“One of the shows I was producing at the time was a car-and-bike show. We set out with two bikes, two cars and with a crew of 13 from Delhi to Leh, on a 2,100 km road trip. All because we wanted to test-ride the Royal Enfield’s new bike, the Machismo 500 LB.”
Gopal and his crew were shooting in Manali and it gave him the perfect opportunity to explore the place. “Manali was my kind of place, where I could ride into the mountains whenever I wanted. I could see myself living here. But I wondered, what will I do in Manali when I am not biking? Manali didn’t have too many bars, and had very few tourist traffic those days. We visited this cosy lounge bar in a village several kilometres away from town, and I got my answer. I decided I was going to open a pub in Old Manali. The answer presented itself that evening.”
Gopal found a place previously run by his friend, and he knew that this was where he was going to open The Lazy Dog Lounge. He partnered with a friend who was happy to share the initial challenges of opening a new cafe where there wasn’t must tourist traffic and the locals warned them, that the café wouldn’t work at all!
When asked about the challenges he faced before and after opening the café in Old Manali, he said, “The first year that we opened the café we only had a season of three months. Manali typically had a 6 months season in those days, but we had already lost three months due to the refurbishing of the place. It wasn’t easy, we only had three boys in the kitchen, and either me or my business partner would stand in the bar to make the drinks.”
“There is no problem so big that you cannot run away from it.”
One of the biggest challenge that Gopal talked about was how the locals undermined his cafe and stated right at the start that it was too fancy and expensive for Manali; and that it will not run well. From a massive fight of locals with a staff member, and solving all minor issues, he did not give up.
Gopal sees all these challenges he has faced over the years as small hurdles and says, “I am lucky. Every time something bad happens, I somehow find a way, that way I have always found myself being lucky.” And that’s one of the biggest attributes needed in opening and running any business – Never Give Up.
Gopal's advise to young entrepreneurs is very simple, "Hope, prepare and have fun."
Today, the café is one of the top three go to cafe and bars in Old Manali, a beautiful place with river running along the side. After being in the restaurant business for several years, Gopal is now opening another 'The Lazy Dog' hotel in North Goa.