At Toit, our customers have always been our primary focus. They’re the ones who bring life to the place, create memories and end up giving the place its familiar, friendly vibe. And there are so many different kinds of people who come through our doors daily, that we wanted to get to know their stories.
The Kudix Mug Holder of the Month is our little way of celebrating our customers, and their unique stories.
This month’s mug holders are Susmith and Somi. We caught up with the brothers and discussed start-ups, having business meetings at Toit and the difference working with each other has made.
How long have you been in Bangalore?
Susmith: We have been in this area (Byappanahalli) for the last twenty years. I can’t even imagine living elsewhere, for some reason. So ya, Toit has been our hangout since 2010, when it started off.
Susmith’s first ever pint of beer at Toit.
Has beer always been a favourite drink? Or is it something you cultivated a taste for after coming here?
Susmith: Well, we do drink whiskey on occasion. But beer has been a favourite.
Somi: But I think the change happened after coming here. If you remember, during the initial days of Toit, they used to serve bottled beer. But then the brews started and that’s when we got hooked. Now we don’t touch bottled beer. Can’t imagine having anything else.
Both of you have a company together. Tell us a little about it.
Susmith: So, Somi started Redbox in 2008. It’s an event management and design company, and we do corporate event management. We also do a lot of creatives and posters, and stuff like that. But our bread and butter really are the events. And these events are everything corporate—it could be Annual Days, family days, facility inauguration, delegation visits, hotel inaugurations too.
Somi has been running this company with his partner for the last six years. I joined last year. I’m from the IT industry and was working there for about eleven years. And I think this has been a good move. Work’s been tough!
So, Somi started Redbox in 2008. It’s an event management and design company… I joined last year.
Is your brother a hard task-master?
Susmith: Yes, he is! And I’m the elder one! Can you believe it?
But coming back to our company, it has very close ties with Toit because some of our best proposals and plans have come out sitting right here. Winning proposals, winning estimates, brain-storming sessions that we’ve had here, have really got us some big clients. It sounds very clichéd, but when we don’t get a deal, we come here, and when we get a deal, we come here. Every time we have to meet a client, we bring them to this place. We sit in the quieter section of Toit, on top, and have our discussions. Some stressful discussions have actually been moved from the office to here! It definitely helps!
Is Somi usually the quieter one? He hasn’t said much yet!
Somi: No, no. Nothing of the sort. Actually, in the same vein, business has grown a lot ever since Susmith joined. It used to be about three to four of us, and we’re thirteen now, in about a year. Susmith was with sales in his previous job, so he brings that in. It’s really helping Redbox in terms of pitching and presentation. It’s all very streamlined now. We’re also looking at getting new people, so Susmith handles that. I’m visiting Toit more often now!
It’s been growing since the time he joined, and it’s been pretty awesome.
You’ve been coming here since the opening. You were also the first people to bring your pet to Toit, correct?
Somi: Yes. The very first. We had a golden retriever called Cocaine, and Cocaine was the first pet to be here. And I think that was just a couple of days after they announced that Toit was pet friendly. And so I came here along with my wife. Cocaine passed away in 2011, but he was the first pet to come here.
Cocaine’s first visit to Toit. And Toit’s very first pet visit!
Did you guys come here together a lot earlier, or has it become more frequent since you started working together?
Susmith: Well, no pattern as such. We used come here often before, and we continue to. I think it’s increased a little bit, which is good. Or maybe bad!
Somi: So, this is an honest thing about Toit. We travel often, and all over. What we do is, we work for about three to four months, and then we take off. We’ve been to all sorts of watering holes around the world, but Toit really stands out. I mean, this is one place you never get tired of.
The menu hasn’t changed much, and we keep coming back and ordering the same stuff. The Bangers and Mash, the Pesto Pasta—it’s been standard and we never get tired of the food. And the Hefeweizen has been a favourite of ours. Of late, they’ve been coming up with some phenomenal stuff like the Santa Ale, and now the Belgian Riot. We’re getting hooked to it. I mean, we’ve seen a lot of places but this is one place where it feels like you’re coming home.
Of late, they’ve been coming up with some phenomenal (brews)…we’re getting hooked…
Since you guys travel a lot, are there certain places and beer types you particularly enjoy?
Somi: There’s this place we really love. If you put it in order, Toit comes right at the top, and the one below is The White Horse in Heathrow, which is a small place that is about 500 years old. And they do have some interesting brews. And you know, the English versions are usually the darker versions. And we love that.
Susmith: In Bangalore, some of the older pubs are our favourites. We’re from a slightly older generation so you know, your Pub World, Windsor Pub kind. We love these places. We haven’t seen those kind of things come up in the last few years. With the exception of the brewpubs. Everyone wants to jump into this craft brew bandwagon now. I think at the end of the day if you can appeal to people like Toit does, you will succeed.
So you don’t see a distinct difference between the places you’ve been to and the brewpubs here?
