Pritisha Borthakur, 26, co-founder of Twisted Foods and a writer and promoter of Assamese cuisine shares with us her life’s journey so far.
Q.Please introduce yourself
Born and brought up in Nagaon, Assam, I have always wanted to be a writer. My mother said, I started writing letters to my grandfather at the age of 5, and poems at the age of 7. Unlike most traditional parents who want their kids to engineers and doctors, my mother encouraged me to take my passion further. I remember how she, who herself is a fine writer, would post my poems and short stories to the media houses to get them published. However, it wasn’t a sweet start; my writings were rejected, people made fun of me, and few even told me to never dream about writing. But my mother was always there for me. She taught me to cope with life, failure and rejection, and yet stay true to my dream. And at the age of 10, while I was studying at Christ Jyoti School, my first poem got published in an Assamese newspaper. Since then, there has been no looking back.
I, like many of you, too have dreamt of studying in Delhi University. So, post my 12th from B.Barooah College in Guwahati, I shifted to Delhi. My percentage wasn’t great but I being a national level table tennis player got through Gargi College in English literature. I had severe MTI (mother tongue influence) then, and even now. I still fail to gather confidence to speak out, and that is the reason I started writing more actively. And with that courage, I came out with 2 poetry books published by Krantikal Publishers.
Post my graduation, I did PG – Journalism in print media which help me get into The Pioneer Media group. However, it was not my first experience writing for a media house. During my college days, I started working for a lifestyle magazine called The Expressions, as Features Writer. My father, who I was very close to, fell ill during the start of my career and eventually passed away. I had to leave my job and stay at home in Assam for a long time.
However, God helped me to overcome the phase. I joined Fairfest Media post my return to Delhi, and since then have worked with reputed organisations such as The Times of India, Fairfest Media, Iris Meida [Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Ministry of Earth Sciences, New Delhi Municipal Council], Mindworks [Gulf News], etc. Now, I head the content & strategy team at a startup called GoYaNo, while simultaneously working on my own startup called Twisted Foods, co- founded by my childhood friends. We, at Twisted Foods, promote Assamese cuisine and host pop-ups at our home. Being a food writer, I have always been actively promoting regional cuisine, especially Assamese food through my writings. My current work is a recipe book on Assamese cuisine. I also have curated an Assamese menu at Tamasha restaurant in Connaught Place, which will be available on April 7.
Q.When did you think about this startup?
The whole idea behind starting this concept is the craving we’ve seen in people for simple yet tasty meals cooked at home. Thousands of people are staying miles away from home — be it for studies, career etc. Delhi does have hotels and restaurants serving authentic cuisines, but can it beat the feel of savouring a meal at home? We offer that warmth that a restaurant lacks, plus our meals are very reasonably priced. Just imagine, sit on the floor with ten other like-minded people, make new friends, and spread the joy of sharing meals. Also, we believe by hosting events we can create awareness among other people (non-north easterns) about the rich culinary culture of the state. Apart from doing the traditional Assamese meals [read Masor Tenga, Jaluk diya Mangso, Kukura di Haah, Omitar Khar etc.], we also serve Assamese-Muslim cuisine too [read Murgh-E-Kush, Murgh White Korma, Pulao etc.]!
We started the concept in November 2015 and we have been receiving very good responses.
Q.Introduce your Co-Founder/Founders and Team.
We’re a bunch of young and fun people of various profession — journalist [myself], lawyer [Nasir Yusuf Rahman], engineer [Arshad Arif Hazarika & Sahil Huda], and activist [Noshin Kausar], from Assam staying in Delhi.
While I handle the Marketing & PR, Arshad and Sahil look after the tech work. Noshin is a fantastic photographer, and Nasir does the major part and is the backbone of Twisted Foods— i.e. cooking the meals.
Q.Explain more about your startup and how is it different from other similar startups?
Pop-up culture is not new. But how many of them serve food at home in a very affordable price. It will be hard to believe, but we provide a thali featuring 18 – 23 items at just Rs 600; which is nothing but a peanut price. We make our guests feel like home. They sit on the floor, eat using their fingers, interact with other foodies, make new friends, play music, and do whatever they like. While the guests have always helped us in serving up the food, there have been times when they wanted to help us in the kitchen too!
We never treated our guests like customers. We have always made them feel like a family — a family that bond over food.
Q.What are your future plans and the future funding plans?
We’ll venture into corporate and individual catering in another few days. We are in talks with certain investors for our future plans and hopefully we might very soon be a part of the new start-up funded generation.
Also, we’re working on a big project to be implemented in Assam. So, our focus currently is on the said project, for which we have worked 18-20 hours a day!
As far the expected revenue is concerned, we are targeting an overall revenue of around 2 million INR in 2016.
Q.What challenges did you face while setting up this startup?
The challenges were huge. We’re working professionals and to spare time for our own startup was very difficult. Plus we are new into business. We had to study a lot. We approached a lot of people for guidance and help. However, the response from people was very bleak. It was our respective parents who encouraged us to go with our passion Please note, only emotional encouragement. They want us to do on our own, hence, we are not taking any kind of financial assistance from them.
And once we started the food pop-up, we realised the lack of ingredients in Delhi, required to cook Assamese food. However, now we have tied-up with vendors from Assam for regular supply. And to promote the work done by the rural people in Assam, we’re showcasing their products on our pop-ups — be it pickles, jams, snacks etc.
From what I have learnt in all these years is we should always aim big. I have always wanted to write my own story. There’ll be failures, but the trick to overcome them is to try until you find the right route to success.
If you follow your dreams then you will have something worth sharing with others, hope, inspiration and a meaning to live, and that to me, is a great contribution.
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