L-R: Tricity’s women entrepreneurs Annu Bains of Brooklyn Central, Gayatri Sood of Monica’s Pudding & Pies, Binny Mahajan of So Delhi Khari Baoli, and Puja Aggarwal of Back to Source. (HT Photo)
L-R: Tricity’s women entrepreneurs Annu Bains of Brooklyn Central, Gayatri Sood of Monica’s Pudding & Pies, Binny Mahajan of So Delhi Khari Baoli, and Puja Aggarwal of Back to Source. (HT Photo)

Chandigarh’s women entrepreneurs serving hope, bouncing back amid pandemic

Chandigarh’s women entrepreneurs are reshaping the tricity’s food business in Covid times with optimism and grit
PUBLISHED ON APR 26, 2021 12:50 AM IST

CHANDIGARH: As author-critic Eugene Briffault writes: “Those who underestimate women where culinary matters are concerned forget their high level of achievement which has earned them the accolade of cordon-bleu. It is impossible to bring more skill and delicacy, more taste and intelligence to the choice and preparation of dishes than women have brought.”

Shattering stereotypes with their game-changing performance in a male-dominated world, women entrepreneurs of Chandigarh are increasing taking up leadership roles in the food and beverage industry.

These women are not only changing the tricity’s dining culture with their entrepreneurial, pioneering and culinary skills, but are also coming up with dynamic solutions to the challenges the industry faces amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

We spoke to some such women in the tricity about their journey so far and the challenges ahead.

THE STARTERS

“My mom started a little bakery when I was a year old. That inspired me to be a pastry chef,” says Gayatri Sood, 28, of Monica’s Pudding & Pies.

Brooklyn Central’s Annu Bains, 56, says she didn’t really have any plans to join the industry as she’s an interior architect, but it was destiny that took her on the path of hospitality.

For Puja Aggarwal, 39, of Back to Source, it was her love to cook and feed a large number of people that made her take up this career.

So Delhi Khari Baoli’s Binny Mahajan, 43, says that hospitality is in her blood.

STAYING AFLOAT AMID CHALLENGES

“After the lockdown and now with the second wave of Covid, the challenge our industry faces is eliminating fear from the minds of customers so that they can resume coming out to dine,” says Aggarwal. “There will be changes in terms of sanitation and infrastructure with the Covid SOP in place. It’s an added responsibility to ensure safety of our staff and customers and regain their trust,” she says.

“We have seen changes in almost every field since the pandemic hit. As a bakery, we were involved in happy moments of people’s life: Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and baby showers. But now, people are going for small gatherings,” says Sood.

“Luckily, they want an equally special cake to celebrate the occasion. So, we make smaller cakes and hampers for families,” she adds.

Bains says, “Covid has taken away some sheen off the restaurant industry. Lots of places have downsized or shut down world over. Staying afloat is the biggest challenge.”

“We are laying stress on following Covid prevention protocol for the staff and the customers. We have stopped giving out hard copies and have switched to digital menus with QR codes,” she says, adding, “With the vaccine drive in place, we are hoping for normalcy to return soon.”

UPGRADE, UPDATE, ADAPT

Mahajan believes that Covid has made lasting changes in the way we live, work and eat. “Post-Covid, ours is the worst-hit industry. People’s eating habits have changed. Eating out is out of the question for many, especially due to the fear of contracting the virus. The joy of bonding over food and drinks is barely there since last year,” she says.

“So, to survive this crisis, we have been upgrading our packaging and infrastructure because now, customers will only want to dine at places where they trust that the food served is hygienic and there’s no threat to their health and safety,” Mahajan adds.

GLORIOUS LAST CHAPTER

“The key to success is consistency in taste, Instagramable plating, good service, sustainable practices, innovation in the menu, and customer feedback. Also, as Danny Myers says in the book, Setting The Table: Always write a great last chapter. That’s what we endeavour to do,” says Bains.

Mahajan says, “Every building needs a strong foundation; similarly, every successful working woman has a strong family support. My pillars are my husband, in-laws, sister and my kids. My children are my problem-solvers. Today’s kids come up with such unique and easy solutions to challenges that it amazes me. Above all, constantly pushing yourself to do better is a must.”

“It’s important to maintain quality. We keep reviewing our products to suit the requirement,” says Sood.

For Aggarwal, “Giving your 100% to the job at hand, and using best quality and natural ingredients while cooking lead to long-term success. Whenever you serve others or cook for them, it should be a manifestation of what you expect others to serve you. That way, you’re bound to be satisfied with your work, get noticed, and flourish.”

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