Women's Day special: Entrepreneurs across India share the recipe for success
It takes a great understanding of the kitchen to be a good restaurateur or work in the food space. And women in hospitality bring with them a great assortment of viewpoints and skill.
We raise a toast to seven such successful women hospitality leaders this Women’s Day. These women have been noiselessly, and in some cases with a lot of buzz, shaping trails in the industry with well-respected impressions that merit a countrywide spotlight. While these ladies may have taken dissimilar routes to get to where they are today, they have something in common aka an appetite for hospitality, an empire-building approach, and an attitude to leave no stone unturned. We peek at what makes them tick! Also, discover what it takes for a lady to reach a position such as theirs in the hospitality world.
ADITI DUGAR | MUMBAI
Director/Owner, Masque and Sage & Saffron
Aditi is calm amidst the chaos! She thrives in chaotic environments —“I feel like it’s when I do my best work,” she says. She’s an organiser, a stickler for detail, and constantly motivated by the drive to give clients and guests experiences that elevate the occasion, no matter what.
Dugar’s biggest achievement has been managing to be a parent of three while building businesses in an industry that is notoriously tough on one’s schedule and to watch those businesses, and her sons, grow beyond her expectations. And what does she love the most about her work? “The people I work with, and the culture we’re constantly striving to foster. I have been fortunate to find so many like-minded colleagues and collaborators, and love being in a space that constantly allows me to cross paths with new and wonderful people,” says Dugar candidly. “I have an extremely supportive family, especially my husband, who is my backbone, and a team that pushes as hard as I do. It truly takes a village, and I am so grateful for mine,” she shares with us.
CHIQUITA GULATI | DELHI
Chef & Co-Founder, Spice Market, Yours Truly Butter Chicken & Call Chotu
Chiquita loves to work and lives her life like a party, enjoying everything to the fullest. Having said that, she is very methodical and detail-oriented. She is highly determined, passionate and persistent about her goals and her approach.
She needs challenges to keep her going, monotony brings her down. “No hard work means hardly any work. I’d like to call myself an unconventional leader, I lead my team by example and like to have a personal connect with them. I absolutely love meeting new people, having conversations and learning from their experiences,” she shares.
Ideas or goals without a plan are simply a wish... “I believe more in execution over ideation. During these trying times in the past year, we managed to keep our operations afloat without shutting down for a single day or laying off any of our staff. We used the downtime as an opportunity to streamline processes, successfully launch three new brands to our cloud kitchen portfolio and got them up and running. Most importantly, as a company, all of us stuck together and made it work, I felt like we achieved something big when everyone decided to show up and be a part of the grind,” adds Gulati.
Time management and a very supportive family, help her balance home and work. “Right from a very young age my kids have been a part of my work life which enabled them to grow into the ecosystem of things and adapt beautifully. They understand the challenges that come along with extensive working hours and not being available on festivals and special days but also enjoy my undivided attention when I am able to switch off. One principle that has worked best for me is, no matter what time I return at night, I always wake them up and get them ready and drop them at school. This gives us a wonderful head start, we share, chat and have loads of fun,” she tells us with a smile.
DEEPA REDDY | HYDERABAD
Director of Foncé Chocolatier & Cafe
Deepa Reddy has travelled to different destinations to attend workshops and learn from the best to improve her knowledge about chocolate. Always driven to try new things, she enjoys working with chocolate, and whenever she achieves a new flavour while creating a new chocolate experience, the happiness she gets, keeps her motivated all the time.
“I always dreamt of becoming a businesswoman and when I successfully donned the hat of an entrepreneur and launched my chocolatier and cafe — Foncé, I was ecstatic. The overwhelming response and appreciation I have been receiving and to see my dream becoming a reality is my biggest achievement, so far,” shares Reddy.
Nothing excites Reddy like high-quality chocolate combined with some great flavours. “I am fortunate enough to have a husband, Jaikar Reddy who stood like a rock with me during this journey and provided every kind of support to make this dream come true. He is also the man behind Foncé. With constant support and encouragement from my husband, in-laws and parents, I have managed to balance my work and home life seamlessly. I have learnt to prioritise my work and ensure I prepare a to-do list the night before, where I clearly segregate my work and home tasks. This gives me clarity and allows me to seek help if required, on a jam-packed day,” she says.
CHEF SHRI BALA | CHENNAI
Consultant Chef & Food Historian
Shri Bala, a former chartered accountant, today is one of the noteworthy voices and chroniclers of South Indian culinary history. She has since turned her desire into an occupation and curates themed food promotions at numerous five-star properties across the country. She currently hosts a television cookery show, has been featured with Chef Gordon Ramsay in Uncharted and has even started her own Masala Range. She is planning to submit her thesis paper on the food evolution from the Sangam Period (200 BCE to 300 CE). With no formal training in the culinary arts, becoming a consultant chef and training several chefs across the country in South Indian cuisine is her biggest achievement.
