Every few years, a disruptor comes along in every industry - and Aishwarya Bhende is one such entrepreneur in the world of hospitality. The 25 year old is the founder of India’s first floating restaurant, AB Celestial. The youthful Aishwarya was honoured at Franchise India Restaurant Awards 2019, receiving the ‘Best Theme Based Restaurant 2019’ and has also spoken at various events and panels as a guest speaker. She has been on a podcast called the Empowering Series, which is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Aishwarya has also featured in a book called Embrace Your Fears by Sara Khan which available on Amazon & Kindle.
While she has beautifully created a legacy of her own, Aishwarya’s vision aim’s at boosting Mumbai’s tourism. More than just being a disruptor in the industry, she has opened up huge scope to do business in waters.
“I believe innovation is what drives an entrepreneur.”
Creative people are rarely satisfied with their creations. They crave for more and Aishwarya was no different. She had diverse interest in the fields of business and fashion.
While looking for the perfect opportunity, she drew inspiration from exposure to European water fronts during her childhood. She noticed how that boosted tourism in those countries. Aishwarya realised a large number of people including her friends and family often travelled to cities like Goa or Cochin to experience being alongside the sea despite Mumbai having a waterfront. Back home at the commercial capital, Mumbai, she saw a huge opportunity alongside the beautiful unexplored coastline which could add jewels to the crown of her own city. The idea was to curate a luxury restaurant on a boat.
Her vision, love for boats and key interest in the hospitality sector, all combined led to the birth of 3-year long arduous journey building India’s first floating restaurant with unwavering support of her parents.
Aishwarya says “Piecing together every nook and corner of the 4 tier vessel, I took time out to study different boats, floating restaurants and cruises around the world along with the Indian market and hospitality industry. I believe that every business and field has its own set of challenges however being the first of its kind there were a number of challenges that cropped up at each and every given stage.”
She personally felt the interior design was one of the biggest challenges for her. The way she envisioned Celestial was very different from what the interior designers she met with had to offer. With no degree in design and just a passion for fashion, she eventually decided to take up doing the interiors with the help of her mother. Doing a boat is different from a residential space or restaurant on land, boat requires special fittings, labour and care.
She adds “It took her a little over 8 months to put it all together. From sourcing interiors and designing, to recruiting all staff for operations and curating the food + beverage menu as I worked around the idea of a nautical theme wanting those who come abroad AB Celestial to actually set sail and live the whole experience. We also hired a professional 24 hour certified crew to live on and ensure safety.”
The last couple of years of setting up has given her knowledge on various fields of work from interior design to hospitality. As Celestial sails into 4th season, giving an enthralling experience to Mumbaikars. They offer delicacies from Continental and Asian with a fine, opulent ambiance.
The boat has been visited by Disha Patani, Mandira Bedi, or Bollywood’s favourite Miss Malini Agarwal in the past. We have also had the privilege of having giants from all sorts of industries visit us. Be it automobiles like Mercedes Benz, e-commerce dominator Amazon Prime, home of entertainment Youtube or even fashion maven Masaba Gupta. The boat has also been the background location for Nokia's advertisement. “Celestial is one of the first of many ventures I hope to kickstart in the future”
Aishwarya Bhende’s key vision is to boost her business. She would like to invest in various smaller businesses and foresee herself as a baby shark. She hopes she can set an example and motivate budding entrepreneurs and advices them to “Never to give up their dream no matter what the obstacle maybe or however long it takes to come together.”
Being the first of its kind she would like to build her brand dabbling further into different cuisines and curate special menus as they offer a thematic experience through their existing details, decor, food and drinks. She would also consider franchising it and bring similar concepts to other cities within the country. Learnings from AB Celestial have driven her forward and she wants to venture into other fields in the near future.
Apart from the Hospitality sector which she is currently involved in with AB Celestial, she has always been passionate about Music and Fashion. Besides the fashion and music space being her major interests, animal welfare is a topic very close to her heart.
She says “Over generations we’ve lived with four legged members and our family is incomplete without the same. 5 years ago we rescued our little Indie, Angel and ever since mixed breeds have grown closer to my heart. I would always vouch for adopting animals.”
Being an active member in a number of rescue groups she does her best to help wherever possible, may it be from trying to find a permanent home for a rescued to putting together funding campaigns for the strays. She looks after 4 Indie’s at the dock where AB Celestial is anchored. She always carries biscuits and dog treats in her car along with fresh sheets and water bowls in case she finds any injured animals or those that are in need of help.