Perzen Patel has been busy cooking up a business idea that would take Kiwis beyond butter chicken. She was a finalist in the University of Auckland's Velocity $100k challenge. By day she's communicating the services of the General Library; by night she's working on her Indian paste business.
Recently you were a finalist in the Velocity $100k Challenge. Were you surprised?
I took part to have a go and was sure they’d just choose tech businesses as finalists. I decided to apply to make myself write down a business plan. Getting into the finals was a nice surprise and also great because it was the catalyst to get my business going.
What’s your business called?
It’s called Dolly Mumma and named after my grandmother. I make and sell Indian spice pastes. We’ve started the Beyond Butter Chicken movement! I have an ambitious goal of educating Kiwis to know there’s more to Indian cuisine than butter chicken and chicken tikka masala! We want people to get a taste of the real India, recipes shared orally through generations.
But Kiwis love butter chicken!
They do, and I do too, but not the bright orange stuff. Kiwi butter chicken is sweet and creamy and not what Indian food is about at all.
Where did you grow up?
I came to New Zealand from Mumbai, India, when I was 15 and went to high school and university here. I returned to India for around eight years before moving back here permanently with my husband and two preschool sons late last year. We had planned to come in 2020 but my husband’s visa came earlier, which was very lucky as it turned out.
Do food and storytelling go hand-in-hand?
Yes, I’ve always been interested in cooking but more importantly in sharing stories about food. In India, I had a food blog, Bawi Bride, where I documented lost recipes from my community. When I moved to New Zealand I wanted to do something similar but different.
You work full-time, have a food business, run a podcast and have two pre-schoolers. How?
I work on the business and cook in the evenings and on weekends. My husband helps with the packaging and logistics. We have both always had an entrepreneurial streak and want to show our kids you can have it all if you work hard. Another reason for starting Dolly Mumma was that my kids came here at a really young age and I realised they could lose touch with Indian food and culture if I don’t play an active role in retaining that for them. I try to feed them traditional food and I’ve created these pastes with them in mind. I don’t want them growing up thinking that Indian food is just butter chicken and tikka masala.