Food history of the ancient Southern peninsular fascinates Shri Bala “and the culture, ethnicity and broad spectrum of the ingredients which were available then and those added subsequently because of royal marriages, trade and war have been the biggest revelations,” she shares.
Since she has always been working, this professional is the same when it comes to balancing home and work. “My family is my support system when it comes to adjusting with my work schedule,” she concludes.
SABREEN SUKHTANKAR | GOA
Partner, The Black Sheep Bistro
Sabreen is passionate and not one to shy away from a challenge, It is not always an easy task to serve and please 100 to 200 people every single day, but she gives it her best. “Being a bit of an introvert, it is a conscious decision to step out of my comfort zone and get what needs to be done. If you catch me out of my work mode, I’ll probably be buried in a book or meeting with friends in the corner of a little coffee shop,” she shares.
Having lived most of her life away, moving to India on an impulse, starting a restaurant completely on her own and not giving in to the endless ‘advice’ about them ‘making a mistake investing all their savings into a restaurant in Panjim city’, “We knew what we wanted and stuck by each other. We had no choice, we had to make it work. I would say that is my biggest achievement, not giving up... Not on our dream and not ever on each other. I am still a little mushy after Valentine’s Day... give it another few days and it will pass,” she says with a laugh.
“Being able to go into the restaurant every day and not knowing what to expect the day will look like, is pretty exciting. On some days you end up meeting and chatting with the most interesting of guests and have an absolutely perfect day. Some days you can have multiple systems break down (always at the worst possible time) challenging you and your sanity to its limits. But picking yourself up, doing some deep breathing and looking forward to what tomorrow has in store for you is the fun part,” she adds.
Sabreen and her husband own and operate The Black Sheep Bistro and the Black Market together. So, there is quite a bit of passing over from work to home. “Downtime is not exclusive of shop talk, in fact, we very often discuss strategies for some area of the business or the other, even at home. Spending time in the kitchen and movie nights is definitely our thing. We also recognise the importance of time away for rest and clearing of the mind. We try and take short breaks every four to five months, with or without the family. Maybe with 2020 as an exception though,” she tells us.
JOONIE TAN | BENGALURU
Executive Pastry Artist, 180 Degree Celsius by Lavonne
“Less is more,” is her motto. That basically sums up how she lives her life, as well as reflects in her creations too! For Joonie Tan, every cake order that comes to her is her biggest achievement. “Among hundreds of bakers in the city, when a client decides to choose you to be part of their celebration, that’s an achievement to me!” she smiles. “My days are never a repeat process... Every day I get to create different masterpieces, challenge different artworks and I get to work on the creative side extensively, which is what I enjoy and love the most,” she adds.
Time management is very important to Joonie when it comes to home-work life balance. “I do have a quota for the number of cakes that I will create in a day that allows me to still be able to earn a living, and yet have enough time to spend quality time with my family and friends,” she says candidly.
CHRISTINE SAMANDARI | DELHI
Co-Founder And Director of L ’Opéra
She is a modern, progressive and passionate woman, happy with her life and not wishing or desiring to emulate or compete with men. “I believe in true gender equality and complementary roles of men and women at home and in society,” shares Christine. She loves beauty, harmony, arts and classical music and believes in the good which is in each human being and in the oneness of mankind.
Her biggest achievement? “I would like to reframe the question and say that my biggest achievement so far is that I have not yet given up on what may come and happen in the future… As surprising as it may sound, I consider my biggest achievement — not in what I have done so far — but rather how I did it. It gives me great satisfaction to know that I managed to have a well-balanced and harmonious life without any major conflicts.
I was lucky to obtain an excellent education, be a good daughter, loving mother and wife, have a fulfilling professional life for decades in the service of society — and finally become an entrepreneur and businesswoman without ever going into extremes and having to sacrifice any of my tasks and responsibilities in favour of the other,” she says.
All along her professional career, and actually, in all her life she was always attracted to and inspired by people, particularly if they came from other cultures and traditions. From the early days of her childhood, she also had the desire to build and create something new, simply to become an entrepreneur. It is interesting that this opportunity finally presented itself here with L’Opéra; where she could realise her childhood dreams and combine it with love for aesthetics, with that of people and create something — which not only satisfied her own aspirations — but also brings joy, happiness and satisfaction to hundreds and thousands of people every day.
“What makes this undertaking even more precious is that I can engage in what I love together with my closest family members — namely my son and my husband,” she shares.
On balancing home and work? “First, you need to set your priorities straight and then secure the necessary help from all available sources, such as family or others — which is required to accomplish all the objectives and tasks you have set for yourself. Subsequently, you need to practice discipline and good organisation skills. And finally, as you can imagine, this can only work well if you enjoy a true partnership with your spouse and can count on reciprocal love, understanding, support and respect,” she says.