Our guest foodpreneur this fortnight is Ms. Kalyani from Telangana capital, Hyderabad. A multifaceted talented lady in her late fifties is a serial entrepreneur. Born to parents who valued education as well as vocational training, she was exposed to fashion designing, baking, jams and squashes making, cooking, handicrafts etc during school and college holidays. She fondly remembers her mom who never let them waste their time. Her mom always had plans to keep her four children busy in learning new things during every summer vacation. 😃
Her father had exposed her to literature by bringing classic books. He used to read all the books before passing them on to his children.
Let's listen about her entrepreneurial journey from Kalyani herself.
Petpuja: Welcome to the blog, Kalyani! We are keen to know about your entrepreneur journey and learn from your vast experience.
Kalyani: I was born in Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh and brought up in Bhilai, (now in Chhattisgarh). My father was working with Bhilai Steel plant. I did my M.Com along with many diplomas and certificate courses in fashion designing and cooking, baking and various other courses. I am thankful to my mom for her foresight in getting me trained in various vocations. 😊
We used to travel a lot between Bhilai and Vizianagaram. Vacations in those days meant for visiting grandparents. Those visits have given me exposure to local vegetarian cuisines, which I used to relish a lot. After completion of my M.Com, I got married and Hyderabad became my marital home. I was married into a very well to do family and there was not much for me to contribute. We had various domestic helps to take care of all household chores. My mother-in-law was managing the household . I was not used to of sitting idle at home , so I started looking for a job. Very soon, I joined an inter college and taught for a few years . Life was pretty fine. My mother-in-law was diabetic. Her condition was deteriorating slowly . After sometime, I had to leave my job to take care of mother in law. We were staying together and it was my moral duty to attend her. Going out for work was not a viable option anymore, so I started looking for opportunities at home.
My fashion designing training came to my rescue. We had a big car garage and I started my boutique there. I successfully ran it for several years. During all these years, my love for cooking was being nurtured as I used to cook for family whenever I could. My cooking was appreciated by everyone. After running the boutique for almost a decade, I was finding it very difficult to handle the tantrums of tailors. I had five machines and many freelancer karigars attached to my boutique when I closed it for good. I was getting older and patience was also slowly fading. 😀
In late nineties, Hyderabad was wooing IT companies with open arms. With in no time, the IT hub was a flourishing place. Those were the times when society was changing for better. Economy was opening up and many new opportunities were available to young generation. Many young professionals were coming to my city to start their careers. Many senior citizens were left alone as their offsprings have flown away to find their place in the vast world beyond Hyderabad. Such changes created a demand for home cooked food.
I was looking for an opportunity to do something. The opportunity came as a call from a friend, whose son had come to the city to start a career. Three boys were living in an apartment not very far from my home. They could not find a good place to eat. She asked me if I can send them meals for a few days . I did and the three boys became the first clients of my catering business. There was no looking back after that. That humble beginning turned into a venture of 1.5 Crore annual turnover in no time. I was catering to many IT corporations. My daily orders to the IT sector was 1500 lunches, 800 dinners, 500 breakfasts, 300 snacks and around 200 midnight snacks plates per day. I had a staff of 75 people. My sister had also joined me as it was not possible to manage the growth of this scale alone. My day used to start at 4 am and end at 11 pm.
With the increase in the volume of work , it became difficult to manage from my home kitchen, I had shifted my work to a rented house, just opposite to my place.
A business is always about evolvement. Though I had a large client base, I was always looking to expand my menu portfolio. Whenever I had time, I used to try new dishes and standardise the recipe before adding them to menu. The growth continued till the recession hit IT companies in 2008. As my clients were IT companies, my business was hit very badly. So much so, that I had to close it down completely. Many companies were washed out and so were my payments.
That was a tough time for me on professional and personal fronts. Business was going down and my husband had also fallen sick due to diabetes. In my absence, the staff also manipulated things and I had to close down the enterprise completely. The shock of closing down the business proved fatal for my husband.Those were tough days. But now I have left them behind.
Petpuja: You have seen such great success. What do you think is the secret of your success?
Kalyani: When I started my venture, I made a commitment to myself that I will only supply quality , authentic, healthy and economically priced food. My association with corporates, taught me to be always punctual. They all contributed to my success.
Petpuja: As you have mentioned that you were serving many companies so was it totally a corporate catering service?
Kalyani: No, it was not a "corporate only" catering. Besides corporates, I was also doing 100+ door deliveries and customised catering for family celebrations like pooja prasadam and family get-togethers. My homemade Andhra Pickles were also very popular.
Petpuja: Which cuisine is your forte?
Kalyani: My team and I are capable of delivering Indian Vegetarian (North, South), Continental and Chinese cuisines. My speciality is Coastal Andhra Cuisine. Additionally, I customise pickles, powders, papads, savouries and sweets according to client's taste.
Petpuja: How did you recover from your personal and professional losses?
Kalyani: The shock of losing my husband and business had been too much to handle. But life has to go on. I wanted to be busy to get over the worst time of my life. My family was very supportive. My brother took me to USA, where he is settled. I stayed there for ten months and did lots of thinking about how to go ahead. Finally, I along with my family came to the conclusion that I should take life little easy and instead of starting something of my own, I should take up a job. Meeting new people and going out every day will help me to come out of my grief.
After coming back to Hyderabad, I joined an interior designing company. As they say once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. After few years, I was ready to be my own boss. I left the job to start my new catering business by a new name - "Yashodhara Caterings". I have started small and at the moment, I have a regular order of 25 tiffins every day. I am happy with the way, things are unfolding.
Petpuja: Every business is meant for growth. Are you having any future plans?
Kalyani: I am looking for a consistent growth on existing volume. I am also working to make premixes and re-establishing my Achaar business.
Petpuja: How to you cater to the new fad among people - "the healthy food"?
Kalyani: In my opinion, our Indian cuisine serves the best health food. Home made foods are healthy as we use oil in lesser quantity as compared to restaurants. The use of home made spices, fresh ingredients and hygienic workplace are must for healthy food. Besides this sprouts, fresh salads and seasonal fruits bowls is my way of satiating people's cravings for healthy food.
Petpuja: Do you remember the best compliment you have received for your services?
Kalyani: There are many. But the repeat orders from as far as US (for my pickles) makes me feel that I am doing a good job.
Petpuja: Good and bad go hand in hand. How do you take critical comments from clients?
Kalyani: Now I am seasoned business woman and I take all critical comments very positively. There were times, when critical or negative comments used to bring tears in my eyes. I learnt very fast the importance of negative comments to improve my systems. I discuss them with my well wishers and chalk out a path for improvement in my services.
Petpuja: You have entered into the same business after a long gap. What is your take on the changes in the business environment?
Kalyani: In those times, the marketing was either by word of mouth , references or through flyers. Times have changed now and I am exploring social media also. I have made my Instagram profile and am learning to extend my reach through social media.
Petpuja: What is your message to women, who may be exploring home-cooking as a business?
Kalyani: Be confident as hard work always pays dividend. Remember, every individual is talented . We only need to uncover it and take step FORWARD. Follow your passion and be open for suggestions.
Kalyani has seen it all. And she has risen like a phoenix after the fall.
Wishing Kalyani good luck !
Kalyani can be contacted for orders and queries about catering on phone number - 8008593634 .