When 22-year-old Payal Saha from Kolkata moved to New York with her husband in 2000, she could not work due to visa restrictions.

“What I could do, however, was open a business, and that is exactly what I did,” she says.

With the help of her cleaning lady, she started a food business selling her favourite dish from Kolkata — Kati rolls.

On why she chose to go with the rolls, she says, “To have the option of just picking up a roll and going about their work seemed like a very feasible idea for New Yorkers.”

What attracted the customers to ‘The Kati Roll Company’ was that the rolls were inexpensive, and they could be had as a snack, a meal, or just as finger food.

The first outlet that Payal opened was one that catered to students and the late-night, after-party crowds.

“A second and larger midtown location followed in 2005, a London location opened in 2007, and a fourth location was launched in March 2012 on the Manhattan East side,” she says.

To make the Kati rolls taste like the best of “Calcutta rolls”, if not better, Payal flew to Mumbai and worked at a rolls place called Chowringhee Lane to gain more experience.

The colourful Bollywood posters are another eye-catching feature in all the outlets. By incorporating these posters, Payal aimed to recreate the vibrant essence of Kolkata’s streets.

“We did a big poster for Sreedevi when she passed away, and then as a homage to Vinod Khanna, there’s a Burning Train poster,” she says.

What started as a way to satiate her cravings for her favourite food has become roughly a $14 million franchise, with four outlets across New York and London.

With 116 employees working at the various outlets today, Payal’s customer base has been expanding. She is currently experimenting with a frozen food line.