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Anirudh Singhal on building bars from the inside out

The founder of SpeedX talks about the difference design can make to serving drinks.
Anirudh Singhal on designing bars in India

The bar business in India is booming. Currently, an average of 15 new bars are opening every month across the country. We’re not simply stating this, it’s a number that Anirudh Singhal, founder of SpeedX and Haus of Bars by SpeedX confirms. But, how does he know this?

Singhal and his team at SpeedX, a bar design company, are the folks behind India’s top bars including SOCIAL, Sidecar, and The Bombay Canteen. After designing over 800 bars (a number that’s growing by the month), Singhal also launched Haus of Bars to offer more functional home bars and accessories.

Navigating his career through the hotelier ranks with Hyatt Hotels, Singhal was part of a task force, travelling with a team to set up the food and beverage operations at new Hyatt properties all over India. Their mission was to execute the nuts and bolts of each venue and to set the scene up for success.

As hotel giants began rapidly opening throughout India, so did independent restaurants and bars. During this rise in the hospitality industry, Singhal noticed a pattern.

On busy nights at any bar, he would overhear guest complaints, “‘Oh the service was so slow’, and subsequently the bartender would be blamed. But nine out of 10 times you find out the wiring of the bar is wrong. The things the bartender needs are on the other side of the bar so he has to do the length and breadth and that should not be the case”, says Singhal.

Taking his experience outside of the hotel, Singhal maintains that whatever a bartender needs to make the perfect drink, “[it] needs to be at an elbow distance. Our job is to make things easy for the bartender.”

While SpeedX zeros in on setting up the back of the bar for operational success, Singhal leaves the front side to India’s best interior design firms and partners with architects like Sanchit Arora, who worked on the design of Lair, Delhi. Singhal determines the height and the width of the bar – what will be most comfortable for the guest, while efficient for the bartender. The interior team picks the materials and colours to make it all look good.

Haus of bars designed by Anirudh Singhal

Home bar designs by Singhal’s company Haus of Bars

Designing and manufacturing all of the bar equipment at their factory in Delhi, Singhal says, “We own the entire process. We want to make sure we reach the last point and then stay involved with them during the operations. There are always ongoing troubles, so we stayed invested in that brand.”

It is through his business based on collaboration and his strong (as a neat drink) interest in the global cocktail culture that brings Singhal to the table, rather the bar, as a judge for The World’s 50 Best, the authority on restaurants and bars worldwide.

Indian bars on the global scale

While drinking has long been a controversial topic, today’s India shows far more acceptance of alcohol. Singhal declares, “For every 10 food and beverages venues opening, eight of them will be bars.”

When asked how he felt the bars in India compare in quality with the rest of the world, Singhal is confident. “When it comes to pure mixology and the focus on trends in mixology, India is on par with the intent. There are people who really want to make it world-class.” While state-by-state regulations make resources a challenge, restaurateurs and bartenders are rising to the alcoholic occasion.

An evolving concept, the Indian bar industry pays particular attention to the influences from the outside, looking at the West as well as the East for inspiration. Offering international flavours and techniques, and institutional knowledge, these influences inspire the overall experience.

Describing the ever-growing trend of global bar partnerships that happen throughout India, Singhal highlights the rewards when a bar hosts an international ‘startender’ i.e., a globally recognised bartender with an entertainment-like approach to mixology.

“Someone coming in from New York or Tokyo who pops up for just two nights makes sure the consumer gets a great deal out of it. They come and experience a great international cocktail program but the bartenders, the young staff at the bar get exposed to some really good best practices, trends, and methods in setting up drinks.”

It is during these same events that these foreign mixologists host master classes for the eager talent emerging from bars across the country. Singhal points out that global brands, including Beam Suntory and Diageo, are funding these programs as they see the value in investing in India’s beverage economy. Support for the industry through these educational beverage symposiums is yet another indicator that finally in India, drinks are going down in a big way.

