Bio: Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai and a post graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai. She also has a post-graduate diploma in Instructional Designing, from Symbiosis Institute, Pune. She started her career by writing children’s books, creating e-learning modules and writing lifestyle articles for Rediff.com. Currently she is working as a Content Head at an Insights based PR Company in Mumbai. A foodie, a lifestyle features writer who loves writing restaurant/ food reviews and travelogues and in her spare time, she likes to pursue her hobbies of painting and photography.
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Little did Lily Mitra realise that relocating to Kolkata would plant the seeds of an ecopreneur in her, that too post-retirement. An M.Sc. (Botany), B.Ed., and a science teacher with over three decades of experience, Lily founded a tidy little enterprise called Udvid Plant Boutique. Having to come to terms with her life in a ‘gardenless’ space in the city as compared to her earlier stay in an industrial township, she started creating handcrafted potted plants which garnered attention among family and friends. After much coaxing by her daughters, she founded her own Plant Boutique at her residence in Ballygunge, Kolkata in July 2016.
The Lifestyle Portal is totally in awe of this spirited, young lady who became an entrepreneur at the age of 60. Sharing with you our interview with her…
As a young girl, Lily grew up in a small town in Hooghly district of West Bengal, where ‘green’ was more the norm unlike it is today. “Climbing on fruit trees and munching on fruits in the neighbour’s garden was a prank that I commonly indulged in as a child. Later in life, I got myself a Master’s degree in Botany from the Calcutta University. Inherently, proximity to plants has always made me happy,” smiles Lily.
She continues, “When I got married, I had to move to an industrial township, namely Bokaro Steel City, along with my husband, and in the later years, we had the privilege of a huge space in the front and backyard of our quarter. That was my first foray into formal gardening – landscape gardening with ornamental plants, flowering plants and a big enough vegetable garden,” says Lily describing what may have been her first tryst with gardening.
As fate had it, she got transferred to Kolkata in the late 90s and lost the privilege of a ‘garden’ almost overnight. Lily pined and craved for the company of her plants and as a result, began nurturing potted plants on the small terrace space in their house. (though it was much smaller than her garden in Bokaro).
Eventually, she began experimenting with other natural materials and objects that could be used for creating miniature gardens for urban living spaces. It began as a personal hobby, but soon Lily’s friends and relatives began asking for copies of a couple of her creations!
“My daughters egged me on to create more such collections to be offered to the world outside. When I retired in June 2016, I almost instinctively turned to my plants and thus, Udvid Plant Boutique was born. The first formal attempt to get it up and running was through a Plant Show at our house in August 2016. Since then, there has been no stopping despite other commitments of mine, though I admit that I am still more of a creator and a plant-nurturer rather than a businesswoman,” mentions Lily.
Entrepreneur by chance
When we asked Lily about how she felt about wanting to be an entrepreneur, pat came the reply, “Honestly, entrepreneurship was never on my cards. I was always in service, teaching Science and Biology to students at Kendriya Vidyalaya in different parts of eastern India. My plants, the pollution in the city and my daughters inspired me to take this leap.”
As far as plants, gardening or business are concerned, Lily never had any formal training. However, her creative instincts and sheer love for plants have led her to develop Udvid Plant Boutique.
“I was familiar with the plant kingdom, courtesy my ‘green’ childhood, the garden in Bokaro and my formal education. But the way I experiment with plants at Udvid Plant Boutique and curate them for small urban houses in aesthetically appealing formats is something I have never done before. In fact, my daughters also helped me learn from the internet and fuel my ideas further. So, I had to burn the midnight oil to learn how to grow these plants in smaller spaces, on different materials like a log, a seashell, a pine cone, a bamboo planter and so on. This is like any other art. I look at my plants like babies. I see which planter it could adorn the best or, which other plants will thrive together and look good too. My daughters often tease me that these plants are their step-siblings. Even a minute that I spend out of the terrace especially during the daytime, makes me restless, wanting to go back to my plants,” says a passionate Lily.
Being a Biology teacher and one who has always viewed the environment with regard, Lily would explain to her students why it is so important to secure their share of oxygen on this planet and not take this gift from the planet for granted. Lily believes that all organisms other than human beings play their role of giving back to the ecosystem they derive their food from, so we must do our bit too.
Each creation is very dear to her. She often goes to great lengths to make the same plant look different in different kinds of planters. She travels to places far and wide, including rural areas, to collect different species of plants or innovative planters, but this is not something everyone is going to understand.
“When we participate in exhibitions in Kolkata or Mumbai, the sheer effort and care required to transport the plants (my dear creations) is huge. Overall, it’s a logistics intensive business,” admits Lily.
However, what concerns her most is dealing with the mindset of the people. “I feel disappointed when some prospective buyers visiting my boutique say they don’t have time for even watering the plant daily. It’s like saying we don’t have time for our bath or meals,” shares Lily with regret.
“When we are at lifestyle exhibitions or even organic farmers’ markets, we are always competing with consumables like – clothes, jewellery, food and other lifestyle products. Some of us even spend thousands of rupees on things that we already have at home. Whatever attention we have got so far amidst that clutter, thanks to my children – my dear plants, has been bliss. People ask how I make them, will the plants live like that forever and so on. My plants definitely pique the interest of passersby. The demand is yet to pick up though. I trust that there will be a time when people will feel the need to pay for the ever-so-generous oxygen providers, just like they pay for food, clothes, house or anything else,” smiles Lily.
Lily further adds that she would be happy to help people think differently about the need for plants. That’s why she invests a lot of time and effort in putting together plants in formats that can thrive in low light, less space and with low maintenance. “But they are living beings, so one cannot make that purchase in the same manner as living room furniture,” she adds.
One can tell her passion when she says, “Sometimes, the pain of giving one of my children (my plant) away to someone else is higher than the joy of making a sale, but I revel in the joy that my creation will lend oxygen to someone else.”By turning into an entrepreneur in a stream that is so close to her heart, Lily will be able to rekindle the long-lost love for plants, one creation at a time.
Products available at Udvid Plant Boutique
Udvid Plant Boutique curates ornamental plants ranging from ferns, crotons, coleus, begonia, euphorbia, creepers, succulents, a few ornamental flowering plants, and a few in the bonsai format.
Their speciality though lies not in the plants they curate but the way in which Lily puts them together for city dwellers who have less space, limited sunshine and time. Their miniature garden format is good for urban residents who love a house with a garden, for example.
The price varies depending on how rare the collection is, or, the amount of time and effort spent in assembling the collection in appealing formats. It ranges from Rs. 200 and goes upwards of Rs. 2000.
