems, and you know, all of that. And technology is growing is pervasive. So, now you take look at things like, can I combine technology and food? What does that mean? You know, all of a sudden, we know, we’ve been shopping for the longest time, until, you know, 2000. But these days, when you think of shopping, you don’t necessarily mean getting, getting on your into your car, and going to a mall to buy something. Yeah. So technology has changed that. Similarly, I think our lives are going to be changed in such deep ways using technology, or other disciplines. And I think our large opportunities lie in those areas, combining two areas, combining healthcare and technology, combining food and healthcare for, for example, that’s another very big area, I think, other than education, healthcare is going to be immensely rich area for entrepreneurs over the next 10 years,

Alan
you know, I have to believe that the social network works in this whole scheme also, as we move forward, because, you know, aren’t we in essence, talking also about a numbers game, and others, you may have the best technology, the best answer in the whole world, okay. But if nobody comes to the table saying, we agree with you, then typically, as a company, it goes nowhere. So it’s it’s your ability to influence the mass populations that this this solution is the best thing out there and to get people engaged in, in coming aboard.

Ramesh
It’s true, I think social networking, and generally marketing, now it’s been, it’s been changed, you have a very easy way to get your message out. If you have a very strong message, you have a lot of platforms in which you can get your message out. But the key there is, are you able to talk about your value, the end value to the customer, and if you can crystallize the value you have, whether it’s Twitter, or Facebook, or any number of social media platforms, or LinkedIn, for example, all of them now give you a really good power to reach the people. Now, that way you can translate, translate your ideas into companies and therefore improve your wealth.

Alan
You know, I always say there’s three things that you need in a business, okay? Firstly, you need to know the person, like the person and trust the person. And when that becomes a two way street of knowing, liking and trusting you got to customer. And that and the more that you’re able to repeat that process again, and again, the more likely you are to take that concept or that company and succeed.

Ramesh
Yeah absolutely true. And also, I think social network, give the companies or make the companies be true to themselves. Yeah. Because when they are not, it becomes very apparent, and all of a sudden, you’re just becoming a noise. So when you’re consistent, and you’re always giving value, you’ll always rise above the noise.

Alan
So Ramesh, how how does the person find the station deep or station Cafe out there in San Carlos?

Ramesh
Oh, station Cafe is right across from the Caltrain station and near downtown San Carlos. If you were the intersection of the San Carlos Avenue and old county road, you can’t miss it when you’re on the train. It’s on the eastern side of the train tracks. It’s a small little industrial looking building. We come inside we change the way in which you experience restaurants.

Alan
So Ramesh Manian, the founder and owner of the station, cafe best rated cafe in San Carlos.

Ramesh
Thank you, Alan. It’s a pleasure being here.

Alan
Thank you. We’ll be right back after these messages.

 

About Ramesh Manian

Ramesh is a partner at the Station Café, an authentic trattoria style Italian café located in San Carlos California. Prior to entering the restaurant industry Ramesh worked as a software developer helping form companies such as Kuduk, Clarence and eSelf Inc. Ramesh attended Madras University where he obtained a BE in Mechanical Engineering and the University of North Florida where he earned a MS in Computer Science.

 

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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.

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Ramesh Manian on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Ramesh Manian

Ramesh is a partner at the Station Café, an authentic trattoria style Italian café located in San Carlos California. Prior to entering the restaurant industry Ramesh worked as a software developer helping form companies such as Kuduk, Clarence and eSelf Inc. Ramesh attended Madras University where he obtained a BE in Mechanical Engineering and the University of North Florida where he earned a MS in Computer Science.

Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Alan Olsen

Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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