1664743219 Do you think your family is fighting Not like the

Do you think your family is fighting? Not like the brothers on One Restaurant Row.

MAHABALIPURAM, India — B. Vivekanandhan, the 51-year-old owner of a popular restaurant called Moonrakers, is fighting hard for customers in this southern Indian resort town. So fierce that fists flew.

His main enemies are his own flesh and blood. His older brother runs a seafood restaurant across the street called Moonwalkers. In the same alley, his younger brother runs Moonrocks. The menus are almost identical.

“Sometimes it’s like a street fight,” said Mr. Vivekanandhan. “People say, ‘This is a complicated family. We just came down to eat.” ”

India prides itself on its close-knit families, who often live together and run businesses side-by-side. All this togetherness can create epic business failures.

Ninety-one percent of companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange are family-controlled, and almost all small to medium-sized businesses are family-owned, said Kavil Ramachandran, a professor at Hyderabad’s Indian School of Business. In comparison, about 35% of Fortune 500 companies are family owned.

Do you think your family is fighting Not like the

The Grand Sweets & Snacks was split in two after the founder’s two daughters split the business.

Photo: Shan Li/The Wall Street Journal

In the southern Indian city of Chennai, rival branches of a family run competing versions of a snack chain, both called The Grand Sweets & Snacks. The founder had two daughters who split the company about a decade ago after their families clashed. They cut the original store in half by hanging plastic sheeting down the middle.

Priyanga Madhan, the founder’s 38-year-old granddaughter, said the split was inevitable because she and her cousins ​​continued to fight over the future of the company. Today she runs half of the business on behalf of her mother.

One of her cousins, Saravana Mahesh, 50, said his family branch no longer speaks to Ms Madhan, even when they meet at the flagship shop, which is now separated by a concrete wall. “It’s still embarrassing, even after 12 years,” he said.

After the founder of the Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. died in 2002, his two sons bickered so much that their mother negotiated a peace deal: older brother Mukesh Ambani took over the oil and petrochemical business, while younger brother Anil Ambani got telecommunications and financial services.

The elder Mr. Ambani would go on to become one of the richest men in the nation, even squeezing his younger brother’s telecoms business with the launch of cheap mobile operator Jio.

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After the death of the founder of Reliance Industries, his widow brokered a peace deal between their sons Mukesh Ambani, left, and Anil Ambani.

Photo: Adnan Abidi/Portal

The three brothers behind Moonrakers agree that it started out as a true family business. The eldest, S. Ramesh, and his then-wife founded Moonrakers in the 1980s, inspired by a visit to a UK pub of the same name. For years, the middle brother, Mr. Vivekanandhan, and the younger, B. Anand, worked shifts there after school to help build the business. It eventually made it into a Lonely Planet guide.

According to Mr. Vivekanandhan, the problems started when his younger brother started his own business. In 2011 Mr. Anand opened a second Moonrakers about 150 feet away. Mr. Vivekanandhan, owner of the trademark, took his younger brother to court. The judge ordered Mr. Anand to choose a different name.

Mr Anand, 45, walked with moonrocks. Its signs also call it a “unit of Moonrakers”. He said he has every right to use the name after years of pouring sweat into the business. Also, he said, it was his eldest brother who came up with the name, not Mr. Vivekanandhan. “He has a problem with sharing,” he said, referring to Mr. Vivekanandhan.

The two older brothers had been partners for more than a decade. Mr. Vivekanandhan ran Moonrakers and his older brother’s restaurant, Blue Elephant.

Large groups of guests were often sent across the street to his brother’s larger eatery, Mr Vivekanandhan said. To avoid confusing diners, he even put up “Moonrakers” signs outside his brother’s restaurant.

In March, this partnership collapsed over money. Both brothers accuse each other of treason.

Mr Vivekanandhan said he asked for a 50/50 split of profits, which his older brother refused. Elderly Mr Ramesh, 57, said Mr Vivekanandhan secretly withdrew funds to buy property. Mr Vivekanandhan denies this and says his father-in-law gave him the money.

After a standoff, friends of Mr. Ramesh advised him to change the name of his eatery or risk a lawsuit. He chose “Moonwalkers” and spray-painted the existing signage, but the Moonrakers name and logo are still clearly visible.

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S. Ramesh, the eldest brother, in front of his Moonwalkers restaurant.

Photo: Shan Li/The Wall Street Journal

Mr Vivekanandhan said his eldest brother piggybacked his hard work to build a comfortable life and then refused to share any part of it. “He has everything – nice car, nice house,” he said. “Now I have to buy my BMW, build my house.”

All of this proves confusing for tourists who are frequently stopped on the street by Mr. Vivekanandhan or Mr. Anand with pitches for their rival restaurants.

Priyanka Parti, a 38-year-old Bengaluru resident, said she wanted to eat at the original Moonrakers but was confused by the competing restaurants. Her husband, who swore he ate at Moonrakers years ago, was even more confused.

“There are three or four of them,” Ms Parti said. “We had no idea which was the original and which were copies.”

In 2020, Messrs. Vivekanandhan and Anand fought a number of times on the street in front of confused customers. Mr Anand said he sometimes runs to Moonrakers to yell at his brother when he suspects him of poaching customers between the parking lot and his restaurant.

The eldest, Mr. Ramesh, said he remains above the fight. “I feel sad for these guys,” he said. “You have no brain.”

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B. Anand, the youngest brother, opened Moonrocks just down the road from Moonrakers.

Photo: Shan Li/The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Vivekanandhan said he was on a mission to destroy moonwalkers and moonrocks. In May he opened a Moonrakers outpost with underground parking, air conditioning and a roof terrace just down the street. He said he cornered 75% of the total revenue from the three restaurants.

“You bother me,” he said of his brothers. “So I have to disturb her. Physically. mental.”

In the past, Mr. Anand said, all three brothers and their families would sit down for dinner. No longer.

“When money comes, comes, comes,” he said, “love goes away.”

write to Shan Li at [email protected] and Vibhuti Agarwal at [email protected]

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