http://www.chefmeghna.com | https://www.youtube.com/MeghnasFoodMagic/
During my school days and a decade long career spending in the banking sector I weighed 78kg. I never or hardly spent time in a kitchen until the age of 25. Getting married in a joint family in India means you cannot go in your kitchen and cook in large portions. At the age of 30 when my daughter was born my journey into fitness & healthy eating begun meaning my lifestyle changed for the better. Seeing my daughter making unhealthy choices at a very young age, kicked me out of comfortzone to hit the kitchen and gym with a vengeance
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?
After finishing culinary education at the age of 35, this banker finally turned into a baker.. I didn’t enjoy working with restaurant / bakery kitchens. Given my OCD for cleanliness & Quality, I wasn’t willing to compromise on the Quality of food that was being made. I come from a business family in Ahmedabad. I started with designing cakes, taking catering orders, delivering cakes, teaching my students..I was fortunate to travel to various Asian countries & live for a couple of years in Philippines & Thailand. The level of fitness that I saw, and the kind of international food shows I saw, it became clearer to me that while I may continue to give consultancy to restaurants & patisseries, it was time for me to highlight the importance of home-cooked food. At 70+ kg weight, I can not preach healthy lifestyle, till I bring the change in me. Over 18 months, I undertook the weight loss - health & wellness journey & now at the 50 kg the results are in front of you. It hasn't been easy, but it has been a life changing experience, and to do that without any gym instructor or dietician; has instilled a great amount of self belief in me.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
I am a Jain-vegetarian. So I had to first overcome my issues in using eggs while baking - and then I developed eggless recipes. As my YouTube views crossed 2 MM views, I received growing requests to cook non vegetarian recipes. And that was the next challenge that I had to overcome. See it’s one thing that you are cooking and you are tasing too. But I had to heighten my sniffing skills to create non-veg recipes.
The second part was the demand vs supply equation. I wanted to originally do cakes, bakery & savoury dishes. But my technical team advised that YouTube/Google work on the most searched recipes. But then I thought why would anyone watch my recipes unless there is something different. So the idea of cooking intelligent food came in- less use of oil & butter - meant a different style of cooking; where calories are lost but taste isn’t. As I do this interview, I have already published 40+ dessert & cakes recipes, probably very few channels in India would have this kind of varieties. Plus there are lots of popular dishes published with Meghna’s Twist. You’re going to have to see them to understand what I mean… :)
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
See when I was a child, I wanted to be a performer on stage, but my parents didn’t share the same vision. Growing up in a middle class family (that had gone through a financial downfall) in 90s; the only thing they wanted me to do was to do a job, support family - my sister who was studying for medical and get married at the right time. I never got a chance to really persuade my dream. Next 15 years, it was all about supporting my husband’s career while I never stopped working. But then Motherhood changed everything. My interests, aptitude & desired took a complete U-Turn. And from comfortable Air-conditioned corporate offices, I landed in hot- sweaty-tiring kitchens & bakeries.
I wish I could turn the time and go back to my younger age and have a chat with my parents - tell them about internet, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook where I would have 1.5 Million followers. I wish I could go back start early with the culinary career, so that I didn’t have to take my infant baby to some of the classes/college to not miss the lectures.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
The most food channels and YouTube channels I see in India, seem to be using unaffordable ingredients or unavailable tools for the middle class segment; who work on tight household budgets. That to me was the most influential factor. How do I create recipes, provide kitchen hacks & spread knowledge about food that would be easily accepted & something people will find value in connecting with. And so yes, Meghna’s Food Magic is all about the “connect,” and that’s the single most important factor that I thrive on. The other thing I see is that chefs tend to make complicated recipes, that shows how brilliant they are; but then rarely I have come across people who actually would attempt. This I say because I follow all of them, and they are wonderful. This is the stereo-type that I have attempted to break. I would like to add that I am a die hard fan of celebrity chef Giada & Nigella Lawson. I love the way they carry themselves, make high Quality content & connect with their viewers.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Well there were no books that shows you the path-road to walk, because every blogger in him/herself is a trend setter. Each one of us are truly unique & have different personalities. Initially, when I started I was trying to match / exceed the standards set by other chefs, bloggers. I even hired an external agency to manage social media & overall growth of Brand Meghna. Only to realise that the best way to grow and get ahead was to handle things on my own. I lost a good 6 months in depending upon 3rd parties; rather than handling things myself. When I found a digital partner to handle my production/ shoots, the social media and viewer engagement was completely taken over by me. And I would say that the growth for Meghna’s Food Magic since then has been phenomenal. My family is so proud of me. I am an outsider to the culinary world, but that’s also an advantage. I have my own reference points & take on things which is usually different; more inspired by international trends than what happens in country and my own OCD about how everything has to be perfect.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Just looking good & speaking well in front of the camera is not good enough. Ultimately it’s the content that matters. Don’t be boring; make it interesting, different & find the connect. You’ve got accept that you are a student for life and never stop learning. Stay hungry for knowledge. Secondly, invest in yourself rather fancy jewellery or car or house. For those tangible assets, the value eventually will go up only to an extent. It is the intangible asset which is your health, your brand and your life - that’s what is most precious.The more you invest in yourself, the more rewarding you will find your life to be.
Lastly, keep it simple. The simple ideas are indeed the most brilliant ideas.
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