How Munaf Kapadia quit Google to sell samosas. And then, wrote a book about it
Mumbai's popular regional food venture, The Bohri Kitchen's founder's first book gives an insight into the entrepreneurial bits of F&B
Munaf Kapadia, is better known as the man who quit Google to sell samosas. And it's no surprise that the phrase has gone on to become his book's title, too. Kapadia's entrepreneurial journey, like many others, has an interesting backstory. In 2015, he quit his job with the tech giant and entered the F&B industry with The Bohri Kitchen, a home-dining concept where he invited people to his Cuffe Parade home to experience a sit-down dinner prepared by his mother, Nafisa.
In his newly released book, HOW I QUIT GOOGLE TO SELL SAMOSAS: Adventures With The Bohri Kitchen, Harpers Collins, he shares the story of his extraordinary journey, where he left a career as an account strategist to launch a food venture, in a bid to shed light on the diasporic community's food. The book, narrates his experience as a novice businessman in the food space, and what it takes to chase a dream.
Edited excerpts from an interview.
What inspired you to start The Bohri Kitchen?Two things. Firstly, I always had this idea that I wanted to do something to uplift the food from my community. Once I completed my MBA, the part of my brain that understands marketing, kicked in and I realised that there is a demand-supply opportunity around the way we eat our food. It has a lot of marketing potential.
Secondly, I wanted to amplify my mom's food and her legacy. She's talented and I wanted to do something, or help her in a way that made the most of her skills. But the idea really originated over a fight we had regarding the TV remote that somehow led to a conversation around doing something with Bohri food, since we were so well versed with the cuisine. And that's how The Bohri Kitchen came to be.
You started The Bohri Kitchen as a home dining experience and now it is a household name. How did you get here?
We never imagined that it would become a household name. The idea was to do something with my mom and at that point, I had no social life and this was an easy way to fill up my weekends. Another reason I wanted to do this was to learn how to use Facebook. While I knew what Google Ad products were, I had no idea how Facebook worked from a business perspective. In fact, in my book, there's a chapter called "More FB, less F&B" because The Bohri Kitchen is more a social brand than a food brand. It helped us build TBK into a brand from scratch, through email and Whatsapp spams. There was a lot of trial and error, too. And we've done it all. From the dining table to the thaal, from me being dressed in traditional clothes to realising it really did not make a difference. But the process has been fun.
Why did you choose Bohri cuisine?
Could you please tell us about the genesis of the book and your experience given this is your first one?
So, the biggest thing I liked about TBK is the story. I love the fact that people are falling in love with the story or that there's an audience waiting when I go on stage to conduct a talk.At the heart of it, I am a storyteller. So, when a friend suggested the idea of me writing a book, it resulted in a conversation with my now editor and we realised we need to give this story a structure. However, the most important thing was the writing and I am not the greatest writer. I fall asleep while writing, that's when my wife, Zahabia, came in. She's a fantastic writer and managed to deal with the phenomenal challenge of giving words to my voice. So, 50-60% of the book is actually her.
During COVID-19, food delivery services have become the norm. But, when you started what were the challenges you faced?
Pre-Covid and post Covid, everything has changed. Initially, the challenges we faced were standardising my mother's cooking. She is not a professional chef and couldn't document her recipes. We had to build that skill set and it has always been a challenge.
Post 2020, raising funds has been the biggest predicament.Secondly, the sentiment in the F&B industry has gone for a toss. Especially for brick and mortar restaurants with multiple constraints and restrictions. For instance, my own dining room was technically our version of a restaurant and I can't do that anymore. So, the foundation that TBK was built on has taken a pause and that's another big change.
However, food delivery has taken an upswing and if you tap into it correctly, you can benefit from it. So, this past year has been about great learning.
What advice would you like to give to young professionals wanting to take this leap of faith and switching careers?
I've actually done that in the book. We've shared 10 points with future entrepreneurs and it's called 'Samosa Gyaan.' I'll give you an example. One of the points I've mentioned in the book suggests that one shouldn't get addicted to their idea. But rather, they should get addicted to the idea of entrepreneurship.' This basically means that today you start off with an idea to sell Bohri cuisine. One year later, you might pivot into something else. But, that's fine. More than the idea, it's your commitment to entrepreneurship that's going to make you successful. The focus should be on creating something of value.