From Facebook to Indian Spicebox. Find out how this foodie followed her desire to make Indian cooking more accessible.
What’s your story?
I have a creative digital marketing background having worked at both Facebook, Ogilvy and a few boutique digital agencies in New York and Singapore for the past 15 years. I also had the pleasure of working at a local VC and continue to mentor local start-ups. While I’ve had the most amazing jobs and worked with incredible people, being a lifelong foodie with a strong desire to make Indian cooking more accessible and non-intimidating was ultimately the driving force to starting something of my own. I founded Indian Spicebox as a company in November 2014 but the brand actually was born in 2010 as a community on Facebook when I was working as a strategist there.
What excites you most about your industry?
My industry or category is traditionally ‘food’ but in my mind I operate at the intersection of healthy eating/nutrition, organic and better-for-you ingredients such as powerful spices, simple & easy cooking solutions to enable and empower busy families to cook at home, the evolution of taste palettes to wanting more flavorful and diverse foods, the support and motivation of (online) community and making a difference. I don’t see myself as a traditional food player but the industry is seeing massive innovation and companies like Blue Apron are truly inspiring and changing the way people are thinking about preparing healthier meals for their family at home.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Well I’m Indian 🙂 and lived in India for 10 years before moving to the US for grad school and most of my family is based here in Asia. I was sent to Singapore (from New York) on an 18 month expat assignment by Facebook to launch the creative strategy function in the region but we didn’t return to the US because we loved it here. The culture and comforts are amazing and after having a baby, the proximity to our families in India was a huge plus point.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course! As someone setting up a business for the first time–it couldn’t have been easier! I sat at my home office and did everything without stepping out the door! From getting licenses from AVA, to speaking to an expert at the National Library Board about regarding the proper way to print CIP data for my book, everything is dead simple and people are awesome to work with and want to help you. I find the level of professionalism very high here and doing business is simple and enjoyable.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
A friend and former colleague of mine who left Facebook to start his own company once told me that being an entrepreneur was extremely fulfilling but I should be prepared for it to be a very lonely journey… more so after working at a phenomenal and young company like Facebook. This is so true and I really miss the people and teams I worked with (and the resources I had access to!) but I was better prepared for how lonely it can get thanks to the advice I received.
Who inspires you?
Mark Zuckerberg, Jamie Oliver, and my dad.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That you can’t just go buy gluten free puff pastry dough. It doesn’t exist. (I recently turned completely gluten-free)
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing to be honest. I am grateful for my journey and everything happened when and how it was supposed to.
How do you unwind?
Playing with my toddler, working out with my trainer and cooking of course!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali! Brilliant food, people, hotels, nightlife and the best massages!
Everyone in business should read this book:
The first 30 Days by Ariane de Bonvoisin
Shameless plug for your business:
Indian Spicebox’s mission is to fill bellies with tasty, homemade and nutritious food…your belly, your family’s’ bellies and those bellies that need it the most. We offer a beautiful spicebox kit which includes a cookbook, 9 organic spices (all the ones you need to cook every recipe in the book) and a gorgeous rosewood spicebox. Everything is hand-made, supports small industries and produced in small batches. With the purchase of each spicebox kit, 10 street children in India are fed a hot, nutritious dinner thanks to our partnership with a kid-focused charity in India. https://indian-spicebox.com/social-impact/
I have recently started running cooking classes here in Singapore. From the proceeds of each class we feed 300 kids a hot dinner. https://indian-spicebox.com/cooking-classes/
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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