While the country continues to mature in mixology, Singhal is confident that our young industry is already trailblazing.

“The number one thing that makes Indian cocktail programs stand out in comparison to the rest of the world is the versatility of our ingredients. We have so much umami in our products; we are the land of spices and herbs. This gives our bar folks a huge upside in experimenting with unique flavours that make us stand apart”, says Singhal.

Talent over everything

Singhal boldly notes that Indian promoters investing in bar-based businesses are following the talent investment trend. “Earlier it was how much are you spending on capital expenditures, What the interior design is going to be, positioning, etc. Now I see people investing in talent first. The group at the helm of this were the team at Hunger Inc. The guys behind Bombay Canteen and Veronica’s. They realised it eight-to-10 years ago. This is the next game changer”, adds Singhal.


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When questioned over the controversy of picking his favourite child, or bartender in Singhal’s case, he recommends not one but a few folks to look out for:

1. Prantik Haldar, a product of the investment from Hunger Inc., serving as the head bartender at The Bombay Canteen in Mumbai
2. Minakshi Singh and Yangdup Lama, from Sidecar in New Delhi and several new ones on the way
3. Arijit Bose, at Spirit Forward in Bangalore, an internationally recognised bar talent
4. Mayur Marney from Cobbler and Crew in Pune, where Singhal notes that the bar scene is flourishing, encouraging us to also look at cities like Hyderabad
5. Santanu Chanda, head of bars for PVR, leading the way at venues like the Living Room where live entertainment complements the bar experience
6. Hemant Pathak from Junoon in NYC, while he is based internationally he was brought for the bar program at Loya, a new concept at the Taj Palace in both Delhi and Bangalore

Beverages beyond the traditional bar

As promoters also realise the profit in beverages supersedes their culinary counterparts, even concepts categorically built as restaurants find value in building beverage programs.

Take Americano in Mumbai, a restaurant Singhal describes as one of his favourite bar programs in the country. “We went to the bar design at least 25 times and we changed it with Ale [chef and owner] because he’s a sucker for detail. And, you can see that now in the product and the experience,” Singhal states, referencing The World’s 50 Best Discovery nod to the restaurant’s beverage program.

Beyond enjoying elevated beverage programs at both bars and restaurants, Indians are even raising the bar at home. In a discussion with his contacts at Pinaud Richard, Singhal found that there continues to be an upward trend in premium alcohol purchases made in liquor stores in India. So, similar to the strategy of SpeedX, Singhal doubled down in the bar business with an at-home bar vertical called Hause of Bars by SpeedX.

Revitalising and revolutionising

bar designs for home by Anirudh Singhal

Compact and home bars design by Singhal’s company Haus of Bars

While the me-myself-mixologist tendency pours on, the focus also remains that as a concept, Indians are now, more than ever, interested in stepping out for their drinks.

Beyond responding to market demand and filling their coffers with liquid gold, Indian bar owners are introducing new concepts to the country, while reviving some that could not cut it previously. Take the concept of a speakeasy, that Singhal says, “is coming back into India in a big way. It was a trend some while back but many were not done well so they shut, except PCO, which was done exceedingly well from the start.”

His newest hot pick for a speakeasy in India? He recommends Bangalore for a drink at ZLB 23, a Kyoto-inspired speakeasy bar at The Leela Palace.

While consumers can keep their observant eyes out for these new, hush-hush concepts, other global trends are popping up at bars across the country, far less clandestinely.

Take the limited lines in bar design that provokes a seamless interaction between bartender and guest that can only happen at an Omakase counter. “With no ledge for the bartender to work under or behind, rather everyone is at the same height and the customer can see it all. That trend is now picking up big time in India,” he says and will soon be seen at one of the bars within the capital city’s beloved, long-standing speakeasy venues.

He couldn’t tell us who but we’ll take the hint. And if you can’t, well, just sip and see.