Today, 62-year-old Usha Dalmia is well-known as the chef and founder of Tingle Your Taste Buds, a cookery website that offers a number of recipes and tips for food connoisseurs around the world. Till a few years back, Usha, my mother, was a housewife, the backbone of her family and a favourite among her friends.
This new dimension to my mother’s personality happened a bit by chance and a lot by hard work and persistence.
Home chef turned food blogger Usha Dalmia. Source: Facebook
Living in Vishakhapatnam, my mother is a very artistically inclined woman with immense talent in many art and craft forms. Her culinary skills were always appreciated by everyone, and she felt happy cooking meals for anyone. She always fostered the dream to open her own restaurant but like many women of her generation her dream remained unfulfilled.
She was a Hindi teacher at a school but left the job after my birth in 1982. I also have an older brother, now 40 who lives in the USA. My mother was content taking care of her family and giving her all to us.
Once we grew up, I started sensing that my mother, in the process of ensuring a great life for us, never really got a chance to do anything for herself. I began to understand my mother’s passion for cooking, while my own passions were pulling me towards them.
I live in Hyderabad, and decided to quit my well-paying job at Infosys to pursue my own passions and help my mother pursue hers. I launched a venture with a friend and became a professional dance instructor/choreographer. I also began volunteering with an NGO and worked on rehabilitating those rescued from human trafficking victims.
Opening a restaurant for my mother was tough due to finance and logistical issues. So we began with a Facebook Page titled Tingle Your Taste Buds in April 2012.
A summer thandai from Tingle Your Taste Buds. Source: Facebook
My mother was not technology-savvy then; for her to enter into this sphere was a challenge. She was also worried that no one really has time today to cook meals and a bit jittery to start something new at this stage in her life. But we were all encouraging and supportive, and that helped her take the plunge.
However, we lived in different cities, and in the beginning it was a challenge to post recipes on the page. Through various discussions on phone and emails intermediated by my father, she communicated the content to me. I would then take care of all the technical aspects and marketing on the Facebook page.
We got good response from friends and family and that boosted my mother’s confidence. The next challenge was to increase the reach beyond friends and family. We wanted it to be organic and hence came up with many strategies to encourage people to visit the page like contests and other activities. Once someone would visit the page, in most cases they would start following it too.
A year after the launch, we had thousands of followers which encouraged us to take this forward. The next step was to have our own website for greater reach and versatility, and to eventually make money from the venture through advertisements.
We wanted to completely own and be flexible with the website, and hence didn’t hire anyone to create it. Along with my husband, I spent months doing research and created and designed the website all by ourselves. However there are a number of cookery websites today and we knew we had to take a different approach.
In the meantime, my mother worked on her photography skills to ensure good quality photographs for the website.
We launched the portal on April 2014 to mark the second anniversary of the brand. There has been no looking back since.
Usha and Anupama, the mother-daughter duo who make cooking look easy
The strength of our brand lies is in the simplicity of the recipes without compromising on the taste. Our mission is to ease the process of cooking, because we believe there is a chef in everyone. What started as a small Facebook page is today a website with lakhs of visitors and a dedicated subscriber base. We also contribute to food websites and magazines, and were recently finalists in the “Best Food Blogger of the Year” category at the Orange Flower Awards.
Today, my mother has learnt a lot about technology and is dedicated to her work. Recently, when she sent her recipe to a website, they requested for an image with different resolution. By then, the dish was finished but my mother immediately made it again, in 15 minutes instead of buying more time, because she never misses a deadline. She is passionate about spreading joy through food and loves to personally read all the feedback.
She says, “I never thought I will be able to become an entrepreneur at this age. But thanks to the immense support of my family, especially my daughter who made this possible for me, I am what I wanted to be. I overcame all my fears to learn everything I thought I cannot. All you need is passion and dedication. I hope my story inspires everyone to not hesitate to pursue their passion at any age. Go for it!”
Over the next few years, we aim to widen our reach and have more collaborations. We are also planning to come up with a cookery book.
(Written by Anupama Dalmia-Barnwal)