Indian Woman who couldn’t Cook creates Food Delivery Firm

An Indian woman who moved to the UK and did not know how to cook has now launched an Indian food delivery business.

Indian Woman who couldn't Cook creates Food Delivery Firm f

"I wanted to do something a bit different"

Mandira Sarkar is behind Mandira’s Kitchen, an Indian food delivery business that has fed the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson.

But there were several challenges, including learning how to cook.

After completing her Bachelor’s degree and her MBA in India, she moved to the UK with her husband and worked for several companies and organisations, including being the customer services lead for Guildford Borough Council.

As she started to miss traditional Indian food, Mandira had to learn how to cook.

She explained: “I couldn’t cook, and that was the first myth I hit, that all women should be able to cook.

“And so I realised being a foodie, and not having homestyle food, the only way to actually get that food was to cook, so I learned very quickly through family recipes.”

When her job suddenly came to an end, Mandira decided it was time for her to start her own business.

She said: “My job suddenly came to an end, so the project ended and I then had to go and look for another project but at that point, I felt a bit tired.

“I wanted to do something a bit different, something which my parents would really disagree with because, you know self-respecting, educated women especially in India don’t give up a job to start cooking.”

Mandira first set up a supper club in her house and started catering before Mandira’s Kitchen expanded to supplying freezer meals, Indian picnics and barbecue boxes online, as well as providing fine dining experiences.

She told Surrey Live: “I didn’t have any great plans because this is something I enjoy doing.

“I started off doing a lot of catering but then there was no food at home because I was constantly catering for other people. That’s when, probably, the beginnings of the business came in.

“At that point, I realised that I didn’t want to be a caterer, because it has to be a scalable business especially if you’re leaving a job.

“And I didn’t want to be self-employed, because otherwise if I don’t cook one day, then I don’t get paid.

“That’s when I started doing freezer meals and going around farm shops.

“And that’s how I started off with the grand plan of being an entrepreneur but once you’re in it I suppose, I just gave it my all, and that’s how the business started.”

With the help of her cleaning lady Sabina and a £750 investment, Mandira expanded her food delivery business in 2019.

“I realised Sabina was a good cook, so I asked her to help me with the cooking.

“So we started with £750, and whatever we earned, we put it back.

“Obviously I paid Sabina, but I didn’t take anything out. So we needed more freezers, and we got them. But yes it all started with an investment of £750.”

Mandira’s Kitchen now has a turnover of £450,000, employing 16 women – all on a second career.

“We operate out of our fabulous 400-year-old converted cowshed in the Surrey Hills overlooking the Silent Pool.

“During Covid, we grew 1800% and sold our freezer meals through 25 farm shops as well as online to any UK address.

“From royalty to celebrities like Nigella and Jamie Oliver, we have lots of loyal customers.

“During lockdown, we also launched our holiday hunger project and provided over 5,000 hot meals to children and their families.”

Mandira now hopes her accomplishment will inspire other young women, adding:

“You’ve got a lot of young girls who work after school, and some of them work with us, they are 16 to 18-years-olds, we treat them just like any adults.

“I’m very passionate about entrepreneurship, I’m passionate about women in business.”

“When it comes to entrepreneurship, women are never seen as the first choice.

“They are being told by career counsellors that they can be a doctor or a hairdresser but nobody asks them if they want to be an entrepreneur.

“We’ve got to create opportunities for the next generation of inspirational women. We don’t have many role models for women.

“If you want to talk to the next generation of women, or entrepreneurs, you have to do it from a very early age and I think that’s what I’m very passionate about.

“We need to push that, especially for women of colour, because we don’t tend to actually go for it.”

Mandira’s Kitchen offers a variety of traditional Indian dishes including Keema Mattar, Chana Masala and Chicken Biryani.

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

Image courtesy of Surrey Hills