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India In A Gully

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From Mumbai to Assam and Punjab to Chennai, Indian culture, heritage and lip-smacking cuisine comes alive at the Culture Gully of Kingdom of Dreams – India’s first live entertainment and leisure destination located in Gurgaon. We went there to find out for ourselves what makes the destination so popular amongst the young and old alike.

(GINC), in an attempt to promote Indian culture and tourism, came up with the idea of Kingdom of Dreams in late 2010 – a little more than Rs 200 crore extravaganza. Sprawling across many acres of land in Gurgaon, Kingdom of Dreams brings to life the magic and timeless mystique of India through its unique blend of art, culture, heritage, crafts and cuisine. GINC is a joint venture between , Apra Group of Companies and Raghbeer Group of Companies.

The place is divided into three segments: Culture Gully, Nautanki Mahal and Showshaa Theatre. Nautanki Mahal is a state-of-the-art theatre at Kingdom of Dreams, India’s first unique live entertainment destination, and is host to Zangoora, The Gypsy Prince – the world’s biggest Indian cinematic themed, theatrical, musical extravaganza, the company claims. Nautanki Mahal also stages an out-and-out musical comedy – Jhumroo, a musical celebrating the spirit of Kishore Da. To be launched shortly, Showshaa Theatre will present a kaleidoscope of fabulous colourful drama spotlighting ancient Indian epics and mythology, mock wedding shows and the great Indian talent circus.

Culture Gully, which is spread over a massive area of more than 100,000 sq.ft., is an elaborated boulevard of culture, arts and crafts, and cuisine under one of India’s first ever sky domes. The magnitude and scale of Culture Gully can also be analysed by the fact that more than 140 chefs brought in from different culinary destinations of India work to produce more than 250 authentic and regional dishes from across the country, to serve the guests. To top it all, there are 14 state pavilions and an exciting mix of 20 food and beverage destinations to choose from, which includes 6 restaurants, 6 live show kitchens and 3 street bars.

Culture Gully: The Beginnings
According to Viraf Sarkari, Director, Wizcraft International Entertainment: “Initially, we planned to have a fine dining theatre at the Kingdom of Dreams, where we could provide guests with a four- or five-course meal comprising dishes from across the country. So, while watching the show, they could enjoy their meal alongside. But on second thoughts, we realised it would be disturbing to eat while watching the show. What with the clattering noises from forks and spoons all over the auditorium. And since Indian masalas have a very distinct flavour, the smell of curries would be prominent. So we dropped the idea.”

“Eventually, we decided to have separate spaces allocated for eating and watching the show. We decided to have a food court that would serve different kinds of Indian cuisine. After a good amount of brainstorming, we thought of giving our guests the taste of regional cuisine. We created different state pavilions under a breathtaking sky dome so that guests could experience the food in an environment showcasing 14 states of India in all their splendour. We worked on the façade and also the interiors accordingly to depict the history of that state. Hence, Culture Gully was born.”

Public Response
The first person to enter Culture Gully was Bollywood actor , since she was the one who inaugurated this place. Nobody expected such a set up when they entered Culture Gully, observes Sarkari. It was a jaw-dropping experience for many and everyone loved the concept of it being indoors with a sky roof. People do not feel any time barrier here, since time at Culture Gully comes to a standstill. Moreover, he states, the audience at Culture Gully is varied. It is as frequented by Indian families as it is by internal tourists.

The popularity of Culture Gully can also be gauged from the footfalls this place receives. Culture Gully hosts around 4,000 guests in a day during the weekend and around 2,500–3,000 guests a day during weekdays. The entry charge is Rs  299 and Rs  499 per person on weekdays and weekends, respectively. The entry fee charged is fully redeemable inside the Culture Gully.

USP
Culture Gully is not all about food. There is art and craft as well. So, you get to eat, walk around the place, shop, see craftsmen working on their tools and learn so many things that you didn’t know about before. Once you are tired of it, you can again go back to the food court. It is that kind of an experience that makes Culture Gully a huge hit amongst the masses.

Investment and Expansion
Culture Gully has entailed an investment of around Rs 100 crore, states Sarkari. At present, there are 14 state pavilions, out of which Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh have only retail counters and no food option. Going ahead, Sarkari plans to open the missing state pavilions. “There is some space constraint now and we have applied for expansion. Once we get the required permission, we will expand,” he informs. Sarkari is also positive about opening Culture Gully in different states and countries. But nothing has been confirmed as yet.

He feels that the one in Gurgaon is a very neutral version since it includes a lot of states. “We have been getting plenty of offers from different states to open state-centric versions. We think Culture Gully as a concept is fabulous and we can expand it,” he says.

Zeroing in on Menu
For Sarkari, it was extremely important to provide his guests with an overall experience. He recalls: “We sat down and tried to figure out what people would like to eat if they were in Rajasthan or Punjab. What is the speciality cuisine of Goa or Lucknow? The team at Culture Gully noted the best and most popular dishes of those regions in consultation with the speciality chefs of those regions before bringing the dish here. We are providing the best of Indian cuisine in one place.” So, as of now, Culture Gully has as many as 250 dishes on its menu. It also has specialised chefs for each state pavilion to give its guests an authentic taste of the respective states.

Marketing and Challenges
Kingdom of Dreams is heavily marketed in the digital space.With local audiences as the target, the brand is advertising aggressively in the local newspapers, and will soon be wooing people through the good old idiot box.

“See, this is something we cannot express through the means of an advertisement. You will have to visit the place to experience it,” feels Sarkari. “Word of mouth also plays an important role in promoting a brand.”

According to him, driving consistent footfalls, maintaining the food quality and making sure that the guests are having a good time are some of the big challenges.
But Sarkari is confident that the challenges will be met head-on by his team of highly trained managers.