Entrechat with Sumitra Kalapatapu

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“It is very important for a woman entrepreneur to be dedicated, consistent and not give up at any point, but keep going on, in spite of difficult times.”

Diving into food as a therapy was what Sumitra Kalapatapu, Home Chef, Sumi’s Kitchen did after passing through some tragic moments in her life. She turned to developing her pet project – Sumi’s Kitchen and soon turned it into a hot and happening experience. She steered it to make it a passionate business, drawing inspiration from authentic Andhra cuisine. Now she wants to launch her own line of products – like pickle jars and spices. And she has been involved in Food Fests in 5-star hotels and hosted pop-ups too.

She reveals to Shree Lahiri, how she is renowned for delicious Andhra Brahmin cuisine from West Godavari district, which is really a unique offering, the challenges she faced, and more…

Q. What was the Big Idea that got you thinking about becoming an entrepreneur?

Firstly, to begin with, this idea was given to me by a young girl when I was feeling very upset and shattered after my daughter’s death in 2014. Since it felt right I decided to give it a try. Suddenly things fell into place. I got to meet a food blogger in a wedding and she was taken up by this idea of going to dine at an unknown person’s house, when it would be a unique cuisine that they would get to sample. So, the food bloggers came,

ate and wrote about it on a popular facebook group and people started getting curious about this ‘home dine experience’. When it was repeated the next weekend, with more well-known people, the reaction was indeed, phenomenal. Soon the bookings started coming and I saw myself getting busy with work. The Andhra people in Bangalore started asking if I would take up catering work for small occasions and pujas. So I started doing that sometimes. 

I must admit that this was not an intentionally-planned work/business. It was something that helped me to heal from the trauma of my daughter’s death    

Q. What are some strengths that a woman entrepreneur should possess?

It is very important for a woman entrepreneur to be dedicated, consistent and not give up at any point, but keep going on, in spite of difficult times. Honest work always pays off in the end.    

Q. Could you tell us about the challenges faced by you? How are you facing the COVID-19 crisis?

Since I started, I passed through many challenging times through these 5 years. At times there was no work, either due to festival season or school exams, holidays etc. 

During this current Covid -19 epidemic, I just took a break and relaxed; I watched a lot of television, did some online webinars and taught some recipes. Once the lockdown started I made pickles. Normally, every year I go to my native place – Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh to rustle up a large quantity of pickles in summer. Since it was not possible this year, I made a small quantity, recently.  

Q. What was the support you got from friends and family?

As far as my work is concerned, unfortunately, there was not much support initially from my close circles. Some people laughed and ridiculed the idea; some thought I was running a mess!! Surprisingly, it was unknown people, who truly appreciated my work. Most of the popular news papers interviewed me during that time, which also was not taken in the right spirit by some :))     

Q. How do you find competition in your business area?

There was no competition at all as I was the only Homechef in Bangalore. My business was focused on home dine-ins and it was a unique concept. It was only last year that I come to know that there are many others who have started doing similar business. But these experiences are not done the way I go about it! Most of them are attached to startups that curate such experiences and bring the diners to their doorstep.

Q. How did you try to make your business different?

I started as a single person, and built up my business, through sheer hard work. Till now I have done 450 home dine-in curated experiences. I am happy to say that I have been featured in all the major news papers and also received ‘Best Home Chef award’ for 2018 for South India. I just stuck to my own unique way of doing work. I have been invited to do Food festivals/pop-ups at a few 5 star hotels too.    

Q. What are your future plans?

At the moment I am planning to launch my brand of pickles and spice powders, trying to create my brand and make it more accessible to a wide audience through online means. Also hoping to write and publish my book of recipes for posterity. Today, there are  not many documented recipes available that cater to Andhra Brahmin households.

Q. Any tips for someone starting out today?

For anyone who wants to be a Home Chef, I would say that you don’t start by thinking of it as a business. Let your food speak for you. Build it up with love and be totally dedicated to good quality and taste. No compromises there! 

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