“The entire collection is my baby and I curate each plant personally. This is not something I want to outsource to anyone. It’s a very soulful and satisfying experience for me to put together each and every collection. The pleasure involved in making them far outweighs anything else that we encounter while putting them on sale,” says Lily.
What makes Udvid Plant Boutique unique?
What makes Udvid Plant Boutique unique is that Lily mindfully creates small sized plant collections that can thrive on occasional sunlight and watering, in unusual yet visually appealing formats. This, in turn, attracts young urban consumers who can do their bit without worrying about maintaining too many plants and still feel the gracious company of ‘living’ plants in their home and office spaces.
Awareness about terrariums, ornamental plants, pot plants, indoor plants
Sadly, there’s very little awareness of such kinds of plants. But the fact is, Lily explains, that it is not important to know what these plants are. It is important to just have a loving eye towards them. Being a living organism, they tell us what they need in their own way – just watching over them daily, checking the soil condition or, the freshness of leaves and watering them, is good enough for one to learn as they go; and for all Udvid customers, she is just a call away.
Journey and response so far…
“Most people don’t see it as a necessity to grow plants or some humbly walk away saying ‘I don’t have a green finger’. The point is that we must be responsible for our own share of oxygen. If we care, we will figure out time and ways to maintain plants just like we manage other household chores.
I understand that it will not be easy convincing people as we are not selling utility items or consumable products. But we are truly grateful for those customers who choose to buy plants from us over other lifestyle goods. Admittedly, they are at a higher level of consciousness towards health and environment”, explains Lily.
Over time, we would love to work with interior designers for office or home spaces who are offering ‘green’ or alternative solutions with ‘real’ plants which are aesthetically curated.
To get in touch with Udvid Plant Boutique, click here.
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Ever since I can remember, I have visited the circus in many towns and cities of India. Right from Gemini Circus, Rambo Circus to the famous Russian Circus when they came to Kolkata in the ‘80s.
The circus is entirely something else. It’s a different life; distinctive genre altogether that sadly gets muffled in the glitz and limelight of the other art forms. It is another form of mass media/ folklore, where people travelled from far corners of the country to showcase their talents and introduce the locals to a whole new world of magic and imagination. A circus was one of the most exciting art forms when the world of television, the Internet or the digital age was not even thought of.
My 6-year-old had never seen a circus and would not believe me when I would tell her about some of the unbelievable stunts we’ve watched as children. It was also the time when the circus used animals. Using tigers, elephants and lions in the circus was a huge attraction for the audience. Sadly, owing to the poor living conditions and maintenance of the animals, circuses were banned from using them in their stunts and that’s how the spotlight from the circus gradually shifted away.
While I was scouting around things to do over the Internet, I spotted a bright red and yellow banner, which read ‘Rambo Circus’, coming to Mumbai from 9th January 2019 onwards. I waited patiently for the next few days for the tickets and bought them and took my daughter along.
I remember years ago, I was going through this stunning black and white photo feature on the circus artists. Personally, for me, black and white photography is one of the most remarkable and timeless mediums to tell a story irrespective of the subject. It’s got the power to stay with you in your subconscious for years. That’s the impact I had after going through that black and white photo feature almost aeons ago. It’s a pity, I have no reminisced of the brilliant photographer and the magazine, but his photographs remained with me in my mind and I hoped that someday I too would click pictures of a circus.
After almost a couple of decades later, I finally got an opportunity on 9th January this year thanks to Rambo Circus – to capture their super star circus performers through my camera lens. I carried my DSLR along and with my 6-year-old and a friend; we sat through almost two hours of the show cheering for the performers and their acts.
A circus is a complete package – it’s got drama, comedy, thrill, action, and romantic interludes – overall a complete package. I think I can safely call the performers and the staff the ‘real superstars’. I was in awe as I watched them perform all the acts live on stage, with or without props, and how they carried the brand and the ethos of a circus on their shoulders. While some make you laugh at their own expense, some make you cringe or be awestruck when you watch them perform dangerous acts and stunts.
One of the most incredible aspects I noticed about the circus performers is the amount of faith and trust they have in each other, especially while performing some tough and dangerous acts. They just know that their partner or team member is there to back them up. Also, since it was the first day, first show, during a weekday evening, in spite of a paltry crowd, the Rambo Circus superstars performed their act with finesse and complete dedication and even took a bow on all sides even where the seats were empty. I liked their spirited attitude that in spite of the number of audiences being less, they performed their act with zest and enthusiasm. Numbers didn’t seem to matter to them, they just enjoyed and loved their own work and their focus is clear, to entertain the audience.
Unlike in a film, where we see the final package, the circus presents to you their art and craft in its real form. It may not have the perfection or finishing touches, but I think that’s what makes it all the more remarkable. Life is real, it’s not perfect, and that’s what a circus brings with it. You accept it in all its flaws and imperfections, and I think, that’s what makes it so beautiful and breathtaking.
You see their mistakes during the acts, while the audience may sound critical, the performers take it in their stride and redo the act until they get it right. I was amazed at one woman performing an act, where she had to get this football on top of a tall iron prop while lying on her back and balancing the tower on her foot. She kept at it as the ball fell several times, until she got the ball on top and we all cheered. Human effort is exactly like this; we keep trying until we get it right.
I think, unlike the cinema (I love watching films, mind you), I did feel that a circus is more real and true to life. It shows us what it is. I really liked how each one of the performers worked as a team, and doubled up as an extra helping hand after their act to help a fellow colleague. I am sure they have hard days and may feel discouraged when the expectant crowd don’t turn up in numbers, yet they put up a smile and their shiny costumes and come out to perform. Here the focus is on the talent and skill and not on physical beauty. At times, what the world may think of a shortcoming, might be a talent in a circus with the power to inspire or entertain the same people who criticised them at the very beginning. A circus makes things possible, embraces the shortcomings and flaws and turns it into a talent.
Such camaraderie, team spirit and optimism is rare to find and I came back home humbled and inspired as so many of these real-life heroes who entertained us with their raw yet beautiful talent.
Thank you Rambo Circus for such a brilliant show.
**Please note, this is not a promotional article. However, you can always catch their shows in Mumbai, they’re performing in Borivali (W) at the BMC Grounds in Chikuwadi till the 17th of February. For more photographs, please visit our official Facebook page.
The Pinnacle Fame Awards or PIFA 2018 may have wrapped up for the year, but everyone is still reeling under the euphoria.
It was a collaborative effort with Maa2Mom founded by Jyoti Agarwal and Goregaon Highway Pulse, founded by Anushree Chatterjee that exceeded the expectations when it came to the magnitude of the event that was held on 8th December 2018.
