The MTR Story

I’m sure everyone has sometime or the other come across the company MTR whether through their products on supermarket shelves or simply through their advertisements on television if not by trying their product range themselves. But little do people know of its very interesting history.

While walking through a mall I Bangalore I came across a sign on a restaurant which read “Mavalli Tiffin Rooms”. This very intriguing name caught my attention leading me to enquire some more. I realised that this restaurant was a branch of the famous MTR which once started as a restaurant and later went on to becoming one of the largest and most successful manufacturers of convenience foods and instant mixes in India.

On entering the restaurant my eyes went directly on the walls, where hung pictures describing the history of the establishment.

 

The story goes something like this –

MTR was set up near Lalbagh Fort in Bangalore by two brothers, Yajnanarayana Maiya and Ganappayya Maiya who came down from a place called Parampalli, near Udupi. In 1936 Ganappayya Maiya decided to go back to Parampalli. Yajnanarayana Maiya now assumed full charge of the restaurant. It was originally called ‘Brahmin’s Coffee House’, but the name was changed when it was shifted to a bigger premises in 1960.

In 1950, Yajnarayana Maiya undertook a European tour to see for himself how restaurants in other parts of the world functioned. The cleanliness and hygiene there opened his eyes. He resolved that MTR would adhere to the same standard of cleanliness. He distributed small booklets on health, proper eating habits and recipes. He introduced the system of sterilization of kitchen items. He also introduced the system of opening up the kitchen to the scrutiny of any customer who was interested. In fact, for a long time customers entered the restaurant through the kitchen so that by default they saw with their own eyes the hygienic methods of food preparation.​​

In 1968 Yajnanarayana Maiya passed away and the reins of the restaurant was taken over by his nephew, Harishchandra Maiya. Yajnanarayana Maiya’s son, Sadananda Maiya also joined in a few years later.

​In 1976, when the Emergency was declared, the government called five of the most well known restaurants in the city – including MTR – and told them that they had to reduce the prices of the food at their restaurants according to government approved rates, to bring it within the reach of the common man.​

The prices of the items were to be the same in all the restaurants. Some restaurants paid up, others started compromising on the quality. MTR did neither. MTR kept the quality of the food as high as ever and put up a board stating the losses for the day outside the restaurant. MTR continued in this way for 16 days. On the 16th day it closed down. During this time, MTR opened a small departmental store next to the hotel and started making and selling mixes for rava idli and other items. The restaurant opened again once the Emergency was lifted.

In 1994 the company split into two divisions. The packaged food business was taken over by Sadanand Maiya and the restaurant was continued by Harishchandra Maiya. MTR Foods, the packaged food division, was sold to Orkla of Norway in 2007.​

Today the MTR restaurant still stands in the same place it did more than 50 years ago. Harishchandra Maiya passed away in 1999. The business is now run by his three children – Hemamalini Maiya, Vikram Maiya and Arvind Maiya. From a standalone restaurant, MTR expanded into a restaurant chain, as the second branch in Rajaji Nagar was inaugurated in 2004. MTR opened its first international restaurant in 2013 in Singapore.

(Story as mentioned on the wall hangings and MTR website)

 After reading the very interesting story I got even more interested in trying the food. And as anticipated it was amazing. I’m not a very big fan of south Indian food apart from idlis. But an MTR dosa is divine. It melts in your mouth in no time and provides you with all the comfort that one seeks from food.

A glimpse into the restaurant –

(video credit – The Webmedia)

When the meal ended I was asked if I wanted any coffee, and I did indeed offer a south Indian filter coffee. When it was served to me I got into conversation with the staff trying to figure out the history of the delicious coffee.

Now, something you have to know about MTR is that it is a hustly bustly busy place where no one has the time to stop and talk so this one took a lot of buttering. This is what I found out about the coffee –

Whether it was exchanges between freedom fighters or businessmen brokering deals, the coffee at MTR has acted as the channel. The owner’s passion for food made him go to steep extents to get the coffee just right. He meticulously chose the beans, roasting and grinding them daily so that there would be no loss of flavour. Buffalo milk was mixed to the concoction to enhance the flavours even further. From the very beginning to today the coffee is served in silver cups and as I was told topped precisely with 1/4th of an inch of froth.

All in all MTR is an amalgamation of a rich history and heritage and exquisite flavours with no compromise on quality. This time I could just visit one of the restaurants in the chain of many, next time I hope to go to its main and original restaurant in Lalbagh.

The following video highlights the success of MTR over the years –

(video credit – CNBC TV18)

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