From India to England, Kirthi Mundada starts up her own Indian food business
Watch Kirthi’s video interview! CLICK HERE
Kirthi’s story in a nutshell:
Born and raised in Hyderabad, the capital city of India’s South-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh, I Kirthi Mundada came to UK in 2008 to study and after graduating from university I found a job in banking sector and having worked the in finance industry for 2years, I never ever knew I would start a business in the food industry. I hardly ever cooked back in India (always watched my Mum cooking) and in all honesty I learned how to cook traditional Indian food in UK – Thanks to my Mum and Skype.
The Indian food we get here is really different than what we get back home and I used to get so frustrated as we had similar choices where ever we went and there is so much more to Indian food than the regular curries, poppadums and naan breads. So I started cooking at home and was always on the phone or Skype asking Mum for tips. I was enjoying it so much and finding a gap in the market I decided to launch my business Indian Tadka Ltd in November 2013 and my aim is to show people what actual Indian food is all about.
Biggest start up / expat challenge:
The cultural differences and the way of life in India and United Kingdom were my biggest challenge and being away from family for the first time added on.
Who are your cheerleaders?:
My parents and Siblings even when everyone was opposed to me coming to UK for studies (as everyone my age back home was getting married and settling into their lives) they wanted me to study and concentrate more on my career than anything else and they have always been so supportive of anything I do.
What are your words of Wisdom?:
Always follow your heart and if things are not right it’s not the end.
The cultural differences between India and UK are like 2 sides of the coin from what you wear to what you eat to how you live, how you talk and how you behave.
Indians are more traditional and religious but the good thing is people in UK are more open and accepting of others and respecting their beliefs. Yes, it did take time for me to get settled in. Now I have learned to live in both sides of the world.
The first 6 months away from home were terrifying. Being at University, working, cooking, cleaning etc… It was quite overwhelming and I was sure I wanted to go back as soon as I finished university but you see I am still here and I don’t know how I just settled in. I think it was the lovely and welcoming people whom I met in the last 5years. It’s like now I have 2 sets of families and friends when I am here I miss India and when I am in India I miss UK. I wish I could mix both worlds and didn’t have to miss either.
I finished university at the same time the UK was entering into economic crisis and it was so difficult to find a job and, mainly in the Banking industry, I must have applied for jobs with all the banks and after 1year of trying and when I was just starting to give up I got a call from one of the top 5 banks and got a job.
The current challenge I am facing is I have recently started my business and it’s totally different from the banking industry. It’s all about food. Yes, Indian food. I want to show people there is a lot more to Indian food than the limited choices we have here and I am on a mission to get as many people to at least try it (and I am confident they will always want to come back to it). My aim is to encourage home cooking and healthy eating.
Working practices and benefits in UK:
I think setting up a business here is a lot more straight forward. As my business was related to food I did have lots health and safety guidelines to follow but the staff at the local council guided me through every step.
The biggest achievement was getting a job in a recession and being nominated for Best Customer service and Rookie of the year and winning an award as Rookie of the year in the first six months of joining the banking industry. It was like the cherry on the cake. Then, starting my own business (Indian Tadka) which is really different than what I have been doing.
Where you find inspiration from:
Speaking to my Mum who is back in India (4 times a day at least) inspires me a lot. In all honesty my parents are my biggest inspiration – making them proud and seeing the smile on their faces inspires me.
How you stay motivated:
When there is utter silence when people are eating my food and the only thing I hear is mmmm. This does motivate me. I have always thought food brings people together whether it’s an everyday meal or a meal to celebrate something special.
Useful tools for expats in business:
I always take a book with me for my clients to write feedback in and concentrating on what I am good at does help.
I have recently started going to few business networking meetings and have even joined some online networking groups. Social media is a good way to shout about your businesses.
Plans for the future:
I have recently launched a 4-6week (only 1 day a week) course for anyone who loves Indian food where I teach them everything about Indian food and encourage home cooking and healthy eating on a budget.
I am desperately looking to hire a kitchen a few times a month to do lessons and demonstrations in Sussex.
If you have a dream live it rather than regretting not even trying. It’s never too late.
Watch Kirthi’s interview with Heidi Mulligan Walker, co author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs:
Kirthi was interviewed by Joe Talbot on BBC Surrey about her cooking business, Indian Tadka in April, 2014.