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Mr.Usha Balakrishna, the renowned industrialist and film distributor who owned a humongous 70 acre-fish tank in Kolleru, asked his office to hold back payment of Rs.2 lakh to the 16-year-old Loknath in a fish supply deal. The youth, anticipating some fussy haggling, went to Mr.Balakrishna only to be told, “Had I released your payment, you would not have come to me. I wanted to see you as you are the youngest in the field and are doing a stupendous job. I see a great potential in you and greater future for you.” Yes, the veteran’s prediction did come true. Mr.B.Loknath, Managing Director, Somaa Restobar, is barely pushing 40s, but he has made significant forays into three unrelated fields – pisciculture, real estate and now the hotel industry. His recently-opened Somaa has already been the talk of the town with its unique ambience, impeccable amenities and never-before-in the region services. He narrates his eventful journey in an exclusive and interesting tete-a-tete .

Rural Roots
We hail from Machilipatnam and our family which was dealing with agriculture moved to GollaGudem in Kaikaluru when I was a child. It was a cosy household with my father, the late Mr.Ramachandra Rao, my mother Mrs.Subhadra and we, three children. The heart attack my father suffered while I was studying Intermediate changed the course of my life. I had to take charge of the family as my father was rather demoralised by his illness. I started looking for a good source of income as I had to see my younger siblings settle, besides looking after my parents. I am the first one in our family to step out to explore a new path and become an entrepreneur. I got into fish business and took up dealership for Aqua Feed at the age of 16. Dealing with prawns and fish, I ran it with considerable success.

Vizag calling
The Krishna District administration launched Operation Kolleru to restore the pristine glory of Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary, Asia's largest wetland and stopped fish cultivation. This made me look around for an alternative business. It also put me on the horns of dilemma -whether to go to Hyderabad or Vizag. Taking a cue from destiny, I came to the coastal city in 2007.

Real challenge
I took up dealership and ran a shop- Rajyalakshmi Surgical Equipment, named after my wife. Later, I deviated into waterproofing services by launching Lailaa Build Proof. The prestigious projects I took up included Chitralaya theatre, KenX, IBM and Chaitanya College. In the meantime, a friend, philosopher and guide went on dinning into my head that I was cut out for real estate business and should take it up in all earnestness. Yet another friend from Hyderabad who had a piece of land in Vizag asked me to manage it. I was totally new to this field and I was very wary of the unfamiliar ground. The first thing that sent me into a tizzy was the cost of the land which was prohibitively high. While in our towns an acre was costing only Rs.3 to 4 lakh, they were quoting nothing less than a crore for an acre of land here. I still took the plunge and started Devi Homes.

The first deal
Putting my best foot forward, I acquired a 7,000 sq.yard-plot in Maddilapalem and gave it to Mr.G.S.Raju of G.Con for development. Despite many hardships and hurdles, I grew from strength to strength both in status and business.

I built my it brick by brick and with God’s grace, it is flourishing.

Success story
A piece of land was stuck in a hassle for four decades with 3 parties squabbling over it. It was being used as a junkyard where people used to dump waste.
I could bring all the warring factions to the table and settled it amicably. It took me 20 days to clean-up the place. The transaction attracted even the media’s attention. This deal shot me up into unexpected heights and the who is who of the city started acknowledging me. The local people honoured me at the Shiva temple, making me perform abhishekam to God with 101 pots of water brought in by women drapped in their traditional splendour. Now many people come to me asking me to salvage a piece of land here or sort out a problem there.

Hotel industry
Somaa too is born out of a stray thought.
I mentioned it casually to my friends and one of them suggested that I should set it up in his sprawling building on the VIP Road. I wondered if there was wisdom in operating a restaurant in such a proximity to the other established ones. Won’t it be too close for comfort? Taking it up as an additional challenge, I worked on a unique concept that would not invite any rivalry.

