What would you do if half your customers packed up and moved elsewhere? Some would move with the customers, others would change professions, perhaps. But when the diamond bourse moved to the Bandra-Kurla Complex, and took many of his customers with it, Ningappa Gauli stayed put, and evolved to change with the times.
Gauli is the owner of Rajubhai Sandwich Stall at Girgaum, near Opera House, which he set up in 1972. The fact that it has been running — in the same location — for over 40 years is another reason not to shift, although it has scaled down to match the drop in customers.
Gauli, who came from Hubli to Mumbai in the mid-1960s, initially worked at a tea stall and then at a sandwich stall in Kalbadevi. It was a logical step to set up his own stall which he did with his savings, when he was about 24. Gauli’s mother tongue is Kannada and he can speak six other languages — but he prefers to serve sandwiches while his son Nishant does the talking. And the public relations. Nishant has set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account for Rajubhai Sandwich Stall, probably the only sandwich-walla on social media. Asked why he is known as Rajubhai, the older Gauli says with a laugh that the business people in the area nicknamed him as “Raju” is an easier name to remember and pronounce.
One setback for the stall was when toasted sandwiches had to be taken off the menu due to a logistics issue. To compensate, there are different varieties of fresh sandwiches such as the Charminar (`30) and the Special Jain 2-in-1 (`22) sandwiches, as well as the Schezwan Samosa (`30) sandwich.
The stall’s specialty is the thick green chutney that Gauli applies liberally on the bread, and in fact customers sometimes take away only the chutney, says Gauli. On a hot day, customers can have packed buttermilk with their sandwich for a discount, and Gauli plans to get a soft drink dispenser installed.