21 January 2019

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Harris Abdullah: The 'Juice' Baron

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Seated in the plush outlet of Fruit shop on Greams Road in Express Avenue Chennai, we sipped glasses of exotic fruit juice as we waited for Mr. Harris Abdullah, the brain behind the ever growing chain of fresh juice pubs operating out of Chennai. If we had expected a middle aged entrepreneur, Harris looked more like a model- slim, tall and totally unassuming, and with a winsome boyish smile to sport.

 It was through sheer quirk of fate that Harris and a friend of his, Salim plunged into the fruit juice culture. Harris originally hails from Kannur, Kerala and belongs to an erstwhile well known family, who were traditionally into timber business. Harris’s heart was not into pursuing this line of business and wanted to venture into something different. “Initially, I worked for Skypak, tried my hand at timber and plywood, our traditional family venture, and then as all Malayalis aspire to do, went abroad to Dubai.”- Harris explains with a twinkle in his eye.

It was at this time, that a friend of his offered him a 250 square feet shop on Greams Road. “We had a shop in hand but were clueless as to what business to get into, so Salim and I decided to start a fresh fruits and juices business. “ We did up the shop, fixed boards and made our first trip to the fruit market with great enthusiasm “- reminisces Harris.

Harris and Salim really had to struggle to make both ends meet. Their lives were totally thrown out of gear by the rigorous hours they put in from 5 AM to 1 AM! They had to face severe aggressiveness and over powering quickness of the fruit market to tackle, coupled with the slime and sludge of a perishable goods market.

“On our first Saturday, we just billed for Rs 120. The next week, thanks entirely to my cousin, we billed Rs 130.”- laughs Harris heartily, in nostalgia.” But slowly our efforts paid off and business began to pick up. Initially the shop sold more Coke and Pepsi than fruits and juices.”

Harris and Salim initially had two young guys to assist them but things got severely out of hand when they had an accident after closing hours and ended up at the hospital. “We were out of action for a fortnight and there was no one to open shop or make juice. It was then that we decided to open shop ourselves and man it all by ourselves. “. It was then, that Harris decided to try his hand at juice making.

The first juice made by Harris was named Sam’s Pick Me Up. It was concocted out of pomegranates and black pepper. A customer, who tried this, changed hues gradually with each sip, paid in a hurry and left! Bemused, Harris tasted it himself and realized that he had added more of black pepper into it! “It was a tremendous learning experience. We gave vent to our creative instincts fully. Till date, we have never referred to any recipe books and can pride ourselves on the fact that all the juices here are entirely our own creation. The day we decided to sweep the floor, clean glasses, handle fruits and concoct juices ourselves- that was the day that Fruit shop on Greams Road was born”- affirms Harris.

Business picked up rapidly and Harris excelled in concocting more juices like the Orange Punch, True Blue, The Sheik shake, Jug head Special, Flosbury Flop, Pink Panther, Mint Cooler, and lots more. Harris’s main customers were youngsters by day and families at night. The ever growing clientele loved the exotic blends, hygienic surroundings, and consistency of the products, and the shop was on a roll.

Word got around and articles about the duo Harris and Salim appeared in leading newspapers and periodicals like the Indian Express, The Hindu, Outlook, India Today , adding immense value to the Fruit shop. There was a tremendous growth spurt and new outlets appeared at various locations in Chennai.

 The name Fruit shop on Greams Road was trade marked and used extensively at all outlets. Juices like the Lime mint cooler, Blue Dot Special, Colonel Custer, Bartender’s Blush were also trade marked.

 By 2009, the Fruit shop was selling over three million glasses of pure original juices to its patrons from 13 outlets and campus counters. Its first international outlet is now open and functioning at Dubai and the response there has been very much heartening too. An outstanding aspect of the Fruit shop On Greams Road is its broad acceptance amongst its clientele, spanning age and gender. This exclusive juice pub has been rated by Ford India as one of Chennai’s two most recognised locations.

 The Fruit shop has procured mention in the iconic Lonely Planet travelogue and most recently, it’s been recognised as the eighth most recognized brand name in India. “Now we have been in to business for the past 16 years. In Chennai, we have 16 outlets, 3 in Dubai and two more coming up there very soon. A franchise model is soon to be offered to over 800 plus prospective franchisees from all over India and overseas. “- Harris clarifies.

 “We in India grossly underestimate our own potential. You wouldn’t believe it, but abroad, people just love our humble sweet lime (musambi).We do wonders with this fruit.”- “

“Most gratifying has been the recognition of our brand among foreign travelers and people from far flung areas across the length and breadth of the country. “

 Harris gets mails of appreciation and these letters are a constant source of inspiration to him.  “As we pause and reflect, the years behind us seem like a dream run. W e realise with joy and gratitude to the Almighty that our story of the tiny juice pub on Greams Road was, and continues to be written by the appreciation, love and sense of belonging of the extraordinary people we call Chennaiites. “- beams Harris proudly.

Last Updated ( Monday, 29 November 2010 11:41 )  

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