Interview: Kirtimalini Gadre, on being an entrepreneur during the pandemic

Parul Chhaparia

Some people aspire to be entrepreneurs and some just follow their passion for something and end up being one. Kirtimalini Gadre, a well-known name among the Indian circle in Zurich and the food lovers in Switzerland, has come a long way to finally be doing what she thinks she is meant to be doing – cooking.

Even as I write this article, I am sure she must be in her kitchen, cooking one of her specialties for her customers. 

Kirti, a former IT professional, and a self-taught culinarian comes from a very humble background in Maharashtra, India. She came to Switzerland in 2006 to join her husband. After working in the IT industry in Germany and Switzerland for about twenty-three years, Kirti finally decided to quit her job in 2018 and started her food venture ‘Kirti’s Kitchen’ full-time in 2019.

“I always wanted to cook. However, I went into a job because that was a necessity. There was no choice of starting my own business. But now, I think it’s time for me to finally pursue my passion. I have always been doing a lot of voluntary cooking for charity events, friends.  But now, I want to take it professionally. I want to be the biggest food in Switzerland,” she shared with in an interview.

Kirtimalini, an Indian businesswoman in Switzerland

The first year of the business was quite rewarding. She was already famous for home-cooked meals in Zurich, so the customers came without much marketing effort. However, with the pandemic, things became challenging. “The offices are closed for more than a year now. I lost all my corporate lunch orders, there were no social events, so the party catering orders were also gone. There were times, I thought of the future of my business and how we were going to survive. But it was a tough time for everybody. So, I held on and reworked my business model. Instead of lunches, I started offering dinners. It worked,” she said.

It was not the first time this food enthusiast had tried to get into a food venture. In 2015 she had decided to take a break from her IT job due to personal reasons. During this time, she started experiments with once-a-week lunch boxes for the corporate offices in Zurich. It became an instant hit. “This experiment confirmed my confidence about the food business. I was confident that if I get into it, I would not only survive but succeed.”

She went back to IT in 2016 only to return to cooking with much stronger determination and energy. “It was not that I was bored of IT. It was more like if I don’t follow my calling now, then when,” Also, by this time my business partner had created a kitchen, the legalities were finalized, so the base was ready.

“The decision was not easy as I was entering into an uncertain land leaving behind a very lucrative job. But then I went ahead,” she added.

She took her leap and was well rewarded. However, like everything else, the Coronavirus turned her business upside down too. Now, she is trying her best to stay afloat by tweaking her business and finding newer ways to get more orders.

“Sometimes I am unhappy because it is really hard work without much sale at the moment.  Because of the pandemic, I came to zero from 99. But I didn’t want to go back to IT. So I took my customers in confidence. I asked them if they would like home deliveries. Accordingly, I moved to dinner deliveries. But it was difficult to find help with deliveries due to corona. Luckily, I got my driving license. So now, I not only cook, clean, and pack but also drop my food boxes at the customers’ homes. The entire year has been like that,” she explained the challenges.

Now she does dinner deliveries. “I am not a trained businesswoman. It is my real-life experiences in the food business that have taught me a lot about the business. I have tweaked my business model according to the current situation. Luckily, almost 60% of my customers are very loyal to me. So, that makes it easier to go on,” she shared with a smile.

What also keeps her going is the small yet significant achievements. “I don’t have a degree in business. However, today, despite the toughest time for all the business, I am happy that I am not making any losses. In fact, I feel proud that now I employ people. Some are on a permanent basis some on a requirement basis. I mean there is not a very big team yet, but for me, every little step matters.”

End of the story, I am very happy and still motivated, she shared with a big smile.

Über Parul Chhaparia

Parul comes from India. She has worked as a business journalist for over nine years with many English publications in India. Here she works as a content manager with a tech start up. She loves to write about people, culture, travel, business and anything that piques her curiosity.

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