I needed to offer something that the city had never seen before- right from its external ambience to what is served on the platter. The see-through live kitchen offers the guest an ample view of what is cooking. The vast spread of menu, live band and the sophisticated bar that serves top-notch drinks are the added attractions. In short, I saw to it that it turns out to be a family restaurant which offers something for everyone. I acquire the best quality water and ingredients, no compromising there. Their take away should be fond memories of the time they spent here and the facilities offered.

So far so good. Though we were into the industry recently, we are witnessing impressive number of footfalls. In fact, many hoteliers of repute who came here had only words of praise for what they have seen and experienced. Of course, I must admit that people initially looked askance at me. But now all of them say, “We thought that you were too loaded with wealth to swindle it on a restaurant that caters to families with works like live kitchen, music and liquor. But we are spellbound by what you are offering. You have taken the standards of the city’s food industry to a higher level and gifted the Smart City with a chic asset.”

Staff- friendly initiatives
I am able to provide livelihood to nearly 100 people including some experts in culinary field. I make a deal with my employees. If they save Rs100 per month from every Rs.10,000 they earn, they can take it whenever they need it and I shall chip in with a matching grant. They appear to be happy with this arrangement. As the head of the ‘family’, I stand by them through thick and thin.

CSR activities
I have been donating off and on and serving society. I did not set up any trust yet.

Advice to new comers
Be vigilant about what you are dealing with and go for clean deals so that the beneficiaries of your service are not troubled. Never let down your customers whatever may be the business you are in because they give you not only their money but also their unflinching trust.

Unfulfilled dream
None. I could achieve all that I wanted till now. But there is a lot more to do. I feel fulfilled only when I can help lakhs of needy people around me.

Future plans
The future is not ours to see. Of course, I have a few plans. Since they are still in the conceptual stage, I prefer to keep them under wraps for now.

Success Mantra
Offering quality service
Not pursuing education
Secret of energy
Passion for any endeavour I take up.
Listening to music.
What makes you happy?
Any small or big success of my children
If things don’t go the way they have to despite the best of my efforts.
Dereliction of duties
Source of recharge?
Time I spend with my family

Colour: Nothing particular
Attire: Shirt and trouser
Brand: Linen Club
Car: Audi
Place: Vizag
Food: Non-veg
Dish in Somaa
Ulavacharu Mutton biryani (Sometimes I wonder if he has opened Somaa to feast on them, quips his wife Rajyalakshmi)
Actor: No one particular
Actress: Anushka
Holiday destination: My home

It was an arranged marriage ordained right from the childhood as we are cousins. We tied knot in 1997. Since it was only an inter-family shift, the transition was smooth and there were no major changes. We did see a lot of ups and a few downs too. But that did not come in the way of our relationship. The best trait in him that enchants me even now is his happy disposition. His anger is very short-lived. I never interfere in his decisions because I know he chooses only what is right for us. He can take any situation under his control and give it his best shot. I restrict my role to my home and am busy with my children and mother-in-law. My son Teju is studying B.Tech and daughter Mouni B.B.A in GITAM. My husband takes out as much time for us as he can from his packed days. He bestows equal attention on his people and my family, leaving no scope for anyone to complain. Our holidays are with our relatives. We never miss Sankranti celebrations in our village.

He never ever as much raised his hand or voice to punish me, whatever might have been my fault. He would quietly make me understand what I had done was wrong. I am in awe of him even though he is very soft. Though he is very caring, his business obligations keep him on his toes and don’t allow him enough time to spend with us. So we interact more with mom.

I prefer to talk of my father’s brainchild Somaa which means Elixir. It is not just a restaurant, but it is an enriching experience which imparted many valuable lessons to all of us, right from the word go. We had deliberated over the project for days, starting from selecting the name to all the amenities it was to offer. All the time, my father would only say - “Whatever we do, we have to leave a mark on history.” He is such a perfectionist that if things are not up to the mark, he would ask them to dismantle the entre thing and redo it and the process would continue till he is satisfied. He wouldn’t leave any stone unturned to accomplish that top-notch outcome. I have seen him working innumerable hours for the past one year till he saw Somaa open. He is an out and out people’s man. His energy and enthusiasm are very infectious. He encourages me in all my escapades.

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