“I launched Maa2Mom in October 2015 with a vision to connect all mothers globally and inspire empower and motivate each other and make motherhood a celebration. PIFA 2018 was one of its kind awards happening in Mumbai, which had independent Jury comprising of people who have made a mark in their own space. In fact, I can add that it’s #RealPeople #RealAwards, where no nomination was charged from anyone and it’s open for men and women across the globe,” smiles Jyoti Agarwal, Founder and COO Maa2Mom.
When speaking to Anushree Chatterjee, the Founder of Goregaon Highway Pulse, she shared, “It was challenging yet gratifying to the hilt. It was just a question that was popped to me by Jyoti, Would you like to work on an annual awards event with me? and I immediately agreed.”
Regarding the event, Anushree further added, “We were 99% self-funded at PIFA 2018. However, we did do a lot of barter associations with some great brands as gifting partners such as Vardan Jewellers, Akshi Oils, Kerfs, etc. We even had a very good brand, GoKruze, as our travel partner, who enabled our participants from Kandivali to come in the comfort of an AC bus to and from the venue.”
The PIFA 2018 had over 20 categories ranging from sustainable living, education, fashion, travel, blogging, cuisine, environment, health and fitness and lots more.
All participating entrepreneurs were judged by a team of jury members such as Hemang Bhatt – CEO of HAS Juices, Ajoy Balkrishna – General Manager of Radisson Mumbai Goregaon, Era Tak – artist, filmmaker and writer, Dr. Samir Dalwai – Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrician & President – Indian Academy of Pediatrics, Kanika Pal – award-winning CSR expert and founder of SOCHE Foundation and Radha Shah – Mrs India Worldwide (UAE, 2017).
Held at Radisson Mumbai Goregaon, the turn out of the event was absolutely amazing. We are still elated and honoured as so many of The Lifestyle Portal Entrepreneurs took home awards.
Here are our esteemed The Lifestyle Portal’s Entrepreneurs who took home the awards at PIFA 2018:
- Ami Savla Hemani, Founder, Socialize Store – Pioneering Social Media Trainer
- Anamika Sengupta, Founder, Almitra Tattva & Almitra Sustainables – Innovation in Kid’s Fashion and Ecopreneur of Impact
- Shilpa Mittal, Founder, ShilpsNutrilife Health Management – Best Nutritionist
- Apoorva Mairal, Founder, Sweet Store – Upcoming Dessert Entrepreneur
- Shambhavi Chhugani, Founder of Tarot for U – Excellence in Life Coach
PIFA is an annual event, which Maa2Mom have been conducting over the last three years. This year, they have collaborated with Goregaon Highway Pulse for the first time. Next year it will be on 7th December 2019 and they will close the nominations by October 2019 itself.
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Human bonds and connections have been reduced to interactions through the virtual world. We no longer feel the warmth and see the smiles on people’s faces, as we’re so absorbed into our electronic gadgets.
Suddenly, there’s a spurt of life in the neighbourhood that compels you to step out of your virtual world and mingle with people for real. It helps you to get to know your neighbourhood and community.
Introducing to you, Street Konnect, a 5-year-old social enterprise started primarily by a group of enthusiastic residents of Oberoi Park View in Thakur Village. They’re soon going live with their annual street fest on Sunday 16th December at Thakur Village.
When the Street Konnect team first thought of creating this event, they expected at least 300-500 people to show up. Everything including posters was handmade or contributed by team members and other residents.
Contributions in the form of cash and items they needed came entirely from the community. The footfall in their first year in 2014 was over 3500. It has since then been growing exponentially. Last year the footfall was over 12,000. It seems as if the residents can’t seem to have enough of it and now the Street Konnect team have frequent requests to make it a quarterly event.
The Lifestyle Portal in conversation with the team about their visions of bringing their neighbourhood alive with happiness, culture, art, music and food.
How did it all begin?
It all began sometime in 2014 when a group of women were working within their residential building to create a sense of involvement in their neighbourhood. This was when they felt that such an initiative should also extend to the entire neighbourhood of Thakur Village.
Street Konnect was intended to bring people out of their homes and onto the streets to meet each other and form connections and bonds on a Sunday morning. We wanted it to happen over fun and engaging activities and so, we decided to host a variety of activities to interest a diverse population in Thakur Village,” explains Reema Gulati, the Spokesperson of Street Konnect.
Visions for Street Konnect
Street Konnects vision is to build a strong, happy and a healthy community. As Nita Sundararaju, Spokesperson of Street Konnect explains, “In an urban environment, where most people are too busy to even meet their own neighbours, the human connection is what we want to encourage and build on. Along with that, we would also like to introduce new ideas that will broaden the horizons for the members of the community, including us.”
The team wanted this to be a festival of the community, for the community, and by the community. Hence investments for the Street Konnect team are mostly in terms of ideas, time, resources and doing all the groundwork to put up a good show at the end!
Nita shares, “To be honest, getting permissions has been simpler than expected. The officials have been very co-operative, whether it is the Corporator, Mrs. Madhuri Yogesh Bhoir, the Samta Nagar police department, the fire brigade or the RTO. Not only that but, the residential society officials also has been happy to lend their premises for the use of Street Konnect meetings. However, one of the big challenges that we face is with the removal of parked cars from the venue and of course getting the right amount of funding through sponsorships’.”
The Street Konnect Team & the Work
The Street Konnect core team is responsible for owning and managing the progress of each of the key Street Konnect work stream.
The SK Association as it is known forms a fresh Core team for each of its annual event taking into consideration the following factors:
- Diversity of members in terms of backgrounds, perspectives and talents
- Alignment to Street Konnect s vision values and purpose
- The team size required to accomplish the task
- A member who is recognized as a trusted contributor
- Availability in terms of time and commitment from commencement to closure
How can we join Street Konnect ?
Anyone who feels that they would like to contribute to creating a community is welcome to join the Street Konnect team. “However, the only prerequisites are dedication, commitment, and willingness to have fun!” laughs Reema.
What makes StreetKonenct unique?
“Street Konnect ’s USP is its vision. We’re not just a fest on the street but are here to create a community bonding. In fact, we believe a strong, healthy, and a happy set of people constitutes a happy neighbourhood. We also provide a platform to budding artists, entrepreneurs and homemakers to showcase their talents. None of what we have done was intended to pull in a crowd; that has been purely incidental,” smiles Nita.
For the first three years, Street Konnect was completely community funded. Some of their patrons continue to contribute even now. However with the scale of the event growing every year, especially from the fourth edition onwards the Street Konnect team has started to accept sponsorships from companies that believe in their vision.
Themes for this year
All the activities at the fest are primarily divided into five broad categories to cater to all age groups and varied interests:
- Art zone: It showcases artwork and has workshops and activity related to different mediums of art, i.e. Fine Arts and Performing Arts.
