Sanjana Desai is Executive Director, Mother’s Recipe. In an interaction with Guardian 20, she shares her journey in a male-dominated industry, how she was the first woman in four generations to join her family business, and of course her success mantra.
You started your career almost a decade ago at your family company, Desai Brothers Ltd. What was it like working in a male-dominated industry?
Fashion is what I wanted to pursue seriously and while my father never stopped me from pursuing it, he always told me to “learn how to read my accounts first”, which is the first ground rule of any business or entrepreneurship. His advice struck a chord and I went on to pursue my majors in Finance, Economics with a minor in International Business from a business school in Rhode Island, USA. During my Summers, I also worked in our finance department studying and learning to analyse Annual Reports
These years of education broadened my understanding of business and made me want to join my family business, help it grow and take the legacy forward. I was the first woman in four generations to join my family business and I walked into the office with no biased expectations.
It was not easy. I had to first learn the basics of the business I was getting into and subsequently earn respect and position based on merit. Also, being the youngest one in the top management, I knew my work needs to talk louder than my name.
Your family diversified into the food sector in 2002. Today Mothers Recipe is a very famous and preferred brand. How has it grown so exponentially?
We started expanding our business verticals and diversifying in the early 2000s and entered the food business in 2002. Initially the brand Mother’s Recipe was only present in Mumbai and a few cities in west India. Exports were also restricted to markets like Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia. A year later, we started creating our distribution network as well as setting up a new processing factory.
We at Mother’s Recipe keep a strong emphasis on quality ingredients and authenticity of recipe which results in our great tasting products. We listen to our consumers, and keep innovating and adding more to our big range of products. Currently we have over 60 variants of pickles alone.
Today Mothers Recipe is a proud Made-in-India brand which has gone global. Where all and what all is under the Mothers Recipe brand.
Mother’s Recipe has always innovated in the Indian food category, be it in the varieties of pickles that are launched, or the new channels of distribution used, or new tools incorporated for engaging consumers. We were the first brand to launch Ginger Garlic Paste in a tub format that increases the convenience of usage. This tub pack also ensures zero wastage, and the aroma seal cap keeps the aromas locked inside the tub till the last scoop. We have recently launched a range of chaat chutneys in all the major cities in India.
Currently, Mother’s Recipe has strong presence in India and across the globe, especially in Middle East, Australia, UK, Europe, US, Canada and Africa. We have been one of the largest provider of traditional and authentic Indian food products, exporting to more than 45 countries in the world.
The current product portfolio consists of pickles, condiment pastes, curry pastes, mango chutneys, ready-to-eat meals, blended spices, ethnic chutneys, papads, ready-to-cook spice mixes and instant mixes.
What’s next in store for Mothers Recipe.
The brand has undergone a transformation both in terms of imagery and product portfolio. Mother’s Recipe as a brand was synonymous with pickle, Over the years we have expanded our product portfolio to meet changing consumers tastes and demands. Our focus is on creating categories that will be important for the future. We have few new launches lined up, which we are very excited about. We are focusing on millenials.
What advice can you give young budding women entrepreneurs?
Amongst the many qualities that women entrepreneurs must possess, the one that is most important and sets us apart is passion. With passion, a woman will be intrinsically motivated to give her best in terms of efforts, making her more persistent. It will also allow her to focus on the bigger picture and on what she is good at while delegating the rest to a competent team. In order to be successful, we do not need to spend crazy hours at work, more time does not equal better work. We need to have a fit body and mind and for that we need to focus on our own well being as well, so my advice to budding women entrepreneurs is think about yourself and give yourself time, love and care.