"As a first generation Indian in the UK, there are a number of strengths I draw on from my early upbringing & living experiences that have had a significant impact on how I assess situations."
On July 26 Anishya Kumar Founder of Zinda Foods won Businesswoman of the Year at the British Indian Awards 2019. Women In The Food Industry were delighted to hear this news, as they had interviewed her for their very first Female Food Founder series in May. They returned to her factory in West Drayton to find out more about what motivated her and how the twists and turns in her life inspired her on this journey and win this accolade.
Anishya lost her mother at a very early age and her maternal grandmother and father brought her up. Both were strong role models through her early years. Serving in the Indian Navy her father instilled in her the values of self-reliance and discipline. As Anishya grew up, her maternal grandmother, a strong career minded, forward thinking woman inspired her to be independent while balancing a career with family life seamlessly. Growing up in cosmopolitan Bombay it was her grandmother who introduced her to the culinary delights of a diverse Indian kitchen.
Born into a multi-ethnic family and eventually marrying into an equally diverse one, Anishya was exposed to a variety of food, amalgamation of spices and cultural fusion across an array of cuisines. “Much like my wedding that captured traditions and customs of every ethnicity that represented us as a family, the “food served on our dinner table at home also echoed this diversity” she recalls. “Our dinner table spread was not the same compared to other Indian homes”. It was my grandmother who made me appreciate our family’s melting pot of cultures.
Anishya relocated to the UK with her husband, 13 years ago, giving up a fast paced progressive life as self-made professionals in Bombay to start a fresh. I craved for the food we had back in India and found that the only way to eat the food I grew up on was to cook it myself. “Memories of my grandmother’s delicious food and her handwritten recipes are now worth their weight in gold” said Anishya.
Little did she know that this early exposure to food & cooking would prepare her for the next chapter of her life. “I found myself caught up in nutrition transition. Back then in India, we had little access to processed or ultra-processed foods. Unable to stomach packaged meals from the supermarkets I decided to create my own, inspired by the wonderful assortment of micro-cuisines I grew up on”.
It was certainly a far cry from being a highly qualified business consultant. With the local independent stores as her clients, Anishya realized that demand for her freshly made meals and wraps were increasing and operations required to be scaled-up. So on a shoe string budget, Anishya took a leap of faith by switching over to a professional business-like approach by setting up a bespoke factory that could scale-up operations and make her award-winning AirWraps, which are now supplied to over 90 Tesco stores, on a commercially viable scale.
Switching tack from being a white collar professional to become a food entrepreneur was a momentous decision that she looks back at with confidence. When asked what shaped her as an entrepreneur & businesswoman she said; “As a first generation Indian in the UK, there are a number of strengths I draw on from my early upbringing & living experiences that have had a significant impact on how I assess situations.
"My mentor in business has been my grandmother's closest friend and confidante Mrs Simone Tata, one of India’s strongest voices in the world of business. Developing a strong nose for business I draw inspiration from how she conducted business negotiations and dealings by detaching sentiment and emotions with business development while still maintaining the passion and vision for her products.
"As an entrepreneur I adopt a very hand-on approach. I try to understand every aspect of my business thoroughly. This helps me take strategic decisions on my own without being totally reliant on external help”.
She was also asked for her thoughts on the key skills and characteristics that have been essential to successfully running a business; “I thrive in the face of competition having climbed the ranks of high level competition in India. It taught me to focus, self-analyse & overcome odds when they arise.
"Having worked in India one is accustomed to dealing with uncertainties, unreliability & ambiguity of many situations. Learning to assess situations quickly to pre-empt or problem solve has been critical to confront & overcome many challenges & obstacles we face as a business on a daily basis”.
Anishya displays the grit and determination Women In the Food Industry have seen with so many other food entrepreneurs. You can read their full interview with Anishya Kumar Businesswoman of the Year here.