- Innovation zone: It’s all about introducing new ideas, processes, happening all around us, into the community.
- Fitness zone: The name says it all; activities are planned to include all age groups.
- Pets zone: The bond between a pet and its parent is priceless. Strengthening that bond is our intention.
- Main stage: Performances that engage and entertain. Providing a platform/opportunity to new, upcoming talent is part of our vision, and we’re always looking for it.
a) Free zone– Community/Swap
Various groups that are contributing to making Thakur village a better place and Street Konnect intends is to highlight this factor and bring them together to share ideas and resources.
b) Swap: This is a unique concept where one can exchange any items that they don’t need for a likeable item.
Response so far
The response the team has received so far has exceeded their expectations. “We had no idea how Street Konnect would even come this far. We just kept working hard because it is so fulfilling, and the encouragement we received from the community kept egging us on. We’re aware of and appreciate the support of so many people, without which we know we couldn’t have done it. Even today, we see a continuous flow of goodwill and love coming our way,” adds Reema.
So far Street Konnect has conducted Organic Farmers Market, Compost Mela, EcoKonnect and will continue to introduce niche events to the community.
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Marriages are made in heaven, but weddings take place on earth. And while every couple dreams of having the most perfect wedding, doing it with a sense of responsibility and social consciousness can add so much more meaning to the celebration.
This becomes even more relevant with millennials, a generation that is known to take charge and plan, execute as well as pay for their wedding themselves! And juggling the cost and time demands of planning a wedding along with a hectic job means they want the most effective solutions to any issues they face. Further, this is a generation that does not believe in waste, and neither are they fans of hoarding. And all of these reasons is why the concept of a Wedding Gift Registry has become the hottest new wedding trend.
A gift registry is a service where the couple can choose the gifts they want to receive on their big day, and guests can buy or contribute towards anything on this list. If you’re about to tie the knot anytime soon and are looking for something that is stress-free, waste-free and hands-free, try a Wedding Gift Registry from The Wedding Wishlist. Here are a few reasons why it will work for you
Weddings are a costly affair. It can bog down a couple if the expenses shoot up. This is where a Wedding Registry comes to the rescue. The couple can add the gifts they want to start their new life with on their registry and guests can buy or contribute towards these gifts. It saves the couple the time and money needed to buy these things themselves.
2. Spreading the love
Costs don’t always have to be in monetary terms, it also means being socially and environmentally conscious. And with a platform like the Wedding Wishlist, young Indian couples have the flexibility and liberty to opt for simple, cost-effective weddings that don’t hurt the heart and the pocket. For instance, a Chennai based couple Shreya and Praveen chose to have a socially conscious wedding. They signed up with Wedding Wishlist to forgo gifts and instead asked their guests to contribute to a charity of their choice. The couple raised an amount of almost ₹50,000 for Maithree, an association of parents of exceptional children with special needs, which they support. Isn’t this such a beautiful way to celebrate one’s special day!
3. Ask what you need
Ask and you shall receive. There’s a lot of truth in this statement, isn’t it? A Wedding Registry allows you to ask your loved ones to give/ contribute to gifts, holidays or charities that you would actually want to start life with, without hurting anyone’s sentiments.
“While some did not understand, others were very intrigued as to how a wedding gift registry worked. We were pleasantly surprised, when some guests were downright impressed and wished they had the same thing when they got married!” smiles Bangalore based Deepika, who recently tied the knot on 26th November 2018 with Anvith K.S. Both being computer professionals in their 30s instantly liked the idea when one of their friends Sudeeptha and Vishnu Rao, used the services of Wedding Wishlist for their wedding.
4. Works both ways
It takes a huge load off the guests and family members of the bride and groom when it comes to gifting. Understandably enough, everyone would have budget or time constraints. For instance, if a guest who would have loved to attend the wedding in person but could not due to various reasons, can pick a gift that the couple actually wants from the wedding registry. What makes this service unique is that the guests can contribute to a gift/ charitable cause as chosen by the couple based on an amount they’re comfortable with.
5. Create your personal wedding website
“I am a web developer and usually can produce such websites in about a few hours, but when such a service is available which integrates Gift Registry, RSVP and also all the relevant information easily I would definitely go with this option,” smiles Anvith. The Wedding Wishlist offers an exclusive free service called the Wedding Website, where newlyweds can share snippets of their love story in an elegant customized webpage; with the best part being it allows them to incorporate their gift registry in it.
6. Helpful apps
The Wedding Wishlist understands that it is your special day and wants to by every means give you the maximum support it can. Couples don’t have to fret over RSVPs, hotels, transport anymore. The Wedding Wishlist’s Guested Planning App takes the load off the logistics.
“With all the various tasks on hand and our regular jobs in the day, it was very challenging to keep sending the same information over and over again. It made sense to keep the relevant information in one place and have people look it up,” explains Deepika.
7. Go paperless
For Shubha and Arvind, a lawyer duo who recently tied the knot, the Wedding Wishlist proved to be a huge blessing. The couple decided to go paperless for their wedding by sending e-invites to their guests through the Wedding Wishlist. This not only helped reduce their costs involved, reduce wastage of precious paper, but also saved them the precious time which they could now focus on enjoying their own wedding. Further, they could link their registry to their e-invite, making the entire process easy for the guests.
8. One-stop-Shop Solution
Looking for a pre-wedding video? Mehendi artist? A theme for the Sangeet? Or a makeup artist for the bride and the bridesmaids? Relax, you don’t have to go looking around for professionals scattered across the market. By signing up with Wedding Wishlist, you can get them all under one roof.
If you’re planning to tie the knot anytime soon, sign up for a wedding registry like the Wedding Wishlist. As the newlyweds who signed up for the service put it, the Wedding Wishlist offers a hassle-free signup, on board personalised service with extremely helpful and supportive staff, top of the line quality of services and best of all, it’s FREE!
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Did you know that there are more than 10 million weddings held in India annually? A BBC News Asia article ‘How technology is changing Indian weddings’ sheds light on the Indian wedding business industry that is worth over USD 25 million and is growing at a rate of 30% every year.
Ideally, we shouldn’t be surprised as we may not realise that something that is so personal and emotional such as a wedding actually has such a vast economic impact in our country.
It also goes to show the amount families are willing to spend to make this day extra special. With budgets going up to crores, there’s a massive potential in the Indian wedding segment that allows budding entrepreneurs to carve their niche in this segment. Gradually with the technology boom, this unorganised segment has given rise to niche services such as Wedding Photographers, Wedding Planners, Matrimonial Sites and Wedding Gift Registries.
Have you heard about India’s first Wedding Gift Registry?
