I started cooking at the age of 10 years old; my father was my food inspiration. I was brought up in Southall in the early 70s where Indian spices were not as readily available as they are now. I remember travelling on the bus (the 207 along the Uxbridge Road) with my father, to Shepherds Bush Market where we were able to buy a selection of spices, fresh fish and Indian vegetables. I loved coming home with all those ingredients, intrigued with what I was about to be taught.
This real love of creating authentic and traditional recipes was priceless in helping me to eventually found my own authentic Indian food business – ‘Anjula Devi’. I am also Brand Ambassador for TRS Foods, the world’s largest Indian food company, as well as being Associate Editor for Good Things Magazine. I have launched my own brand – ‘Route 207’ and had the honour of being chosen as a 2012 Olympic torchbearer.
What inspired you to start a business?
Pure and simple, my love of authentic and traditional Indian food. I want to destroy the myth that Indian food is complicated. Most Indian recipes can be made using seven spices; each stored in a single spice dabba. Once you can work effectively with these seven spices, you can move on to gradually more advanced dishes which have even more wonderful flavour combinations.
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
The greatest reward is being able to follow my passion. I have never been one for following the crowd, which means that I tend to do things in a unique way, and I think that this is what has made my food and my business attractive propositions.
An inevitable challenge is working long hours to reach my goals, and always looking for perfection. Business entrepreneurs are creative, they think outside the box, and pitching those new ideas to businesses who don’t like change can be hard.
My continual challenge and desire is to accomplish extraordinary things, because it’s my passion that drives me.
What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures
I guess my own view on this is that it helps to set a small number of stretching goals, as well as one or two completely unreasonable goals; then to focus on these relentlessly. I have some core ‘value driven’ goals too, the main one of which is to share my father’s recipes with as many people as possible. He was never fully able to do this when he was alive, so it is a legacy that I carry fiercely and proudly.
Managing successes and failures – well, the key is in the word ‘managing’. I try to allow successes to continually further fuel my natural enthusiasm, but in a humble way. When things occasionally don’t go to plan, I try to acknowledge this and rethink rapidly. There is always a reason why something hasn’t gone to plan.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?
I am on a mission to help people understand the difference between the Indian food which they might find in a supermarket or eat in a restaurant, and the traditional and authentic Indian food which I make. I have definitely made a start on this journey, successfully converting many enthusiasts who have been to my cooking school, but there is still a lot more to do.
How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?
Without question, my father was my food inspiration and mentor. He taught me how to make an authentic traditional Indian curry, with as few as three or as many as thirty spices, each with a perfect blend and balance.
As a little girl, he told me that “one day this will be like gold dust in your hands”. He had a fantastic analogy that each spice was like a musical note, and you needed to understand what each brought to the final composition. He had a very different way of coaching and mentoring, which worked really well for me!
What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?
I encourage everyone to invest a chunk of their time in networking. I personally advocate doing this in a well thought through, focused and targeted manner, fully exploiting the incredible power of the main social media platforms to achieve this. Always remember that many people who may be ‘better known’ or have ‘achieved more’ than you, can find you and your proposition compelling and fascinating.
What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?
I have four tips in this area – each is incredibly simple. First and foremost invest time in comprehensively understanding and delighting your customers. Secondly make your proposition compelling and unique, in a clearly understandable way. Thirdly, scale up and plan for growth in well-defined and clear logical steps, expending all your energy and skill on doing what you do best. Finally, never be afraid to try something new, as long as you are still doing what you do best.
What does the future hold for you?
Nobody can answer this with certainty, but I can tell you what I hope the future has in store for me. I have a longer list of goals and ambitions, but I will share three here. I want as many people as possible to taste my father’s recipes, I want to inspire people to be able to make great authentic and traditional Indian food, and I want to invest more time in the other main passion in my life – helping children with special educational needs to learn through cooking.
You can also book a cooking course with Anjula at her eponymous cooking school or follow her on Twitter.