My Week: Priya Lakhani of Masala Masala

The barrister-turned-Indian sauce maker on being a working mum, launching new products, and why there are big changes afoot in her business.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
I’m a working mum: I’ve got an 18-month-old daughter, Neve. Obviously, my business, Masala Masala, which makes fresh, ethnic sauces, is my first baby. But when I gave birth to Neve, she became my absolute priority. I schedule my life around her – which makes ours a very busy household.

My husband, Rahul, works full-time as a City COO, so we have a nanny who comes in pretty much every day for a couple of hours. In the afternoons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, Neve goes to nursery, and I take Wednesdays off. That’s my day, and I don’t sacrifice it for anyone or anything. There’s no way that I will work on a Wednesday.

This week’s been a big one for our business. We’ve just undergone a huge supply chain review. We’ve pretty much changed every single supplier, because we felt that what we were getting just wasn’t competitive. One of the reasons we were in that situation is that when I started up and was looking for manufacturers, a lot of people laughed me out of the door because I was a barrister and I had no experience in food. So I ended up going with the manufacturer that would agree to work with me. Three years down the line, though, and we found that we just weren’t important to them at all. They considered us so tiny that we weren’t treated very well. Prices were just uncompetitive.

Because of that, we’ve decided to re-launch the chilled range at the end of November. So we’ve had two months out of the retailers. It was very difficult for us to make that decision, but with the supplier being so uncompetitive, it made a lot more sense.

We’re also launching a new ambient range (food with a longer shelf life that doesn't need refrigerating) on Monday at the Restaurant Show in Earl’s Court. In the past, we’ve had a lot of restaurants and hotels and pub chains coming up to us and saying ‘we really want to use your sauces in our restaurants’. But logistically, that’s difficult: shipping one case of chilled product to, for example, Somerset, costs an absolute fortune – more than the product itself. So we’ve created the ambient range for retailers and for the food service industry, which this week has involved choosing jars and overseeing the design of new labels and sleeves. So the past few days have been crazy.

That’s one thing all business people understand, though: life is just chaos when you start a business. And with being a mum on top of that – you just end up being an expert juggler. I wasn’t a mummy who wants to put her daughter in nursery five days a week – it just wasn’t an option for me. So it’s about being really, really organised. If you do that, you can manage it. But it’ll always be really, really manic.

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