More Than 'Food Talk': Anjali Batra On Creativity, Community & Breaking Barriersby | February 14, 2020
A curator, a founder, an entrepreneur—meet Anjali Batra, the expert who dons many hats. By her own admission, Batra is more inclined towards all things creative, a trait that fits in perfectly in her line of work as she curates some of the most memorable and impressive experiences at Food Talk India, an "all things food" initiative that came into being in 2014.
Founded along with Shuchir Suri and Himanshu Vaishnav, the community is now at million-plus food enthusiasts and there's no looking back. So what does it take to build a community that continues to matter? We caught up with the '30 under 30' trailblazer to talk community building, the best piece(s) of advice for those starting out, and stereotypes in the modern world.
Luxeva: How would you say that 2019 was a momentous year for you, and what were your learnings from it?
Anjali Batra: “2019 was a great year for me because I feel like it gave me a lot of perspective in terms of streamlining what I enjoy doing and making the best of it, while also giving me a more realistic picture of where I see myself five years from now. The year really helped me understand who I am, who I want to be, and what I want to achieve.
In terms of work too, it was all about working on amazing projects, creating experiences and knowing the company better; the last couple of years had been building up to it but 2019 gave us a lot of clarity in terms of how we [Food Talk India] want to grow and expand as a company too. I always used to be a control freak and I feel the last year helped me realise that everyone in my team is so capable and amazing in themselves that it’s okay to relax and take a step back sometimes. I found a work-life balance, realised that investing in fitness helps me keep calm and, on a personal front, found someone I want to spend the rest of my life with, so all in all, 2019 was peaceful and happy.”
Luxeva: You started out in 2014 as a Facebook invite-only platform, and now you have a community of close to a million people. Tell us a bit about your journey.
Anjali Batra: “We started out small on Facebook as a passion project—we were at that place in our lives where we could take risks and quit our jobs, see where it took us and that’s exactly how it started for us. From websites and experiences to community, we tried various things to create an engaging platform and I feel that’s why people have come to love FoodTalk India.
Honestly, I feel it has been a trial and error; we have constantly pivoted, tried a couple of things and burnt our hands in certain places, tried to reinvent ourselves and found what was working for us. We’ve never let things that didn’t work stop us or break us down. The journey from a small firm to building things on a larger scale has been brilliant, some really tough moments too but the positive energy kept us going!”
Luxeva: What do you think is the most important aspect of community building, something you feel people ought to know?
Anjali Batra: “Be different. I think what worked for us was that we stood apart from the others, doing something that didn’t exist and people took to it because it was exciting and accessible to all. Anyone who is venturing in the territory should try to do different things—see what the market is lacking and what the trending conversation points are before creating a platform. And what’s most important is to look at everything from the point of view of a consumer; most companies only take the brand’s perspective into account and forget about its users.”
Luxeva: For anyone starting out to build a brand or a community, the most difficult question is 'where do I begin'. What would your advice to them be?
Anjali Batra: “Certainly be innovative but also, don’t be scared to take risks. Go big because millions of people have great ideas but it's only the one who does it better that becomes big.”
Luxeva: What is the best piece of advice you have received and that you abide by?
Anjali Batra: “To be honest, I don’t think anyone had advice for back when we were starting out because no one understood what we were creating, and neither did we! It was so unique and, come to think of it, even social media was different back then. Every single time someone would ask me what FoodTalk India was, I would have a different answer because we were still finding ourselves as a brand. The only advice we were given and one that we actually followed was to never give up.”
Luxeva: What would you say is your superpower?
Anjali Batra: "My creativity. And it’s brilliant that I have a partner who is great at finance and operations to create a balance. I like creating experiences that will have people walking away with a bit of a ‘wow factor’.”
Luxeva: What comes to mind when I say #OlderandWiser?
Anjali Batra: “People underestimate how much you can change in a year but if you really look back to see what you were at the beginning and end of any year, you will find that life makes you grow immensely. Every person, every interaction, every failure, and how much you learn from each of those impacts your life during that one year; just take a moment and it will be easy to see how much it has.”
Luxeva: What's next for you in the near future?
Anjali Batra: “For 2020, the goal is to take everything we have streamlined so far and actually start implementing it, because if 2019 was about figuring out who we were, the next five years are about achieving all of that. For instance, we realised that the Gin Explorers Club was not just a 500 person small pop-up but a large scale festival which we did implement this year.”
Luxeva: What stereotypes in current times bug you?
Anjali Batra: "It’s sad that we live in this stereotyped world where we often have to hear that men can do more. I wish that this stereotype of looking at women as the weaker sex, and men as the stronger, wiser one would end. The crime rate against women is also something that affects me; I hope it stops and that will only happen when we start being equal at the ground level. Society needs to stop feeding into young boys’ entitlement and making them believe that they can get every single thing, every woman they want.
We [women] have it in us to achieve whatever we want and we are surrounded by independent women who are breaking barriers, smashing the patriarchy and in a time when you guys, as a platform, are creating, supporting, and documenting strong women and their stories. So it would only be fair to say that a change is here, and we are celebrating it."