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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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Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

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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Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

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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