How Surinder and Safia used digital to thrive in Covid


Pure Punjabi is a mother-daughter business inspired by a third-generation teacher. As a child, Surinder’s mother patiently and persistently taught her the original, traditional family recipes from the heart of the Punjab, North India. During the pandemic, Surinder and her daughter, Safia, pivoted their real Indian food and cultural experience online, with the help of Digital Boost. So, they have virtually been into the kitchens of hundreds of people they now consider friends, co-creating great food using their recipe kits. With a new platform and infectious energy, they’ve recently moved into a bigger production and workshop premises in South Somerset!  

Their story starts eleven years ago when Surinder decided to stock her own shop with speciality fine food featuring genuine artisan ingredients. But she couldn’t find a traditional North Indian spice supplier near to her home. She realised this is because traditional culinary methods are passed down through the generations in Indian families. 

And then a penny dropped. She had the solution to her own problem, having been taught by her mother from the age of seven to make mouth-watering dishes including Garam Masala and Tandoori Masala. As is the way, she had passed these recipes and methods onto her daughter and sons, such as how to use their own hands as measuring tools.  

Once Safia left university and picked up some business training, she took the products her mum had created to be lab-tested, winning a Gold Star in the Great Taste Awards. Pretty soon, they took their hot food to a local fair and eventually BBC Good Food and Countryfile – and the business grew rapidly. With entrepreneurial zest, they then set up the first pop-up Indian restaurant outside London in their local village hall and layered the taste experience with Indian dance performances. Starters were accompanied by a classical performance; mains with a Bollywood show, and after desserts, the dancers entertained with a lively Punjabi dance and interactive workshop.

News of their fun, authentic Indian food presentation spread, and they were booked for weddings, featuring in The Telegraph and Olive Magazines. Their cookery school enterprise was also going well and attracted corporate interest. They were asked to lead the dining experience for a Global Indian tech company on a roadshow across ten European cities, Safia on location with Surinder supporting from home. In each city, Safia would meet with the head chef and team in some of the best hotels, leading them in the delivery of tasty and authentic dishes, with hundreds of covers every day.  

But then Covid-19 hit, and disaster struck. The main hospitality side of their business stopped overnight. That’s when Surinder discovered Digital Boost, who provide free 1:1 business mentoring and expert advice for small businesses. Through tailored conversations with mentors from Google, Secret Escapes, Digithy, Caret IT Solutions, and Ranosys, she worked out a plan over just three weeks. Surinder re-oriented the website to make it easy for customers to continue to enjoy their food in an even more inclusive way. 

Sales of their meal kits increased by 1,200% thanks to the support of customers stuck at home, and the digital learning they took on board. This extended to ‘let’s cook together’ evenings on Zoom with fun meal kit cook-alongs, connecting the heart of their homes. Soon enough, valuable corporate contracts emerged as companies sought ways to engage teams working remotely.  

Surinder says: “Digital Boost gave us access to a pool of mentors we otherwise would absolutely not have met. Not only did we figure out how to grow our business online, but we were also invited to be profiled by Google and joined a Government panel to encourage other businesses to embrace digital.” 

So now, as the world is open again for great memory-making experiences where food is at the heart, Surinder and Safia have a stronger digital presence and foundation on which to grow.

Said Surinder: “There is no doubt that the digital world was the only window we had to connect with customers. I knew I needed that help and, goodness, did Digital Boost make all the difference.”  

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