Credited with revolutionizing the food landscape in Mumbai with her unique approach to clean eating, Vanika Choudhary is a force to reckon with. This year has had her re-launching the first Sequel café, introduce brunch at Sequel, feature in a documentary all while expecting her first child. And we’re only halfway through the year!
Three years ago when you launched Sequel, the restaurant scene in Mumbai didn’t cater to those who wanted to eat clean. But slowly Sequel lured in even the most die-hard greasy food lovers. What do you think was the biggest strength of Sequel when you launched?
The biggest strength for us has been creating a brand with a very strong differentiation, staying true to our food philosophy, ethics and not compromising on quality.
What were the biggest issues faced by you during the initial years?
It’s very important to have a team that shares your vision and has the same drive/passion for building the brand. The biggest challenge during the initial years was finding the right resources and putting together the team that believed in this concept. Since the idea was to create a brand that’s completely different (organic, farm to fork), we had to take an enormous task of educating the audience on the whole concept of eating clean and creating the market from scratch.
This year has seen you re-launch Sequel, plan a documentary, bring home a dog and now a baby soon! How have you done it all?To be very honest, it has all been overwhelming (doing all of this together). I won’t deny that. But I have treated my pregnancy as a very normal process, something that women’s bodies are designed to go through. That’s helped me not get complacent, stay focused on both the business plus life at home. I also happen to be an eternal optimist and only choose to look at the positive side of things. And that helps a great deal!
We decided to take hypnobirthing classes during my first trimester. That’s totally changed our outlook towards pregnancy/birthing and made the whole journey so much more enjoyable. It’s also helped me get rid of all my fears, just focus on the positives and trust myself.
You seem to have struck the perfect work-life balance. What is your mantra?
It’s far from perfect but I am trying to get there! Here are the few mantras I truly believe in-
Stay true to your vision. It’s very easy to get complacent and take short cuts. And the journey is so enjoyable if you do something that you are truly passionate about.
Unwind regularly. Both Dhaval and I are very particular about taking regular breaks to recharge and unwind. That helps us stay productive at work.
Work out every day, it could be anything from swimming, yoga, Pilates, running etc. As long as you release endorphins (feel good hormones) on a regular basis, you reduce your stress. And that automatically puts you in a happy state of mind both at work and at home.
Three tips on working through your pregnancy?
See your pregnancy as a normal process and once you do that, you will stay focused on both the work and baby. Don’t look at it as disability/disease.
Stick to your nutrition plan. Make sure you take all your vitamins to cope up with exhaustion. Eat a lot of greens, good fats, good quality protein (75-100grams of protein/day) and hydrate regularly.
Stick to your fitness regime. Manage stress at work by working out every day. Meditate or practice rainbow relaxation on a regular basis.
Being a woman in the restaurant business, what is your advice to those thinking about embarking on the path?
We need more women in this business—both as chefs and restaurateurs. And to all those women who are thinking of embarking on this path, I would like to say that it’s totally worth the risk. But it’s important to have the right business plan, believe in your idea and do it for the right reasons. And don’t let anyone question your beliefs. As long as it’s something that you are passionate about and have the determination to see it through, there’s no reason for you to not be successful. I won’t deny that it’s not an easy business but if it’s something that you are passionate about then go for it!
Can you tell me more about the documentary on healthy food with Marissa Bronfman?
It’s a documentary on superfoods and the Indian part of it is focused on turmeric. Marissa decided to interview me as part of the series in Mumbai as she was looking for inspiring women entrepreneurs’ who started the concept of creating awareness on different superfoods and are focusing on their health benefits. At Sequel, we use a range of superfoods, both local and global (turmeric, saffron, moringa, matcha, acai, cacao etc.) and were the first to introduce some of these in the Indian market.
A lot of women get derailed off their career paths post marriage and children. You have only grown in strength post-marriage and have re-launched Sequel during your pregnancy….. What’s next?
Getting our line of organic packaged products—pre and post-workout essentials such as bliss balls, trail mix, granola bars and breakfast essentials such as granola, nut butters plus probiotic-rich foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut etc; savoury snacks such as seed crackers, protein crackers etc.—across different retail and digital touchpoints. Identifying the right location for the next Sequel!
About Vanika Choudhary:
When Vanika took a sabbatical from her successful corporate job little did she know that she would never go back to corporate life again. Starting Sequel Bistro and Juice Bar out of a desire to share her approach to clean eating with an emphasis on organic and locally sourced produce, the café changed the food landscape and has a cult following today.
She has been on the management team of Vinati Organics Limited since 2006 and balances the technical/manufacturing execution with her marketing abilities combined with new age aggression.