Meet Rajat Gupta

Have you ever wondered where all that lovely, exotic food comes from? I mean sure, lambs have racks in New Zealand too, but who gets them here to adorn our platters?

[singlepic id=897 w=320 h=240 float=left]I’m sure most of us have experienced eating out. Okay, silly statement. Of course we have! What most of us (excluding the chaps in the hospitality business) probably don’t know however, is that the food we eat is at the last leg of it’s long journey from wherever in the world it originated.

That’s where Rajat Gupta comes into the picture. Director of a firm called Park EXIM, Rajat is singly responsible for all that lovely makizushi you’ve eaten inĀ  India and partly so for a range of other goodies. Among the huge number of food items Rajat brings into the country are exotic stuff like Escargots (snails), Preserved Ducks Eggs, Lotus Leaves, Habanero and Chipotle peppers, Burghul wheat, spices like Baharat and Zatar and loads of other stuff. I had been looking high and low for quick cooking Polenta flour and guess where I found it? Yup, at Park EXIM’s warehouse in south Delhi.

A miscommunication brought us in touch and when I found out what he does for a living, I just couldn’t resist making the trip to his warehouses. Soft spoken and quite self effacing, Rajat graciously allowed me into his veritable Ali Baba’s treasure trove. On entering the first huge room, it was all I could do to remain standing and not go down on my knees, arms raised to the sky and thank the almighty for this unexpected bounty. Seriously, I could have camped in that room for a week and still not fully explored all the different foods and ingredients it contained. Weak kneed and nearly drooling, I followed Rajat from room to room where all his merchandise was stored. Some rooms were temperature controlled while all were regularly fumigated. Of course! Some of you may think I’m being quite melodramatic when describing my experience above. Not so, especially considering there were food there I had only read about and never seen before. I guarantee you’ll have the same reaction if you’re a *real* foodie. ;-)

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One of the top food importers in India, if not #1, Rajat built the business entirely on his own. Ignoring his family’s retail business in Connaught Place, which has been in existence since the 1920s, for some reason he entered this tough line and though it entailed a long struggle, he finally made it! “I used to make up my bank balances using 10 rupee notes to make sure my cheques didn’t bounce”, says Rajat, a little nostalgic about those days when he would have to unload 150 sacks and crates of goods a day from trucks and store them in his multi-storeyed warehouse himself. One of the photos above are of his old office, which he still uses for storage. Hard work pays off I guess – 12 years later, he now has offices in Delhi, Goa and Bangalore. I like that – how cool is it to have an office in Goa? Must be counter productive at times.

Park EXIM today supplies to most major food and hospitality establishments like ITC Hotels, Taj Hotels, Lite Bite Foods, Baci, Ai and Barista among others.

The next time you’re digging into a New Zealand Lamb Rack and exulting in it’s tenderness, think of Rajat Gupta!

– Sid
PS: Rajat has agreed to entertain requests for individual purchases, as long as they’re picked up from his warehouse at Aashirwad Plaza, 58 & 59, Kalu Sarai, Sarvpriya Vihar, New Delhi. Phones: 011- 26566666, 011-41828234. Please ask for Rajat Gupta.