Dosa King and Saravana Bhavan owner P Rajagopal passes away in Chennai
P Rajagopal, the owner of the Saravana Bhavan chain of restaurants, who was serving a life sentence for a murder case, has passed away. He was 72. Reportedly, he had suffered from a massive cardiac arrest on Saturday night, after which he was put on a ventilator.
Popularly referred to as the Dosa King, Rajagopal had surrendered in court on July 9 to serve a life term, in a case involving the kidnap and murder of one Prince Santhakumar, the husband of Jeevajyothi that Rajagopal wanted to marry as his third wife.
Although he was born into a low income class family of farmers, Rajagopal managed to prosper as a businessman, and built Saravana Bhavan chain of restaurants, which now has a branch almost all over the world. He came to Chennai in 1968 and opened a series of tiny provision stores. He opened his first restaurant in 1981, at KK Nagar - one that served simple South Indian fare - idli, dosa and vada, made using high-quality produce. Quite a bold move for him back then, considering his grocery stores were in debt and most items on his menus sold at less than a ruppee, leading him to incur losses as high as Rs 10,000 a month.
Word began to spread that his food was tasty and cheap, and there was no looking back for Rajagopal since then. Today Saravana Bhavan has 33 branches in India (20 in Chennai alone), and 47 branches across countries like Australia, North America, Middle East, New Zealand and even Africa. Rajagopal has also been lauded for providing his employees with benefits, unprecedented in Indian restaurants back then- free health care, housing stipends, marriage funds for women, free transportation for women employees. This also earned him the name Annachi - a term of respect, meaning elder brother, in Tamil. He had also penned a memoir in 1997 titled, I Set My Heart On Victory.
In the early 2000s, Rajagopal, on the advice of his astrologer, pursued Jeevajyothi, the daughter of one of his employees, for marriage, but she rejected his advances. He orchestrated multiple threats against her family, and in 2001, he successfully orchestrated the kidnap and murder of her husband. He was sentenced to life for the murder.
In 2009, the brand value of Saravana Bhavan plunged after Rajagopal's conviction. More recently, in March this year, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict and was asked to surrender to the authorities by July 7. He surrendered on July 9, after the court rejected his counsel's plea to extend the date, on grounds of ill health. Days later, the tycoon suffered a heart attack and was transferred to the prison ward of Stanley Hospital. A plea was registered by his son, requesting a transfter to a private hospital which was granted. On July 18, Rajagopal breathed his last.