What makes weddings so memorable? Apart from being a special day for the newlyweds and their families, it is also the love and blessings they receive in the form of gifts and presents. And God forbid, the young couple is the recipient of some really tacky and obnoxious gifts that they have no use of whatsoever, it will stay in the minds of the couple for years to come.
This is where, an all-encompassing platform such as The Wedding Wishlist has come to the rescue of couples to be married, helping them to clearly state what is it that they want and how their families and guests can reciprocate without hurting anyone’s sentiments.
The Lifestyle Portal in conversation with Kanika Subbiah, the Founder of The Wedding Wishlist about her vision, dreams and aspirations to provide an online/ offline platform for couples getting married. With a seed fund capital, her dream project was launched almost two years ago, along with her co-founders Sathish Subramanian and Tanvi Saraf.
When did it all begin?
While she watched her friend sighing sadly at the list of unwanted gifts instead of rejoicing the feeling of being a newlywed, Kanika realised that there was a considerable gap in the sentiments in a couple’s most special day.
When her friend had to send 200 thank you notes for the gifts to all her guests, while actually she could only use four gifts, and landed up shopping for items for their new home, Kanika decided it was time to bridge this gap with something that’s sensible, smart and seamlessly fits in for both the newlyweds and their guests too.
This was how the idea of a wedding registry was born, that allowed couples to sign up with an online platform that communicates with their guests what is it exactly they want as a gift, so that there’s no wastage of time, effort, money and most importantly, no love lost between the giver and the receiver.
“Every couple we speak to loves the idea of a gift registry and wants to do one. Our greatest barrier however, is social, as despite a strong desire to create a registry couples worry about the social acceptance of the concept. When it comes to India, we have a mind-block against asking for anything – we feel it might offend our guests. We don’t realize that a gift registry is as helpful to the couple as it is to a guest,” explains Kanika.
In fact, Kanika mentions that The Wedding Wishlist is overcoming this challenge with sustained marketing efforts highlighting the millennial mindset where couples today don’t want to hoard things they won’t use, want to minimise waste on their wedding and want gifts they will actually use.
USP of The Wedding Wishlist
What makes The Wedding Wishlist unique is that they’re not only trying to bring a much-needed gifting idea to India but also introducing technology to Indian weddings, which has primarily been an unorganised and offline industry.
“With our apps, tools and services (most of which are free), we’re helping couples ease the planning process and get it on their fingertips. Regarding competition, no other company is doing a wedding registry or invested in developing wedding technology on any notable scale. So I don’t think in India there is another platform such as ours, which we consider competition. However, brands like The Knot and Zola internationally are the kind of services we offer,” adds Kanika.
Services and products offered at The Wedding Wishlist
Free/ complimentary service
There is a blend of paid and free services that young couples could sign up for at The Wedding Wishlist. For instance, in their free service, their Gift Registry lets you list the things you want for your new home; and the best part being, it could be from anywhere and will be delivered to your doorstep at your convenient time.
The second free service offered by The Wedding Wishlist, is the Wedding Website – that lets you share your story of how you met, with an elegant customised webpage that allows you to incorporate your gift registry in it.
Not to forget, The Wedding Wishlist also ensures that your wedding planning is as stress-free as possible with their customisable wedding Checklist that lets you set reminders, write notes and get recommendations too!
They also ensure that you don’t go overboard with your wedding expenses. Sign up for their budget planning tool that helps you manage, track and allocate expenses.
Now here’s a novel concept introduced by The Wedding Wishlist, called the Vowed Wedding App. With this app you can share the details of your wedding, manage guest lists and RSVPs, upload wedding photos, chat with guests, and make announcements. For just ₹2,000, this app most certainly makes your life a lot simpler.
From ₹200 and above The Wedding Wishlist will help you in creating a video, e-invites to even printed invitation cards. If you’re choosing to go digital on your wedding, you can also opt for e-invitation cards with some exclusive designs.
Don’t let the logistics of hosting your friends and relatives bog you down. The Guested App by The Wedding Wishlist gives you immense support by tracking RSVPs, transport and accommodation, itinerary and welcome messages and even send notifications and more – for just ₹5,000 for the app.
The Guested App makes it unbelievably easy to manage the complex logistics of guest hospitality. It helps you track RSVPs, assign transport and rooms to outstation guests, and send an itinerary and welcome message to those attending. You can even send notifications or print address labels with just a click.
Collaborations with brands/ service providers
The list of gifts available or that can be added by the couple can range from home and kitchen appliances, gift cards, brands, travel and experiences and even charitable causes that a couple may be a part of. This is one of the most practical and thoughtful initiatives that every newlywed should explore and maximise on.
“The Wedding Wishlist works with brands and vendors across the country to list their products on our registry and we deduct a commission from the brand on every purchase a guest makes. The cost is borne by the brand and not the couple or the guest,” explains Kanika.
Their clients are young millennial couples from tier 1 cities, who are educated and well-spoken professionals. Most of them hail from top cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and Chennai. These young couples are progressive in their mind-sets who want to fund their own wedding, not waste money and have enough exposure to the concept to be able to adopt it.
Kanika further adds, “On an average, a couple engages with us for about 6-8 weeks before their wedding, and share their registry with their guests 3-4 weeks before the wedding. We have a team of wedding experts who are in touch with registry couples on phone, email and WhatsApp to help them with the registry. Chennai-based couples can come into our office anytime for a meeting.”
Future plans for The Wedding Wishlist
Kanika signs off by saying, “We hope to make wedding gift registries a norm in India, where couples think of it as a logical part of their wedding planning. We’re working to add new technologies to our portfolio to give couples a seamless user experience. In fact, we’re also looking to branch out to other registry formats like a baby registry, housewarming etc.”
You can get in touch with the team here.
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For 40-year-old Avishek Ganguly, the entrepreneurship in him had already started surfacing as a college student where he spearheaded a club called Creative Arcs way back in the late ‘90s.
Now in 2018 here he is, as an IIM Trichy pass out and running his own multi-award winning talent acquisition company – Calls Incorporated. But the journey doesn’t end there; in fact, it gave him the foundation to step into a whole new vertical as a Corporate Trainer Mentor & a Motivator.
The Lifestyle Portal had invited Avishek as one of the Keynote Speakers for our first Entrepreneur Meetup on 11th August in Mumbai. Even today, all the participants fondly remember him for his talk on ‘Challenges faced by startups for talent acquisition’.
Sharing with you our conversation with Avishek, the Founder of Calls Incorporated and his 17-year-old journey that has witnessed failures and personal challenges only to bring out the best in him as a motivational speaker, mentor and a corporate trainer. Read about his incredible journey right here.
How did it all begin?
