Taking the Plunge

by Gauri Devidayal, Director, Food Matters, India

We caught up with Gauri to chat about her life, career, goals and advice for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

 

  • As kids, we have ambitions and career goals. What was yours when you were growing up?

I grew up watching Ally Macbeal which definitely fuelled my aspirations to be a lawyer!! In fact, I did go on to read Law at university but of course things changed thereafter.

 

  • Tax consultant to restaurateur. Tell us a little bit about the challenges you faced making that transition.

The biggest challenge was probably leaving a secure well-paid job for a completely risky venture in an industry I knew nothing about. But having said that, I felt that I had nothing to lose in taking a year out and trying out something else. I figured I could always come back to my tax consulting profession if things didn’t work out. It was a steep learning curve for sure, but my background in law, taxes and finance definitely helped in setting up the business and thereafter in running it.

 

  • How have you seen the restaurant business change over the last decade – what would you say has been the most significant and positive change?

When we started 8 years ago, the industry had much fewer players and everyone was fighting for the same audience. Today, dining out has changed from being a special occasion phenomenon to an everyday way of life. Restaurateurs and chefs are working together a lot more and standing together as an industry. It’s much more collaborative and supportive as an industry than until a few years ago.

 

  • You and Jay have pretty much walked the entrepreneurial walk and are now on your way to living the entrepreneurial dream. What would you say are your top three learnings from being an entrepreneur?

Create something to please yourself, not to please a specific type of audience, because you can't know the audience as well as you know yourself.

Be honest with your stakeholders - employees, vendors, customers, etc. People are generally empathetic and will support you in troubled times (which there definitely will be).

            Follow your gut. It’s usually right. And if you don’t, it’ll keep nagging you.

 

  • We tend to celebrate and glamourise the life of entrepreneurs, and rightly so. But there is a flip side. The pressures, the pitfalls, the uncertainty. What would you say are the top three pitfalls to prepare yourself for when taking the plunge into one’s journey as a young entrepreneur.

Be prepared for the criticism and the compliments in equal measure. People are quite liberal with opinions so be ready for the answers if you ask for feedback. Be open to listening to everyone but don’t jump to reacting to everything; filter information before taking action.  

The buck stops with you. Be committed and be prepared to work day and night, on holidays, on family occasions. That’s what it usually takes, at least when starting out a business. There’s no such thing as an out of office message!

You will always exceed your original budgets. Try and ensure you have a back up plan for surplus funds.

 

  • As one of the most influential women in the F&B industry, what advice would you give young women looking to take the leap of faith and jump into the world of self-starters?

Get over your self doubt. If you really want to do something, just do it. If you think about it, what’s the worse thing that will happen? But if you don’t give it a shot, it will definitely be the worst thing that will happen to you.

If you’re a mother, take unabashed advantage of all your support systems around you. Don’t feel guilty about asking your parents / husband / in laws / siblings / friends for help. If you don’t ask, you won’t get, and you will definitely need it.

Gender equality is still a long way away so until then, use your sex to your advantage! I remember how my husband Jay used to take me to meetings with government bureaucrats because they would always feel more uncomfortable being unpleasant around a woman!

No matter what your inclination is, always always make sure you understand the financial aspects of your business. Even if numbers aren’t your thing, don’t depend on anyone else to take financial decisions for you, without fully understanding them for yourself. Take the time out to equip yourself with at least knowing the basics of accounts and taxes – at the end of the day, the fact is that it’s money that drives a business. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you in this respect.

 

  • Who have been your female role models through life and why

I don’t know about role models as such, but I can definitely think of a few women who have molded me into the person I am today. My mother brought me up to be a confident and independent person, which encouraged me to always seize opportunities coming my way.

I’ve also always loved listening to the experiences of some of the most famous women living today. I recall how Zia Mody, one of the country’s top lawyers, talked about being so consumed by work that her role as a mother and wife took a bashing. It’s so important to find that balance. I’ve heard Ariana Huffington, founder of Thrive Global among other things, stress the importance of looking after yourself – switching off, taking rest. One can’t really be happy at work or at home, if you’re burnt out and stressed all the time. I’m still working on this one personally. I used to love watching the Oprah Show just to see those reactions when she would do the grand philanthropic gestures. Nothing beats giving back to society. Whatever you do, always find a way to create awareness about and help causes that need support. Our monthly charity bake sale at The Table is our small attempt at doing just that.

 

  • If there is one thing you could change about the last 10 years of your career, what would it be and why?

I wouldn’t change a thing! I’ve always been fortunate to love what I do, and I’m mindful of how everything I’ve ever done has shaped me for what I’ve gone on to do next.

 

Say hello to Gauri the next time you dine at one of her top restaurants. She is known to love great banter and you’re bound to have a lovely time yourself.

Click here to watch Gauri share her Success Mantra!

 

 

Gauri Devidayal is a familiar face in India’s entrepreneurial circles. Heralding top-notch F&B ventures like Miss T, The Table, and Magazine St. Kitchen, Gauri’s foray into the world of hospitality was serendipitous, and something she is proud of and grateful for. Until the time Gauri took a dive into her entrepreneurial ventures as a restaurateur with husband Jay Yousuf, she worked as a tax consultant, buried in numbers and navigating a labyrinthine world of tax structures and paperwork.