Read the interview conversation of the Director of Amashaa Masala, Mrs. Sugandha Malhotra.
1) Tell us about yourself, stating your family, education and rewards you have received in your entrepreneurial career.
SUGANDHA MALHOTRA: Hello everyone. My name is Sugandha Malhotra and I am an Entrepreneur by profession and the director of Amashaa Masala. If I have to talk about my family then, it consists of my husband, two children and my in-laws who have supported me since the beginning. I think there are very few people who are gifted with an opportunity to be able to turn their passion into a career option and I have been blessed with a family that allows me to do so.
Around five years back, I was diagnosed with Systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), which is an autoimmune disease and was bedridden for six months straight. Back then, I remember my husband used to encourage me with compliments on my cooking skills and hence I decided to start providing my services as a home chef. I followed it with a home catering business and it was a great success.
Then in 2019, my health started improving and I decided to start my own brand. With that Amashaa Masala was born and we released our first product which were the pre mixes. I decided to focus on how we could bring easy and delicious meals to people who either didn't have the place, time or even patience for intensive cooking, without compromising on health and focused more on how we could make our pre-mixes fresh and preservative-free?
My husband's name is Aman and my son's name is Shaan, this together gave birth to the name "AMASHAA". But in the beginning, it was difficult for us to explain the concept to people but, as soon as we could pick up the pace with that, it was already 2020.
At the beginning of the lockdown, the work did get a little slow. But, one such afternoon, I was sitting with my husband and planning our future decisions regarding the brand. With all the restaurants closing, orders for homemade food started flowing and we decided to distribute our premixes with all the orders we were delivering. That marked a turning point for us. People enjoyed our premixes and started finding them more convenient and less time-consuming since catering took a lot of time and energy.
Slowly and steadily, word started to flow and rest is history now. Today we market more than 100 premixes with varieties such as north Indian, south Indian, desserts, cakes, and many more. Academically, I am a graduate and I continue taking courses related to cooking every now and then. My passion for food allowed me to travel to several states around the country. I owe all of my success to my family but especially to my husband, he has always motivated me to grow and had never let anything become a hurdle in my path while following my passion.
2) When did you decide to start the spices company? Was there any hindrance in the beginning?
SUGANDHA MALHOTRA: In the beginning, we did face issues with management and execution and started with a very limited number of staffs and there were times when the workload would get out of hand. For a long time, we struggled with issues like handling both veg and non-veg orders at the same time and several orders in a day. And ever since we started getting more and more orders for catering, we started to discuss the need of making our processes easier. We wanted something that could help us by making our production process easier without compromising on the health and taste aspect of the food.
A simple google search got into the world of premixes. I figured out that this is something that could be taken up as a business option. With my husband's encouragement, I went to different states to take courses to learn the process. I found amazing teachers in Goa who taught me a lot about the process. The planning and decision-making process took around six months. And finally, on 2nd August 2020, I decided to put up a stall of the premixes in Dilli Haat in Delhi. Since I didn't have staff to work for me back then, my family and I together did all the packing and the sealing of the products.
The sheer anxiety and nervousness took up the whole night before the big day. And the day we had to put up the stall, it rained heavily. It was the time when I started questioning my decision, but my husband stood by my side and calmed me down. It was supposed to be a four-day stall. By the end of the fourth day, the response I received was great. I assured that my prices were nominal and hence I think it was one of the reasons why people called us back for more orders. With time, trust and patience, we now have multiple repeated customers. In October of 2020, we started giving out sponsorships and that made a huge difference. Since then we have started receiving multiple callbacks for repeated orders.
It has now made us sustain our brand and consumers' positive response has made our faith. Not only positive, even when we receive criticism, we make sure to work on it and try to consistently improve on it. One of our major sources of inspiration has been those various people who are in culinary field. Several Chefs have extended their help and assistance throughout the process of our brand building. I feel blessed to be a part of such an uplifting field.
3) How was the journey from Sugandha to being Sugandha of Amashaa Masala? Was that tiering or easy to carry after a while?
SUGANDHA MALHOTRA: I think that everything in life comes with its own hardships and it is one's task which makes it easy for themselves. One must know how to balance all the aspects of their life. The support and love that I have received throughout the process have made it an easy journey. From my family to my colleagues and even consumers, I have received motivation from all directions and it has made this process joyful. The saying "hard work always pays off", was true to its core and was reflected in every aspect of my journey. It is a dream of mine to see our brand create its own place in the market and also in its consumers' hearts. I wish one day I can see people trust our brand like many others in the market.
4) How far do you want to take your masala company and what is the main perspective of life related to it?
SUGANDHA MALHOTRA: I wish to see my brand reach heights and gain people's trust. We have started granting distributorship to people around places like Faridabad, Delhi, Gurdaspur, Rajasthan and Sonipat. Seeing our brand is growing at such a fast rate, one day I wish to see Amashaa Masala among various other brands and wish to gain trust from people all around the world. I have received calls from people, thanking us because they can now find Amashaa Masala in the stores near them and can easily have access to them.
Since it takes a lot of time and trust for people to invest in a food item, but we all have uncertainty about its quality. I pray to see our brand gain more trust from people around the world and see Amashaa Masala as one of their staples. As of now, I do not feel the urgent need to start earning profits but, wish to grow and learn.
5) What are your most selling masalas? Name them. Also, tell us their specialty which makes them different from other masalas in the market.
SUGANDHA MALHOTRA: Our Red Gravy Masala, Daal Makhani, Golden Gravy and Brown Gravy are a few of our most selling masalas. Our specialty is that they can be used to make different dishes. For example, our Red Gravy Masala can be used to make Shahi Paneer, Butter Chicken, Soya Chaap and Mix Vegetable and so much more. Our Brown Gravy can be used to make Chole, Mix Veg, Mutter Paneer, Rajma, etc. Whereas, Masalas like Daal Makhani Masalas are extremely easy to use and the result turns out to be just divine. Customers who buy Masalas always come back asking for more. All our recipes are extremely easy to follow and the dish turns out delicious. Even our South Indian Masalas are extremely flavourful and mouthwatering.
INTERVIEWED: Mrs. Sugandha Malhotra.
INTERVIEW TAKEN BY: Khatibah Rehmat, Senior Journalist for Food.
Picture Courtesy: Mrs. Sugandha Malhotra.
EDITED BY: Shruti Bhushal.