It was at the height of his recruitment career that a certain incident left a profound impact on Avishek. He recalls, “I frequented a café in South Calcutta with my friends. Being a stickler for time, I would usually be the first one to arrive. Since I love to talk a lot, I would start chit-chatting with the staff and over a period of time we became ‘usual suspects’. In fact, the staff became so familiar with my evening coffee with my friends at the café, they gradually started approaching me for an advice or two.”
He continues, “One day one of the stewards at the café mentioned that the Americano that I had just ordered was on him. I was taken aback. An emotionally grateful steward explained how a little bit of my advice helped him in a very difficult phase of his life and that he will never forget it.”
Avishek admits that he had never realized that he could have made such a positive impact on someone’s life. The best part being, this left a positive impact on Avishek too which made him rediscover himself as a mentor, motivator and a trainer.
When we forget to invest in ourselves
He further adds, “In my 18-year-career, I have seen people investing so much of their time and money on building a significant academic and professional portfolio for themselves but not much on soft skills.”
He strongly believes that even if an individual invests 1% of their total investment in their academic and professional career in themselves, the return on investment in life would be 100%.
He further adds, “But sadly, we take soft skills, mentoring and counselling for granted and very often we only invest in them as reactive mechanisms, not proactive overtures. In today’s highly competitive environment, this is counter-productive.”
Investment & growth
Avishek was already a seasoned player in the field. Being from a recruitment background, and connecting with the clients right from CEO to entry levels, proved to be beneficial to him when he decided to branch out into a new arena of training and mentoring.
One of the major investments that he considers is his sound knowledge and experience in the recruitment space that spanned across various industries such as BPOs, hospitality, pharma, banks and more. His journey of having worked with freshers at the entry level has proved to be extremely beneficial for him as he could instantly connect with his audience.
He recalls, “In hindsight, I realize, if only I had a mentor or someone to guide me when I was starting out in my career, I would have understood what my return on investments would be for a certain career path and how to cut my losses and exit at the right time.”
2005 was a glorious start for Avishek as an entrepreneur. For four years he did well until the recession when companies stopped hiring and his business hit rock bottom. “This was the time I realized that I wish I had the foresight to be able to preempt and be proactive. I also realized that I did not have a Plan B and my business almost shut down,” shares Avishek.
But that didn’t stop Avishek from propelling ahead against the tide. In 2014 he applied and got through an Executive Program at IIM Trichy and by 2016, armed with an IIM degree, Avishek was back in the game with renewed force and energy. Today he is hired by several MNCs across the country for their ‘talent acquisition strategies’ and his positive energy and enthusiasm is totally infectious.
USPs – What makes Avishek Ganguly’s Corporate Trainings, Mentorship & as a Motivational Speaker unique?
He further adds, “Where we differentiate ourselves from others is here – I come from a talent acquisition background – I have conducted over ONE LAC INTERVIEWS in my career – and it is this relevant industry experience that I carry into my training programs.”
In fact, his workshops are not about feel good training snippets – they are real and practical and straight from the gut. They are highly customized and curated as per client specifics.
“I have come to believe from my years of training experience that people will come back to you if you can call a spade a spade and if you manage to add value to their professional careers, and that’s what I strive to do,” smiles Avishek.
Another element that makes his work unique is his personal journey of seeing failure in the rawest forms and bouncing back. His strong positive influence from his mother Debjani Ganguly, who never gave up on him and who urged him to get back into the game also played a pivotal role in his life.
Avishek strongly believes, “I am not here to give gyan. I firmly believe that every individual is capable and has their own mechanism to deal with things, counter stress and overcome challenges. My workshops promise of only relevant information and tips that will help my participants overcome their challenges through their own way. I usually have no script, my workshops are customized and totally audience driven.”
Services & workshops offered by Avishek
Calls Incorporated offers training programs for both individuals and institutions. “We prefer working with academic institutions and niche organizations and start-ups. Frankly speaking, my experience tells me this audience is the keenest of learners and a joy to work with,” adds Avishek.
Avishek’s training modules include workshops on Stress Management, Etiquette, Motivation, Goal Setting, Body Language and the ‘Art of Networking’. Additionally, they render their services as Talent Acquisition Specialists helping startups with end-to-end talent acquisition and Human Resource related strategic solutions and consultations.
As a corporate trainer, speaker and motivator, Avishek focuses primarily on:
- Training – Interview skills & soft skills
- Mentoring – startups from a recruitment strategy perspective
- Motivator – Holding motivational talks and talks on stress management and positive living.
Major clients & top brands
“For training – individual candidates as well as academic institutions – I am presently working with Terna College of Engineering, MGM’s College of Engineering & Technology, Oriental College of Commerce and Management in Mumbai, Bharat Technology and EIILM in Kolkata and Karim City College in Jamshedpur,” adds Avishek.
“We want to increase the length and width of our training portfolio – I want Calls Incorporated to be a center of excellence imparting training in myriad soft skills related subjects as well as being a torchbearer and a market leader in the field of career counselling, individual counselling, mentoring, consulting and social counselling by bringing together a team of dedicated, diverse and differentiated trainers, coaches and social counsellors on board to service a pan India audience,” says Avishek.
The response so far…
Avishek signs off, “It has been an enriching journey; it has had its share of glory and pitfalls. But through the thick and thin of it all, we have grown organically into a brand in its own niche and space with an array of loyal clients and customers.”
You can get in touch with Avishek Ganguly, here.
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Sharing with you our latest conversation with Anamika Sengupta, the Founder Almitra Tattva and Almitra Sustainables. While Almitra Tattva deals with hand-woven baby-wearing fabrics and accessories, Almitra Sustainables offers products that are safer for you and the environment that can seamlessly fit into your day-to-day activities.
A mother, a wife and an entrepreneur, here’s what Anamika’s journey as an ecopreneur all about…
How did it all begin?
It all started with the birth of her son almost four years ago, when she was looking for good quality and safe baby wrap for her son. Since she couldn’t find the one meeting her requirements, she sourced it from the US.
As a mother, she wanted to wrap her newborn in the safest possible fabric and raise him in one of the most nature inspired methods that would be ideal for him and for the environment. This led Anamika into a path of research and creation. She dabbled a lot into DIYs right from research, travelling, educating people, watching and teaching through tutorials. This is where people started looking up to her for guidance in terms of sustainable living. Gradually people from her network and her friends started encouraging her to take up her work more professionally and give it a shape and a name, and that’s how Almitra Tattva was born in 2014.
Almitra Tattva was born more out of a need to wrap her newborn son Neo in the safest and responsibly sourced fabric. During her pregnancy, Anamika recalls how her ‘creative enzymes’ were at its peak, which had a ripple effect to bring forth something so useful, sustainable and safe for mothers across the globe.
