In our next interview we meet Inder founder of The Indian Coeliac,www.theindiancoeliac.co.uk. Inder was prompted into taking action and launching her business when her eldest daughter Amrit was diagnosed with a condition called Coeliac Disease which is caused by a reaction of the immune system to gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The only treatment for people with coeliac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. Have a read how Inder dealt with this diagnosis and spotted a gap in the market as she shared with Rupinder Kaur our Women in Business Editor.
What made you want to start your own business?
As one of six children I have always been a very independent person and wanted to do things my own way. After completing my university education I started working in Recruitment before spending the next 10 years working in various senior HR roles, but I have known from a young age that I wanted to run my own business. Like a lot of other people I spent many years waiting for the ‘light bulb moment’ to occur without realising that the opportunity would one day present itself.
How did you come up with your idea?
Following Amrit’s diagnosis I began the task of researching the gluten free products on the market and found it was fairly easy (although very expensive) to substitute a lot of gluten containing products for Gluten Free versions such as Gluten Free Pastas, pizzas, breads and cakes.
However we all missed our Indian wheat based snacks and chappatis. I had grown up eating chappatis and curries every day of my life and although my children had a more varied diet, Indian food was still a huge part of our life. I decided that I did not want Amrit to grow up without a taste for our chapattis, curries, and snack foods such as samosas food and knew I had to do something about this.
I read about the properties of gluten free flours, I mixed flours by hand and tested the taste, colour, texture and stretchiness of the dough. I watched my own mother cook the wheat based Indian food so that I could copy her technique and learn the essential skill of knowing when the Tava is just hot enough! After about 6 months I arrived at the perfect recipes for a range of free from foods which I knew tasted really good. I also knew that there was nothing else on the market like this. The ‘light bulb moment’ finally came!
I started cooking Indian food on a regular basis for my own family and tweaked and perfected my recipes. Soon I was being asked to cook for other people who also suffered from food allergies. The great thing about my food is that most of it is free from so many food allergens such as Wheat, Gluten, Eggs, Dairy and Nuts. My food is now stocked and available at local businesses and I fulfil on-line orders on a regular basis.
What’s been the toughest part of the journey?
As a fulltime mum and an entrepreneur sometimes the journey can feel tough because things move at such a slow pace, despite the huge effort given. I try not to let this get me down and stay focused and remind myself about the progress I have made and the reason why I am doing this.
What are your fears?
On a personal level I don’t have any fears about my business as I know that I am creating something that I am passionate about. It fulfils a very basic need – I am able to provide a nourishing and safe diet for my daughter, allowing her to enjoy her cultural food.
However, with my business head on I would say that there is always the threat of someone launching a competitive product into the big supermarkets before me. Again being an optimist I believe that I have a great product made using the finest ingredients, it’s authentic and people who eat it simply love it!
What are your hopes for the business?
I would like to continue creating great tasting wheat and gluten free foods which anyone can eat either because they are on a special diet or for example because they prefer a chapatti made from the highly nutritious Stone Ground Bajra (Millet) flour than a standard wheat product. I want to remain customer focused and create ‘free from’ foods which meet the needs of my customers and the growing market.
What are you most proud of?
In April 2014 I was pleased to learn that my Gluten and Wheat Free Punjabi Pakoras had won in the ‘Food Service’ Category at this year’s Free From Food Awards. Last year my Gluten Free Aloo Paratha was declared a winner in the bread category and my Gluten Free Vegetable Samosa was commended. Later this year I am hoping for similar success in the Great Taste Awards 2014 competition.
How did you come up with your business plan?
I am fortunate that my husband is an Accountant who is all about ‘dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s’ and this has helped greatly when creating our business plan. We also have friends who run successful businesses and their input has been invaluable.
The FreeFrom food market is expected to grow significantly and the business plan addresses this growth and the avenues that we want to explore to be successful in it.
How have you financed the business?
The business is self-financed at the moment as we are still fairly small and looking to grow.
What do your family and friends think of it?
My friends and family are very proud and pleased for me. I have always been a ‘go to’ person with a definite can do approach and very optimistic.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get to where you are right now?
I took the tough decision to leave my job to focus on my business. Walking away from a career in HR and the regular income was not an easy choice however I knew I had an opportunity that I had to grab with both hands. I have to be very self-disciplined with my time and attention. I work around my children and this means that there is very little ‘me’ time right now as my evenings are taken up with business tasks.
What are your tips for any other ladies wanting to start a business?
- Keep searching for your business idea. I still keep an ideas book always to hand so that I can record business thoughts and explore them when I have more time.
- Be ready to put in the extra hours – if you have an interest in an area be ready to research it. Go along to meetings and seminars and connect with people with similar interests.
- Do your market research and listen to all the advice you are given. That does not mean that you should follow all the advice but everyone’s contribution is valuable. When preparing my business plan I came across views that really challenged my thinking and I found it useful to take a step back, take a few hours to think things over before making a decision.
- Follow your passion. Your business should be something that you are passionate about, something that interests you and doesn’t feel like a chore. Even now watching Amrit eat her Wheat and Gluten Free Aloo Paratha with Mango Pickle and a (small) dollop of butter makes the entire journey feel so worthwhile.