When She means Business….
A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. In Episode 1 & Episode 2, we saw how Sumita & Soumya have proved themselves to be the best in what they are doing. These women entrepreneurs have been running their restaurants with a professional camaraderie & sheer integrity. One thing common among them is their passion to stand out. Every Wednesday, I would be talking to one such women and present her story for all my readers.
In today’s episode we have Sarita Sarkar… Let’s find out from her the story of Sarkar’s Kitchen in this brief conversation.
1. Tell a little about yourself
Born in Darjeeling and brought up in Vishakhapatnam, I lost my parents at a very young age. By God’s grace I found a family who not only took care of me but helped me to become what I am today. Early years was spent in a small town called Gomia where my brother (Dr Kausik Sarkar, who adopted me) and his wife (Dr Rema Nair Sarkar) were working in a hospital. Later we moved to Vishakhapatnam, where we finally settled. I completed my graduation from Annamalai University & one year Diploma in Aviation & Hospitality from Frankfinn, Vishakhapatnam. Though I started my career with Spicejet my dream was to become a hotelier. I joined Westin Hyderabad as a Front Office Trainee in Sep 2011, gradually fell in love with the City of Pearl and decided to build my own identity.
2. What made you start Sarkar’s Kitchen?
I have always been a people’s person, one of the reasons why I chose hospitality as my career, and food is the cornerstone of the field. I have always been passionate about food, particularly feeding people with wholesome, natural, lovingly prepared meals that are reminiscent of home and ma-ke-haath-ka-khana. Therefore, restaurant business was a natural career progression. It has always been my childhood dream. Sarkar’s Kitchen was born out of my passion to run a place, where people can have amazing food and get meaningful conversations. We want to introduce people to the amazing Bengali Cuisine, which is more than just Fish and Rice.
3. What were you doing before Sarkar’s Kitchen?
Before Sarkar’s Kitchen, I started my home kitchen as a precursor to the current restaurant that we are running. Witnessing the overwhelming demand, I was convinced that my brainchild has the potential to fly and achieve greater heights.
4. As a woman, what challenges did you face while setting it up? How did you overcome?
Being young and inexperienced in itself a great challenge. For the business community to accept you and take you seriously is a very gender neutral issue. However, being a woman compounds these challenges to some extent. People tend to take a woman business-owner lightly and doesn’t expects the person to be in for a long haul. At times they understand the authority of a male presence, a gender bias that we had to face, with me being the face of the kitchen. You are looked down upon by neighboring businesses, municipality workers, who demand extra cash to get things done and of course occasional perverts and harassers, where we’ve had to involve law enforcement in the past. Having said that I would not want to change anything. Running SK’s has been an extremely rewarding experience
5. How was Sarkar’s Kitchen accepted by Hyderabad?
Even before we opened as dine-in facility, SK had built a loyal clientele, due to our ability to offer on time piping hot, “ghar” ka khana. Hyderabad has been extremely kind, and it was the response of the people here towards Bengali food that eventually motivated and propelled us to open Sarkar’s Kitchen and rest is history. We have amazing people walk-in on regular basis, our ratings are at the top of the chart across social media and various food related websites and we have become a go to destination for daily meals, despite, at a lot of time being tagged as a “niche” food joint. Who says that in Hyderabad only Biryani and spicy meals thrive, Sarkar’s Kitchen is a Contrary Success Story.
6. What is the USP of Sarkar’s Kitchen?
Our Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is home cooked meal, as our motto and tagline indicates “ Ghar ka khana, Ghar Tak”. We want to ensure that our customers get food that is reminiscent of their homes, uses natural ingredients, is light on oil and is healthy, all the while offering value for money.
7. How do you motivate your workforce?
Most of our staff has been with us since the time of conception and are more like family. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that they form the lifeblood of the Kitchen. On a lighter note it is they who keep me motivated daily! But not digressing from the topic at hand, I try to keep my staff motivated by being as flexible and as responsive to their needs as much as possible. We have never placed any restrictions of what they can eat for lunch or dinner, and encourage them to treat this place as if it were their own homes. Everyone gets atleast a day off in a week, and is also encouraged to concoct new recipes. Also, we ensure that they are rewarded for anything exceptional that they do. Furthermore, we try to organize outings for everyone once in a while. We very recently went for a movie, all of us and binged on popcorn and cold drinks.
8. What plan do you have for Sarkar’s Kitchen in the next 5 years?
For SK my plans are pretty straightforward. I want to continue growing the restaurant and turn it into a fine dining place (maybe). Also, we want to turn SK’s into a go to destination for everyone across Hyderabad and beyond, while testing the palate of everyone. We additionally aim to expand the menu to cater to varied tastes and who knows we just might turn into the next Yellow Chilli!
9. Do you encourage other women entrepreneurs make similar ventures? What tips do you have for them?
I support all women who want to enter into similar ventures. I pride myself on being a feminist and believe that women have more strength and empathy to venture out into the space, however, they are for now less visible. As for tips, all I can ask is for them to believe in themselves, self- belief is of paramount importance and plan. Proper planning, including financial will solve three-fifths of the issues. Also do not look for quick gains, have the patience to bear losses, atleast in the beginning and do not hesitate to take risks.
A big thanks to my dear friend Sankalp, without whom this feature would have been incomplete.
It will be very helpful, if you can leave a comment and let me know how you liked it. May be a small note on your suggestions to help me grow.
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