I am in the third evolution of my career. I started off with a very traditional path in Chartered Accountancy. Following my degree in Accounting at Edinburgh University, I joined KPMG and began my professional career in Scotland. I then came to London with KPMG as a fraud investigator, part of a consulting group specialising in forensic accounting. I got to the age of 30 and thought: “I have to follow my heart”. Food is in my blood. My father’s a restauranteur. He arrived in Scotland in the 1960s and set up a chain of curry houses. However, he wanted something better for me; doctor, lawyer or accountant, which I did for a while, and it was a solid training, however eventually I had to follow my passion in life which is food.
So I then studied for a full time diploma at Leith’s School of Food Wine, which is one of the world’s best culinary schools and trained as a classical French chef. I now teach my Indian masterclasses at Leith’s. Following that, I worked in various Michelin star restaurants in London and then had my children. After my children were born, I decided it was time to start my own company. For me it’s always been about education and teaching, that’s what I love. And I wanted a food business that wasn’t only a restaurant so I created a brand where customers could eat, shop and cook all in one space.
Learning from experience
I grew my business over 8 years. Starting from first round family and friend’s investment to then successfully attracting angel investors and finally venture capital. My brand was built around my Five Tastes food philosophy, which is that any dish can taste amazing when you put five flavours – it turns the dish into magic! It’s about giving people the tools to create amazing, everyday food.
As most entrepreneurs will tell you, when you bootstrap a business from start-up it’s important to find a strong management team and investors who bring industry knowledge as well as money on board. In 2015 the company hit a crisis and I needed to take a step back and realign myself.
The next phase
I moved from bricks and mortar to a digital focus and started thinking about the opportunities that the internet and technology creates for us in the food world. I am now focusing on food tech. An important part of my career has always been to ask how I can help make society better, what I realised is that technology allows change to happen at a faster pace.
For example, I am currently looking at a project involving health and wellbeing in the community and disruption opportunities within homecare and feeding of the elderly and vulnerable. I firmly believe technology-led innovation is going to provide solutions to the biggest challenges we face in our society.
In March 2017 I was selected to join the London Food Board. I joined 13 other influencers from the UK government, food and hospitality industries to write the next five year Food Strategy for London. Sadiq Khan has a vision for London to become a Future Sustainable City and the Food Board is tasked with developing the strategy to make this happen. I am particularly focused on the digital and technology aspect and in London we are a hot bed of entrepreneurial thought with a vibrant start-up scene.
This is also true of Imperial. At Imperial’s open day in May I got to speak with the start-ups at the Enterprise Lab and to see the innovation they are producing in the food space. It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to build relationships with and challenge young, visionary entrepreneurs.
Great British Menu
In 2017, I represented Scotland in BBC Two’s Great British Menu and the theme was Wimbledon. I’m the first Asian woman to compete on the show. The reason I participated in Great British Menu was to show that you don’t have to run restaurants or be a chef to be a food professional.
Moving into leadership
After ten years as an entrepreneur, my aim is to be a trailblazing female CEO and industry thought leader in the new, exciting space of ‘foodtech’.
On the Weekend MBA, I’m learning business language and building a corporate network. The programme has widened my thinking to other things I could do, and the biggest lesson I’ve learnt in my first five months is to not limit yourself.
The Imperial MBA
I chose Imperial for my MBA because of its focus on technology, innovation & entrepreneurship. I heard Dr Paolo Taticchi talk at an information session, where he discussed the Personal Leadership Journey. He said that the entrepreneurial spirit is essential if you want to have a career that is innovative, teaches you to think differently, and most importantly, do something good for the planet. The values and mission of Imperial aligned with me in terms of what I want to do with my life.
The people on the MBA are fantastic. I have loved meeting all 75 people in my class. How often do you get the chance to meet a group of new and interesting people?
My focus on the Weekend MBA has been developing my analytic skills. My natural tendency is towards the people orientated subjects, but I’m building up my decision analytics and statistical tool building.
On the Innovation and Entrepreneurship module you have to choose if you want to be an entrepreneur or an investor. I’ve chosen to be an investor because I’m interested in being the other side. I’m trying to come out of my comfort zone and push myself into new areas.
Balancing work and the Imperial MBA
Right now, I’m learning the adjustments I need to make to facilitate the Weekend MBA. With my full time directorship, London Food Board, media career and two children I have a very full working and home life so it’s important to block out time to study for my MBA each week.
Career and Professional Development
The Careers & Professional Development Service at Imperial College Business School has been excellent. I’ve had a number of one-to-one meetings with my advisor, Emma Cooper, including interview and presentation coaching. Emma and I are working together to build my long term career strategy.
Having the Imperial MBA on my CV has definitely helped my career development. It has an impact when I talk to people and has opened up new networks.
Advice for Prospective Students
My advice to prospective students would be to think about your outcome. Before you sign up to study the MBA, have a very clear vision in mind. It’s a big commitment of time and money; if you have a clear goal, it makes the journey easier. When I wrote my personal statement, it really helped me to focus on why I’m doing this and what I really want out of it. For example, I would like to match real-world needs with innovation.
It has been the most thrilling, rewarding experience so far – I’ve loved it!