“Never had my family thought that I would make a career with cooking, but see, I did it,” says Vinita Jain, a successful entrepreneur from Bangalore. Vini’s Foods simplifies people’s Italian cooking experience with homemade sauces that make preparing dishes like pasta and pizza effortless.
Vinita is working towards changing peoples’ mindset that pastas and pizza are not junk food as long as they are made the right way. The inspiration behind Vinita’s entrepreneurial journey stemmed from something very close to her heart. Vinita’s son had food allergies, so she always preferred making food items at home. She began making fresh sauces which were not available in the market and freezing them. Till one day the idea hit her to do this commercially.
Given Vinita’s education and professional background, it would have been hard for anyone to imagine her being this closely associated with the food industry. Born and brought up in Ajmer, Rajasthan to a middle class family with both parents in the academic world, Vinita displayed a love for Maths. Vinita’s dream of studying architecture did not materialize but she pursued her love for Maths, with courses in computer science as a minor field. Given the teaching bug in her genes, she even took tuitions while in college.
Since her days in college, Vinita knew that the 9-5 job was a no-no for her. She always had an inclination to do her own thing.
Just after graduation she got married. Marriage started a new chapter in Vinita’s life. It made her part of three different countries and cultures — India, Australia and England. Vinita and her family have moved between India, Australia and England around 10 times since she got married. Initially, when she moved to Australia she took up the role of a childcare coordinator, and on one of her later trips worked in an insurance company in Australia.
“Initially I used to feel a bit unsettled but after two moves I started liking the travel. I was always very independent and never had issues travelling with kids alone. I became a pro at settling down, moving out and setting up a new home again without batting my eyelids,” says Vinita.
After two years in Australia she got back to India as a happy and proud mother. “I was a full time mom and enjoyed each and every moment of motherhood. For me kids were always the priority. “ However, her desire to work continued unabated. Vinita decided to join her cousin for a few months and learnt something completely new – designing banners and logo. “From him I learnt how to position a product, deal with customers and the art of marketing.”
“I had never cooked much before marriage but had always seen my mum do it. When living abroad I started cooking and realised I was good at it,” she says. Till the kids were small she worked part time or did volunteer work. “I love meeting new people and everywhere we lived I made lots of friends with Indians as well as the local people. Everyone used to love the food I made. That always gave me a boost to make new things and experiment more,” she says. Vinita and her other Indian friends had loads of fun organising cooking sessions. “With each visit to the country, I felt my interest in food increasing. I started trying new cuisines, something I had never done in the early years of our stay in Australia.” Her friend in Brisbane who owed a restaurant and was a superb cook helped her with refining her recipes.
When in England, Vinita was mostly at home because her second child was very small. As a woman living abroad without any family support, Vinita had loads to do. “Most of my time was spent driving kids to and from school, followed by music classes, or tennis lessons or to a park. I used to have a hectic schedule but loved those days as I enjoyed driving and playing with kids and would do anything for their development. I had lovely friends to hang out with and that was how I found time for relaxation.”
One thing that is true to her personality is her love for wheels. Sitting behind the steering wheels charting her route and taking in breathtaking sense of freedom that driving provides has always been a fun experience for Vinita. Driving in Australia and England was fun. Vinita says, “Whenever we planned a road trip I would always opt for driving. I drove till the whole of South Island in New Zealand. We drove around 3000 km in 10 days and with kids who were 5 yrs and 7 months old. Both my husband and I love travelling and we never saw our children as a limitation. Having kids on the trip was always good as they got more of our attention. We used to hire convertibles on special occasions and go for long drives to wineries etc. I learnt driving in India but never drove here earlier as we couldn’t afford a car. I owned a Toyota Corolla in Australia and a BMW and Nissan in England. Here I drive i20 and would love to own a MINI.”
As both her boys were learning music in Australia, her son inspired Vinita to learn some instrument, so she enrolled for flute lessons. She says, “I was a fast learner but due to lack of practice I have lost touch right now. I would love to get back to my flute and spend some time with that.”
Vinita has always been open to learning, be it from a close friend or a complete stranger. She says, “in England, we lived in a place called Ipswich. It’s a small town. There was this girl with a small stall on the road who would make and sell fresh donuts. I have never had better donuts in my life. It was amazing to see how she would make and sell and look after the stall so well all on her own. She always reminds me of how a person can do everything they want. Dependency makes you mentally weak. She would be so calm and happy. I would stand and chat with her while the kids enjoyed the donuts. She would cook with her heart and the taste of the donuts was its proof. Food needs to be cooked with good vibe and love otherwise it will not taste good.”
Vinita adds, “The best part about England and Australia was the way people interacted with each other. Despite all the stress people have in life, their attitude towards customers is so polite and courteous. Even in the vegetable market they will greet you and ask how you are doing! You would rarely see a grumpy Aussie on the service desks. I always felt it makes so much of a difference when somebody is greeted well. I learnt a lot of customer service strategies there. How to keep a customer happy is such an important part of being an entrepreneur.”
Being an entrepreneur is not easy, one is always hard pressed for time. When Vinita started her venture she found it really hard to manage everything on her own from manufacturing to marketing, delivery, accounting and of course the kids and house. She used to get frustrated every now and then and would question herself if she wanted to do this and the answer was always Yes. Once her team was in place it got easy.
Vinita says, “at this stage I might not be earning much but I get that satisfaction and feel intellectually stimulated. I have become more confident and independent than before.”
Other than Vini’s Food, she sometimes helps her friend who runs an NGO. She helps them to organize events. There was a time when I used to read a lot of books but at present I am so busy that at the end of the day I usually see a bit of TV to unwind before I call it a day. “I personally love Thai food. I would love to learn to make authentic Thai. I love walking a lot and I make sure I do that every day with my close friends. That is the best time of the day when we get a lot of talking done as well,” says Vinita with a laugh.
Vinita claims that she is a very simple person. She likes to dress comfortably. She loves to wear ethnic outfits. “I appreciate fashion. However, I always end up choosing conventional and not too bold clothes for myself. Earlier, I was into earthy colors but lately I have developed a taste for bright colors.” She adds, “I like orange and pink the most. I find orange really vibrant as it gives my personality a definite boost. When it comes to makeup, I always prefer a natural look. I love solitaires. I love wearing something that is classy and rich looking yet simple.”
Travelling and meeting different people has taught Vinita a lot of important lessons of life. She says, “I learnt whom should I help, how much to help and also how to politely but firmly say a no. I am also less given in to impulses now. I have matured with time.” Vinita loves her entrepreneurial life, nurturing and growing her venture everyday. She says, “I certainly feel that I’m on the right path because I am very happy doing this. I see myself as a big brand in the market for fresh and preservative free foods. I would love to help as many women as possible by employing them. I would love to see Vini’s sauces as a regular product on everyone’s grocery list.”
“Being a woman has always been a challenge as the expectation from a woman is way more than from a man. I was lucky to be born in a family where girls got equal opportunity and we were brought up to be confident women. I got married to a man who gave me my space so I could do all I wanted. My husband is a very good cook himself. He has always inspired me to cook the best and present the food on the table in the best way. He has always encouraged me to pursue my passion of cooking by being a very good and honest critic,” she adds.
Vinita believes that if women are respected for all the household chores they do and if everyone in the family supports them with it then our society will be better than what it is today. Earning and bringing money at home is not everything. If a woman decides not to work and be a good homemaker she should be given the same respect what a working woman gets.