Gradually she started working with artisans to create exquisite fabrics and baby wearing wraps and slings. From the beautiful earthy tones of the Bohemian Collection to the bold and subtle colours and designs in the hand-woven wraps and Cashmere collection, Almitra Tattva has become a well-known sustainable baby-wearing brand in Europe.
Also what makes her product so attractive is that it not only support the philosophy of attachment parenting, but the themes are inspired by the poetic verses of Khalil Gibran. In fact, the brand name Almitra has been inspired by the works of Gibran, from his book The Prophet.
Although she had launched Almitra Tattva almost four years ago for the Indian market, her baby wearing products became popular in the European market. Anamika mentions that Europe wasn’t intentional. The serendipity that it was, Almitra Tattva became the first Indian company to start with baby wearing wraps and by the second month, they were selling all across Europe.
Working with the Indian artisans
It was during this time that Anamika learnt a lot about the artisans and their ways of living right from the North East and even Kullu. With no formal training, she started from scratch working with them. Since she had a keen eye for detail, she learnt the various nuances of hand-woven fabrics.
“When working with the Indian artisans, I realized how sustainable their livelihoods are. They only consume what they need and led a simple, wholesome and a healthy lifestyle, which I wanted to bring into my life while raising my son and into my line of work,” adds Anamika.
In fact, it is through Almitra Tattva, that Anamika aims to bring in more ethnic designs and give our Indian artisans a global platform to showcase their work in the European market.
It was long back that Anamika had entirely stopped using plastics in her life. In fact, with the birth of her son Neo, it acted as a catalyst to procure and lead a more sustainable, healthy and environmentally friendly life. And this began with a small change, where Anamika banished the plastic toothbrush and replaced it with a bamboo one ever since her son got his first milk tooth.
Almitra Sustainables was co-founded by Anamika and her husband Biplap Dutta, on World Environment Day on 5th June 2018. In spite of being at an infant stage, Almitra Sustainables as a brand has picked up really well and has been pretty well received across the market.
Anamika strongly believes that investments don’t always have to be equated to capital. It can also mean your knowledge, experience and your personal time and effort that you pitch in and you as an individual. She recalls that since she had already started researching and working on various projects that her return on investments was already in place and people were already waiting in queue for her products.
For instance, with regard to the babywearing fabrics, Anamika had already set up a base with the artisans and hence she would hire looms and work on the fabrics on a project basis with them.
Since time is also a significant factor for investments, she ensured that her travel time to work and home is minimal, she lives close to where she works, loves spending time with her son and husband and of course, indulges in lots of self-care which she says is very important.
Anamika feels that she had to meet more challenges in a corporate set up. She realized how sexist they were in their approach, especially after she resumed work after pregnancy.
“Those eight and a half years, I faced far more challenges as a woman employee than as an entrepreneur. I strongly believe that entrepreneurship is a state of mind. It allows me a lot of flexibility and creative freedom. In fact, we as women tend to create our own norms. Today, I have tried to create a more homely and a safe atmosphere for the women working in my company,” shares Anamika.
The fight against plastic is another major challenge. As Anamika points out that after the single-use plastic bags, the plastic toothbrushes are the second most hazardous elements for the earth. “As it is recommended to change a toothbrush every three months, just imagine, in one life-span, how many toothbrushes does an individual use! Hence, a small change to shift from a plastic toothbrush to daatun or a bamboo toothbrush can certainly go a long way for us to curb the plastic menace plaguing the planet, “explains Anamika.
She further adds, “Nothing is 100% biodegradable and if you were to make one, the bristles to be made by an animal hair. And since we’re a purely vegan brand, we don’t use any animal ingredients in our products. Hence the bristles of our bamboo toothbrushes are made with 80% cornstarch and 20% nylon and of course, we have activated charcoal bristles available as well.”
Sustainable products also face the challenge with regard to scalability, as the demands are still low. Once such sustainable products are widely accepted especially by the youngsters, the products can be made cheaper, more readily available while not compromising on the quality.
What makes Almitra Tattva & Almitra Sustainables unique?
All their products go through the highest standards of safety norms, especially for babywearing for Almitra Tattva.
“Here I’d like to mention that my husband Biplap Dutta , is India’s first certified babywearing educator, so having him on board is of immense pride and support for us. In fact, we have representatives of babywearing educators across various parts of Europe right from France, Italy and Netherlands, which helps us to reach the target audience that believes in attachment parenting just like we do.”
Best selling products
Some of the best works at Almitra Tattva are the woven wraps; and wooden toothbrushes, coir products and non-detergent based cleaning products to wash utensils in Almitra Sustainables.
Anamika is hopeful to make Almitra Sustainables products readily available for everyone in a most cost-effective way while providing the Indian artisans a global platform through the unique baby wearing designs at Almitra Tattva.
You can reach out to Anamika Sengupta, right here.
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It’s not always that you meet someone who combines two highly contrasting streams to bring out the best in people. On one hand, she conducts training for legal professionals while on the other, she is into alternative therapies and healing. Interesting, isn’t it?
The Lifestyle Portal in conversation with Pune-based Adv. Ritu Agwekar, about her entrepreneurial journey of founding two initiatives TheSylf and Juriseye with the aim of empowering people.
Ritu holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a Degree in Law from the prestigious ILS Law College in Pune. A lawyer by profession with 22 years of experience, Ritu’s expertise lie in Real Estate, Corporate and Commercial Transactions. Currently, she is the Head of Pune Operations of Law Point, Advocates and Solicitors, a Mumbai-based law firm.
She started her entrepreneurial journey with Juriseye, for the Legal Services in the year 2008; in fact, her independent law practice was under that name. Ritu then joined Law Point in 2010, following which in 2015, TheSylf came into being. Juriseye- Legal Trainings and Placements is a recent development, which she launched as early as in 2018.
How did it all begin?
Being a people’s person, Ritu has always been inclined towards empowering them and making them realise their own worth. Her vast experience as a lawyer has given her an edge over many human attributes and an insight into their behaviour – either with one other or with themselves. “This predominantly has been the main reason why TheSylf and Juriseye happened. Although I conduct training for both the brands, what makes these two different from each other is the nature of the audience I cater to,” says Ritu.
TheSylf has two wings – TheSylf: Trainings, which includes training for the corporate, mixed audience and individuals; and TheSylf: Wellness, which offers Pranic Healing, Pranic Psychotherapy, Crystal Healing and Therapeutic Hypnosis, a holistic way to a healthy life. The wellness branch compliments the training and also offers a complete package of mind-body balance.
