Chai Pe Charcha with Anita from Mauli Rituals

We recently gathered for our first-ever Chai Pe Charcha: an evening of refreshing chats over steaming chai. In light of our recent collaboration to create our very own invigorating Dishoom x Mauli Rituals hand & body wash – we sat down with co-founder Anita Kaushal and other close friends, to discuss the ups and downs of being a female South Asian business owner. Our ensuing conversation was rich, open and chock-full of valuable insights into Anita’s experiences as a founder. For those that could not join us on the night, selected snippets follow below.

How does your identity influence the perception of your work?

Anita: It’s a privilege to be able to share my rich ancestral heritage. My parents arrived here in the early sixties; working incredibly hard and facing insurmountable struggles, yet they remained abundant of heart and home. My mother worked, raised 7 children, supported other immigrant families, and thought nothing of cooking for 50+ people every weekend.  Ours was the house where people gathered to share food, song, and spiritual knowledge. Their attitude was the same in work and home; serving is an act of devotion, to be performed with love, no matter what. I too try to share this same attitude in my work.

How do you deal with systemic issues when entering as an entrepreneur in the west, compared to the east?

Anita: I think one must come into any environment and face any issues by adapting, whilst not losing sight of their values. When doing business in the west, I know I can rely on my peers being organised and efficient. When dealing with the east, I know I can rely on my suppliers being resourceful and accommodating. I absolutely love working in India, as everyone is optimistic and joyful in their endeavours. Having lived in two worlds makes me commercially minded, while always wanting to go the extra mile, as was the case with the Dishoom partnership.

What are some specific challenges you’ve faced as a South Asian female entrepreneur?

Anita: As a South Asian female entrepreneur today, I feel like I’m in a good place. Growing up, I  saw my father being attacked verbally and physically within his own shop because of the colour of his skin – but he never felt victimised. I too was bullied at school for my colour, my body hair and for smelling like curry. I was a sensitive child and I internalised these experiences – rather than understanding that any act of violence comes from fear of attack. My identity has become my superpower; as a female, as an entrepreneur, as a child of an immigrant – all this rich tapestry makes me empathic and driven to support others to feel physically and emotionally stronger. Life is not always fair and there will be those who have greater advantages, so it is incumbent on us to support the underdog but not play into victimhood.

How do cultural expectations and gender norms impact your journey as a South Asian female entrepreneur?

Anita: Boys were always given more freedom and opportunities. I paid no attention to that and pushed my personal boundaries and was determined to succeed in a male-dominated industry. I never thought I was up against men – I thought I was up against myself and would then go beyond the preconceived limitations set on me. I do look back at how far we’ve come in terms of diversity and the celebration for South Asians and I think to myself, “what a great time to be alive”.

How do you engage with and give back to your community through your work?

Anita: Mauli is for all, but we do have a lot of South Asian customers. The brand is a portal to something deeper and more meaningful and it’s my intention to inspire individuals to grow in confidence through living well.  We also give back to NGOs in India and to a charity that supports street children to gain an education. We are all connected and it’s important we look beyond our own needs.

Would you say your job makes a positive impact on the South Asian community?

Anita: Without question and that’s the icing on the cake! This isn’t just my journey, or their journey – we are connected to all who came before us and are here to pass the baton to our successors.  As our name personifies, we are all part of the same thread and wish each other well.

So there you have it: a roundup of our inaugural Chai Pe Charcha. We created this space for fellow South Asians to come together over steaming chai for free and frank conversation – much like we do in our own homes. Future editions will feature more of Dishoom’s esteemed friends, having more of these important community conversations. Look out for our next one, with information of how you can join in.

In the meantime, take a moment with our calming Dishoom x Mauli Rituals hand & body wash, created in partnership with Anita and the Mauli Rituals team. This newest addition to the Dishoom Store is gentle and fragranced with a signature-blended Dishoom scent, made from essential oils of bergamot, reposeful jasmine, sandalwood, lime and sweet orange. Perfect to gift (even if only to oneself).

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