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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

Callum Connects

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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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Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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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