Susmith: So, as a concept I think the brewpub is relatively new to India. The Germans and Belgians have been brewing beer for thousands of years. We’ve gone to some of those old breweries and they have these craft brews. I do not see a big difference between the beers here and there. For example, a Belgian one would have a 11% ABV. Here it hovers around 5%, which is good. You don’t want the beer to knock you out, right. So that way yes, in terms of the strength of the beer, there is a difference. But in terms of taste and feel, I don’t see the difference.
It’s not just about the beer. It’s about the people here too.
Somi: It’s actually quite spot on here. I went for the Oktoberfest in 2007 and between all those tents they have this space, something they don’t dismantle, and there’s always a long cue to get inside there and they apparently serve the best Hefeweizen beer. And I’ve had that, and that taste, I can still remember it and relate it to the Hefeweizen here. It’s slightly lighter here, but taste wise, it’s just like that place!
This place really does have an appeal. I don’t think we can put it down in words.
It’s not just about the beer. It’s about the people here too. Right from the reception to the assistant brewers, it’s a really good feeling when you walk into a pub with your friends and everyone knows you. I don’t know what impression they have of us though! Well known in a pub could be a very relative thing! But we’re proud of it!
Since you guys have been coming here for nearly four years, any particular memory that stands out?
Somi: I think it would have to be a day not too long ago.We were pretty much smashed out of our skulls!
It was a very nice day because we were here to celebrate a very big order! The biggest in the history of Redbox, in terms of scale, so we decided not to go to the office that day but to come straight here. We landed up quite early, like 12, and we were here till late evening. We had everything! We popped open a bottle of sparkling wine too. That’s one such day.
Second would definitely have to be the time I came here with Cocaine. I came here with him and my wife. He got a bit restless that day, but I think it’s a really nice gesture that Toit allows you to get your pets. I’ve noticed some other initiatives they are a part of, tying up with NGOs, and I think that’s really sweet.
I think it’s a really nice gesture that Toit allows you to get your pets.
Susmith: The other thing about Toit is that it allows families and kids here, and it’s always a good feeling to see kids running around. Somi hasn’t jumped into the ‘having kids plan’ yet, but I have two, who are eleven and eight years old. I remember the last time we were here, sitting at the taller tables, it felt like we were a bunch of guys out for a beer. It felt nice, even though they’re kids. They like the pizzas here, and though they’re not old enough for the beer yet, I’ll bring them in as soon as they are eighteen!
Susmith sampling the first pint of the Belgian Riot.
Do you guys have favourites here?
Susmith: Of course! The Hefeweizen is our favourite from the regulars, the Pumpkin Ale is our favourite from the Specials. Also, Aam Aadmi and Santa Ale. Belgian Riot also now. And in food, Scotch Eggs, Chicken Strips, Chicken Piccata, Chicken Peppers, Margherita Pizza, the Apple Pie—pretty much everything!
Somi: I also like the IPA here. That’s actually my favourite, but when we’re in a group and everybody is going for the Hefeweizen I order that too. Belgian Riot is great too, but the thing with the Specials here is that by the time you get the taste of it, it’s over.
Susmith: Ya! I remember waiting a whole year for the Pumpkin Ale, and I ended up managing to have exactly two pints before it ran out! We were travelling the whole of October and November, and by the time we returned it was done. And I don’t know if the owners know, but I was the first person to have a pint of the Belgian Riot!
Ya! I remember waiting a whole year for the Pumpkin Ale
Have things changed majorly, now that both you brothers are working together?
Somi: See, we do have our differences. But at the end of the day, if it really benefits the company, it’s worth it. From the time Susmith has come on board, there has been a lot of value-add in terms of presentation, and that’s been a real positive. I don’t look at him as just another employee. The CEO of my previous company once told me, that when you’re hiring people, always hire people smarter than you. And we keep that going at Redbox.
We do fight sometimes, but it all gets streamlined and it’s looking good!
Susmith: At the beginning of 2013, I was at a crossroads as to what I should be doing. If I were to shift from one corporate to another, it would be a similar situation. I wanted to do something very radically different. The other partner Girish, Somi and I were on a trip, and even though I was still an outsider, we talked a lot about the company and I felt like this is something I could be a part of and provide value to.
At the beginning of 2013, I was at a crossroads as to what I should be doing.
How’s the future looking for Redbox?
Somi: Corporate clients are going to remain our focus. This year on, what we’re doing is looking to get involved long term with some of our clients. And because their employees have to be motivated, the events will remain on-going. This year has been the best year for us! So the work is very relevant. The idea is to keep the team small and continue to work with our vendors.
Susmith: Through these events, we also try to give upcoming artists a platform. The industry per say is very competitive and the key is to keep diversifying and get in new thoughts and ideas.
Somi: It’s been good. And also, we try to keep it consistent like Toit. You’ve got to be consistent with quality, and I think Toit has this age and maturity to it, and that just feels great.