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Parul Pratap Shirazi, Professional Food Stylist & Food Blogger

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Making food and marketing it the Shirazine way…. Parul Pratap Shirazi has a love for food. Her profession has followed this passion.

What’s your story?

I finished Culinary School at WGSHA (ITC), Manipal back in 1998, at a time when women in the kitchen wasn’t the trend, forget the norm! Personal circumstances didn’t allow me to pursue my masters at the time and I chose to train wherever I got placement. A couple of years down the line, I was disheartened by a scenario vis a vis women chefs but I wasn’t disheartened from cooking. I started dabbling in food writing and food styling. Digital was coming into the country and food and beverage brands were building websites left right and centre. It kept me in the scene if not cooking in a pro kitchen and for me that was enough. I developed a small test kitchen and had the opportunity to sample many products before they hit the market. This was around the time blogging was catching on and it was a natural progression for me to start food blogging at www.theshirazine.com. Coming from regionally mixed parents and being married into an even more mixed family, our home cuisine started to be called The Shirazine. Today I blog when I can, I’m the events editor for India’s largest food network, Chef at Large and I have my own digital media and food consultancy that caters only to the food and beverage sector. From a disheartened cook to a cook who moonlights at a cafe and a bar as a chef, The Shirazine has come a long way!

What excites you most about your industry?

The way it is shaping up, the Indian palate is opening up. Indians now travel for pleasure and their indulgences include food as much as sights and shopping. Chefs are upping the ante with forgotten recipes and nouvelle cuisines. There is an opportunity to eat far east cuisines in your neighbourhood when just 15 years ago there was only a few Thai restaurants. The food and beverage industry is becoming more organized. Food is at the forefront, in tandem with fashion and it is a big conversation point, which brands and establishments have taken note of. It is a very exciting time to be in this space.

What’s your connection to Asia?

Though I trained in European food, being Indian, my heart is Asian. I studied food in the south of India where the flavours have influenced many Asian cuisines. So my connection comes from that food memory and even though I work a lot with French and Italian food, at the end of the day my heart craves a  bowl of good Pho.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?

I would say Singapore. I don’t get to travel much anymore but I love a sense of familiarity wherever I go. It’s not in the true spirit of the traveller but for me it is a matter of comfort. That way Singapore is a melting pot and technologically so advanced too.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

“Do your own thing”! I thought to myself, that is much easier said than done. It’s tough, it’s super tough but if you have a vision and a plan with the patience to go with the flow (of your industry), there is nothing like having your own set-up and operating at your own pace.

Who inspires you?

Anthony Bourdain! He is the essence of a chef, the attitude, the intellect, the expertise and most of all the oratory powers. When he talks, people listen. His journey as a chef is not inspiring because he’s a TV star now, it’s inspiring because he maximized his experience of this fabulously overwhelming profession. He raved, ranted, snorted and lived to tell the tale. As they say, “God made food, the devil and the chefs.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?

I’ve learnt the value of simplicity. Everyone knows it at some level but it takes a bunch of instances or one heck of an experience to realize. It’s the simple things that are being forgotten. My most simple recipes have been received the best, because they’re honest and not construed to impress but to satisfy!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

At this age I can safely say, nothing. Well maybe a few things but the broader sense, they don’t matter. When you have a frenzied pace of life, you realize that you have reached where you are because of carefully placed circumstances and events and changing one thing could throw it all off. So for me, to be here, cooking for the city, eating new foods, experiencing new food trends, it all had to happen this way.

How do you unwind?

I cook. It all started that way. I was a highly strung teenager, my mother was a small home caterer and her only way of keeping me safe and grounded was to involve me in the kitchen. Whether it was peeling garlic or squeezing lemons for summer sherbets. It became my most peaceful time. Today even after a heavy dinner service at the cafe, with 12 hours in the kitchen, I can come home, get comfortable, bake a chocolate tart and eat it by myself, me and my thoughts!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?

Colombo and it has to be because of the people, the food and the foliage. Again familiarity helps build these bonds with travel destinations that are tourist heavy.

Everyone in business should read this book:

Fountainhead – Ayn Rand.

Shameless plug for your business:

A social voice for a food product or service can never be driven by a person who’s not passionate about food and knowledgeable about it too. Which is why our content solutions for food products and services resounds with a true expertise of food.

How can people connect with you?

Email me at [email protected]

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/TheShirazine

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnects

Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

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Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Nadia Al Sheikh, Founder & CEO of Flenco & Deal’n

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Nadia Al Sheikh has created a business module which incorporates philanthropy and business to empower others, and herself, she’s called her business Deal’n.

What’s your story?
My story is mirrored in my work. Flenco and our Singaporean eco skin care brand, “Flen” combines Dead Sea minerals from the lowest point of earth with Chinese medicine, which represents the wisdom and mystics of the east and these things represent my journey. I’m a single mother rediscovering my identity at a low point in life. Throughout my journey, determination, flexibility and assertiveness are the pillars of innovation. Thus Deal’n was born after years of groundwork in volunteering with various NGO’s and pursuing my masters degree. Transforming a vision, into a module that incorporates philanthropy and business, with tools to empower others and empower myself!

What excites you most about your industry?
The endless opportunities for improvement, innovation, creativity, free thinking which is mastered through interaction with other players in the market and customers creating a virtual place for brainstorming and the exchange of ideas. An evolving industry that challenges each and every person to use their skills, talents, expertise and utilise all their abilities to claim a slice of the pie.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia and specifically Singapore are my second home. It’s my spiritual and business safe haven that provides fair opportunities for everyone to succeed. If I was back in the Middle East as a single mother, I’m pretty sure my struggle would have been much longer and more difficult, however, it wouldn’t have stopped me from achieving my dreams. Singapore specifically empowered me professionally and Asia spiritually in redefining who I am as a person and understanding myself better.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, although it’s a very tough and competitive market for entrepreneurs to start a business, it provides them with support and motivation through grants, competitions and subsidising the cost of exhibiting or promotional events to promote their business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success is measured by achieving your own personal goals and dreams and not what others think you should achieve.

Who inspires you?
Those who go unnoticed. From senior citizens, cleaning tables at food courts regardless of their wealth of knowledge and experience to single mothers, who are fighting everyday to overcome the social stigma and manage taking care of their children while earning an income. The amazing people who give their lives to start an NGO to empower others asking for nothing in return except the success of their beneficiaries, the humble members of our community that work in silence changing lives not for the spotlight but for their belief in making the world a better place.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To step onto the balcony! In order to evaluate situations and understand people’s motivations from different perspectives and even to understand ourselves better we all need to step onto the balcony and become observers rather than participants. It gives you the power to see life through a variety of lenses.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d be wiser with my decisions, evaluate situations from different perspectives and believe in myself and my capabilities. That all came with experience and the ups and downs throughout my journey so I guess, to be who I am today I would have accepted the rough times and embraced them because they were my best teachers. So I wouldn’t undo the past but I am changing my future.

How do you unwind?
Meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book and a walk in the botanical gardens.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Maldives, I love the peace and harmony in the simplicity of what it offers; beautiful beaches and wonderful people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Shameless plug for your business:
Deal’n provides opportunities for all members of the community to utilize their skills, talents, expertise, capabilities and abilities in various ways, aiming at empowering all users to become productive members of their community. Using the services of other users for all to grow and benefit, interact with each other through the Deal’n community, thus enhancing their self esteem, level of confidence and as a result, a more empathetic and happier community!

How can people connect with you?
Through my FB page Nadousheh, my email [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@nadiaalsheikh

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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