She further explains, “Juriseye– Legal Training and Placement Services”, is primarily for professionals, especially for lawyers. She adds, “Being from that field, I always felt that in spite of being extremely knowledgeable, there are people from my own fraternity, who lack soft skills and therefore are not able to reach their full potential. Secondly, the placement extension is to complement the training wing of Juriseye and to identify the right professional for the right job, as per their strength and flair.”
Ritu is a firm believer that to build something substantial, one needs to give it time. Since training is more of a passion for her, she is not being aggressive but letting it grow organically. In fact, for Ritu, her 22 years of relentless hard work in her profession has been an investment.
“As I have mentioned before, both these ventures were started purely out of a passion for connecting with more people and empowering them, so I wouldn’t really be able to bracket it in challenges faced,” smiles Ritu.
However, one of the significant challenges she often faces is when people don’t admit that something will really benefit them. In fact, she feels that sometimes she knows that with a little hand holding, that individual would be able to overcome their obstacle; and convincing them is the hardest part.
Services offered at Jurisye & TheSylf
TheSylf – Your Rendezvous with Self has two verticals:
(a) TheSylf – Trainings: Corporate, mixed audience, individual, practically like any kind of audience, customised as per requirement, age group etc.
(b) TheSylf- Wellness: Ritu is an Advanced Pranic Healer, Pranic Psychotherapist, a Crystal Healer and a Therapeutic Hypnotist and Pranic healing is an Energy based form of curative therapy, which is a no Touch, no Medicine Therapy and can cure almost all types of ailments and diseases, including Psychosomatic Disorders.
Juriseye Legal Trainings and Placements Services, as the name suggests, is into training for lawyers, as also for other professionals mainly, CAs and CS and placements.
From corporate to individuals, business owners and professionals, Ritu has conducted training for all. She has also worked with AMs Realty Pvt. Ltd., Cybage (with Cedarwood – Afterschool, am also an Associate Teacher with them), LIC of India and lawyers.
What makes Juriseye & TheSylf unique?
According to Ritu, what makes Juriseye & TheSylf stand out from the crowd is that it is backed by her 22 years of legal experience, hands-on knowledge of not only the legal domain but also of other industries as well.
“It’s leading by example, human understanding and relatability, which are the core elements that are incorporated into my training, coaching and mentoring programs. The best part being, all my programs are based on one on one relationship with each participant. All of these put together make the learning more deep-rooted and long-lasting,” explains Ritu.
Ritu’s future plans entail to widen the reach, to reach even the remotest areas so that everyone can derive the best out of her programs. “It’s endeavour to offer a combined benefit of training with the holistic approach to the masses so that they can lead more fulfilling and happier lives. As far as Juriseye Legal Trainings is concerned, the intent is to revive my fraternity and work towards making them aware of the various avenues to be explored as per their individual strengths and flair,” adds Ritu.
Ritu signs off with five mantras she follows:
- Identify your own path and follow your instincts.
- Know your strengths and harness them.
- Enjoy the journeys, for there lies the actual fun; destinations are known.
- To each, its own, should be the mantra, celebrate your uniqueness.
- Most importantly, never measure success; it’s a relative concept.
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I see art in almost everything. An artist need not always be armed with paints and a brush; they could be seen donned in an apron and cooking up a storm in a kitchen whom we call chefs.
Food history and culture has always fascinated me. Many of my feature stories related to cuisines have in-depth research that has led me to some fascinating stories from the pages of history.
On the occasion of World Tourism Day, The Lifestyle Portal is proud to share an exclusive tête-à-tête with internationally renowned Chef David Wong about his earliest food memories and the beauty of Macanese cuisine.
Chef David Wong holds a Master Degree in Hospitality Management from the University of Birmingham, UK, Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits from London’s Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and a Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE) from the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute.
He is currently the Executive Assistant Manager for the Food & Beverage division and is also teaching various F&B subjects and different WSET certificate levels.
His unbeatable knowledge of Macao’s culinary delights is captured in his cookbook, The Art of Modern Portuguese Cuisine, which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2012 and now in its second edition.
David is also the founder of the Macao Culinary Association and on the panel for @TheWorlds50Best Restaurants and an approved tutor for the Wine and Institution Trust, UK (WSET).
How did it all begin?
Born in Hong Kong, Chef David and his parents relocated to the UK when he was 4 years old. “My parents always had Chinese restaurants so I was brought up in the restaurant business. But I always knew I wanted to be a Western chef,” smiles Chef David.
The first dish Chef David Wong made
Chef David recalls, “I went to college in the UK for the City and Guilds 706/1 which was an introduction to cooking and I think the first ever dish I ever cooked was Apple Crumble and to this day, I still love the dish! I have it for our culinary classes so cooking it all the time.”
Fond memories of food as a child
One of my favourite scenes from the film Ratatouille is when the arrogant food critic Anton Ego takes a bite of the humble dish Ratatouille, that instantly transports him to his childhood days when his mother would lovingly prepare it for him. With no dialogues, just a few seconds of a scene like that shows how food, memories and childhood are so deeply rooted in our minds and hearts. Here too, I couldn’t help asking Chef David about his earliest memories of food and here’s what he shares, “My earliest memories were of my mum’s cooking. She is Hakka so we had many Hakka dishes which I still love today such as the braised pork belly with black beans and preserved vegetables.”
What makes Macanese cuisine so unique?
Macanese cuisine is distinctive of Macao. It is an amalgamation of Portuguese cuisine infused with a Southeast Asian touch and the Lusophone regions.
The distinguishing recipes are the result of the incorporation of spices and ingredients brought by the Portuguese sailors during their trips to Macao. This was with an aim to recreate the Portuguese dishes when they arrived in Macao.
“The ingredients and seasonings of Macanese cuisine include those from Europe, Africa, India, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Latin America as well as Macao. Its 450-year old cuisine with its roots in Portuguese cooking traditions is arguably one of the world’s oldest fusion cuisines. It’s a combination of the Portuguese cuisine with the ones from the countries where the Portuguese had colonies,” explains Chef David.
You must be wondering whether Macanese cuisine has any secret sauces or spices that makes it unique, Chef David mentions, “Experimenting is the key. Try using traditional Portuguese ingredients such as olive oil, wine, vinegar, olives, and incorporate it with traditional Chinese ingredients such as soya sauce, chilli, and sesame oil.”
Famous Macanese street food to try
Chef David recommends some of the more famous street food dishes such as Pork chop bun, Curry beef brisket noodles and Egg Tarts. In vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, he suggests Minchi, African Chicken and the local Egg Tarts; and no wonder, that in 2017, Macao was declared as a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO.
For your next international trip, how about planning one to Macau and witness it for yourself the exotic cuisines from Macau. Until then, try out a couple of recipes he has shared exclusively with our readers and drool away.
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