Perween Warsi talks to Tandoori

Posted on Movers and Shakers Mar 2009 - by Tandoori Magazine
Perween Warsi talks to Tandoori

Perween Warsi CBE, founder and chief executive of the renowned and highly successful company S&A Foods, talks to Tandoori


What made you want to start up a food business?

I was very weary of the taste and quality of Indian food that was available to the public during the 1970s. I felt that the British public had a wrong perception of Indian food and it needed to be better than it was. So I started cooking from home and supplied local delis and takeaways in my area.


S&A Foods have turned out to be a huge success, but how did you overcome the various challenges you must have faced in the course of making the business what it is today?

In life and in business there are always obstacles and challenges to overcome. One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was when I was starting out. Asda, the supermarket chain gave me my very first big order and yet I was only cooking the food from a domestic kitchen. I thought it was getter to be honest and tell them my situation. They waited patiently and were very supportive until the time I could open my factory. So the business took off from there.


How involved are you in the development of the recipes and what is your criteria of a perfect recipe?

I am very involved in the development of the recipes and all product lines that S&A create. The criteria of a good recipe is quality ingredients, an authentic way of cooking and consistency.


How important is it for you that S&A keeps coming up with new ideas and product lines?

It’s at the heart of what we do. Any business has to be creative and we have to keep coming up with new ideas and developments. Besides, we don’t just do Indian food, we also offer Tex Mex, Mediterranean, Chinese, Pan-Asian dishes and our customer base is very loyal.


What type of food do you like to eat yourself?

Other than Indian, I love Chinese.


Had you not gone into the food business, what profession do you think you would have taken up and why?

I would have become a psychologist because psychology is about understanding people and as a businesswoman, I love dealing with people.


How have you managed to juggle home life with your work commitments?

Life is about juggling many balls and trying to catch one. My passion and the support of my husband and my sons, whom I all want to thank, have made me and my business the success it is today.


Who would be your ideal dinner guests and why?

Barack Obama, to see how he will fulfill all his promises as the new US president. The late Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop. I got to know her briefly and am a great admirer of hers. She had such a strong business ethic.


What does it take to run a successful business?

Having a vision, passion, sheer determination and a positive attitude. Enthusiasm and choosing the right people to be around you are also important.

What advice would you give to any women contemplating starting up a food business, however small or big?

Follow your instincts and get the support of your family. Work hard and don’t think that just because you are a woman you are any less effective as a business person.

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