Lessons learnt from Anishya Kumar – Businesswoman of the Year in the British Indian Awards 2019
On July 26 Anishya Kumar of Zinda Foods won Businesswoman of the Year at the British Indian Awards 2019. We were delighted to hear this news, as our co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, had interviewed her for our very first Female Food Founders series in May. We returned to her AirWrap factory in West Drayton to find out more about what we could learn from her win and what motivates her.
When we first spoke, we learnt that your grandmother had a big influence on your early life, could you tell us a little more about this?
I lost my mother at a very early age and my maternal grandmother and father brought me up. Both were strong role models throughout my early years. Serving in the Indian Navy my father instilled in me the values of self-reliance and discipline. As I grew up, my grandmother, a strong career minded, forward thinking woman inspired me to be independent, while she balanced a career with family life seamlessly. Growing up in cosmopolitan Bombay it was my grandmother who introduced me to the culinary delights of a diverse Indian kitchen.
How did that nurturing from your grandmother influence you?
Born into a multi-ethnic family and eventually marrying into an equally diverse one, I 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. 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.
What was the trigger which led to you setting up your business?
I relocated to the UK with my husband, 13 years ago and we gave up very fast paced progressive lives as self-made professionals in Bombay to start afresh. 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. Memories of my grandmother’s delicious food and her handwritten recipes are now worth their weight in gold.
It was certainly a far cry from being a highly qualified business consultant. With the local independent stores as my clients, I realised that demand for my freshly made meals and wraps were increasing and operations required to be scaled-up. So on a shoe string budget, I 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 my award-winning AirWraps (which by then had won a British Sandwich Association Sammie Award) on a commercially viable scale.
What has shaped you as an entrepreneur & business woman?
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 now assess situations.
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.
What are some of the key skills and characteristics that have been essential to successfully running your 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.
Who were some of the key influencers in your life?
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.
What would be the most critical element for the business while scaling up?
Managing cash-flow to grow and to scale-up in a sustainable & reasonable way without diluting too soon. I was brought up in a culture of living & managing within our means. The same rule that applies at home is pertinent in business too. My experience as a management consultant has its benefits as I have access to a wide network of corporate finance friends in the big 4, who I bounce ideas off.
As a female entrepreneur balancing a career with family life has become par for the course. The most valuable advice I give my children today is to have self-belief.
Anishya displays the grit and determination we have seen with so many other food entrepreneurs and we wish her continued success with her business.
Discover more stories from strong female food founders including our interview with Juliet Barrett co-founder of Grenade, our interview with Tanya Robertson-Lambert, founder of The Saucy Affair, our interview with Cecily Mills founder of Coconuts Organic ice cream;our interview with Renee Elliott founder of Planet Organic, our interview with Jane Woodhead co-founder of Speakeasy Ice Cream, our interview with Kim Havelaar founder of Roqberry Tea and our interview with Gemma Colao MD and co-founder of OTO CBD Bitters.