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The 33rd AGM – One for the history books


The 33rd NRAI AGM demonstrated the association’s new, assertive approach. The chief guest – Delhi’s tourism minister – set off a media storm, which the NRAI took in its stride, coming out even stronger. A report.

The momentum is with the restaurant industry. The turn out at the 33rd AGM, at a new venue this time, was the highest it’s been in a longtime. The mood was upbeat, the message clear, its our time.

With new partnerships set, revenues up and the accounts in order, the business of the association was dealt with swiftly and effectively. Appreciation for the new managing committee’s immense progress achieved in its first year was duly noted. Though it seemed the floor was being cleared for bigger things ahead.

It was and there were two in fact. Kapil Mishra, Delhi’s tourism minister, the evening’s chief guest, was expected and troubles with Zomato needed to be dealt with.

Zomato first. Ashish Kothare, the NRAI’s Bengaluru chapter head, took the floor, leading this session. “Issues with Zomato need to be resolved. Checks and balances for reviews have not yet been done, despite so many requests. We need a fair opportunity. How do we manage this?” he asked, a question that set off the venue and brought many to their feet, eager to answer.

Kothare has been at the forefront of interactions with Zomato, the most influential 3rd party for restaurants in India. Over many heated meetings with Zomato founders that were “only business, nothing personal”, promises to add essential checks and balances, remained unfulfilled.

Putting context to his comments, Kothare shared many examples of restaurateurs affected by Zomato’s inability to implement quality checks on reviewers and reviews. “We are not averse to reviews pointing out our genuine mistakes, we do not want it to be baseless lies and one-sided,” said Kothare.

As his speech came to its conclusion, the NRAI president Amlani, put forward an open question to the floor, “Is this a strong, common sentiment?”

With a resounding yes, the floor was opened for suggestions on the urgent changes Zomato needs to implement to make it a fair platform. The suggestions ranged from compulsory time-stamps on reviews, the ability to delist one’s restaurant, a time limit to post a review as well as the special feature for peer reviews and voting.

Thanking the audience for their productive suggestions, Rahul Singh, NRAI’s honorary secretary moved the conversation to FSSAI and music copyrights. “We’ve been seeing increasing cases of NGO’s becoming ‘quasi-FSSAI’ of HACCP. They conduct ‘audits’ on unsuspecting restaurants and create a controversy in the name of public safety,” he said.

He asked members to stay aware of these ‘audit raids’ and keep the NRAI updated on each instance they come across, especially if they are targeted.

With a resounding yes, the floor was opened for suggestions on the urgent changes Zomato needs to implement to make it a fair platform.

The conversation shifted to performance and music/TV copyrights. Once again, Singh reminded the audience of the industry’s victory over the PPL-IPRS duo and reminded them not to fall victim to their strong arms methods. “They are de-registered societies,” said Singh.

The NRAI manages an active awareness campaign to ensure the industry only pays legitimate fees to legitimate authorities.

“Ask them (PPL-IPRS) for written proof that from the artist authorizing them to collect fees. Pay them only when you get this,” said Prakul Kumar, secretary general, NRAI.

A new body the Indian Singers Rights Association, has begun contacting restaurants for fees for their members. “We are looking into their claims, but once again, please get their demands in writing,” said Kumar.

The NRAI manages an active awareness campaign to ensure the industry only pays legitimate fees to legitimate authorities.

Even with an excellent meeting having just concluded, there was still an expectant air for the best to come. The evening reconvened 20 minutes after the AGM concluded with the arrival of the chief guest, Delhi’s tourism minister, Kapil Mishra. The close working relationship between the NRAI and AAP-led government in Delhi was evident from the direct statements and replies by Mishra.

This second session was led by Amlani, who, with a crisp presentation of global examples, reiterated NRAI’s stance that the foodservice sector is an asset for city administrators and should be treated as partners. “The world over, dining and entertainment are what gives the city its soul. The most popular tourism destinations realized this years ago and are reaping the benefits from their active support for the foodservice industry. We are grateful to Delhi’s AAP government for accepting this,” said Amlani.

Mishra’s replies to Amlani’s presentation demonstrated his government’s no-frill approach. “Over time, governments lost touch with business reality, which has created this complicated web of rules and licences. Its credit to you restaurateurs to continue working with so many restrictions. Our job is to govern and make relevant laws, we’ll change rules to become business-friendly if you (NRAI) demonstrate real value to us. Do your homework,” he said, to loud applause.

In his other replies, Mishra’s frank-speak also set off a media storm. “Something’s wrong, if I can vote and drive at 18, get married at 21 but cannot drink till 25. It means, I cannot drink at my own wedding,” he said, to laughter in the audience at the irony of this law.

The local media picked up on this comment in their next day’s news that escalated to even larger media coverage, high-pitched TV debates and political mud slinging.

The situation however brought the strong relationship between the NRAI & the government to the fore. The association went on the front foot by drumming up support on social media and local press with ceaseless media interviews and TV debates. Seizing the momentum, 10 days after the AGM, the association presented its recommendations to the Delhi government on the reduction of the minimum drinking age.

Rahul Singh’s closing remarks at the AGM summed up the new energy in the industry and the largest turnout for an AGM so far.

With the business of foodservice over, the evening moved a floor above to the terrace of Amlani’s Social restaurant in the Hauz Khas village.



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