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Restaurants are shifting their focus to online platforms and consumers are now more mindful about health and immunity while making food choices

Restaurants are shifting their focus to online platforms and consumers are now more mindful about health and immunity while making food choices.

We began our series of interview with Entrepreneurs to show our support and motivate them through tough times. With four interviews being published, this is the last interview.

We got a chance to interview Soniya Ashar, the third culture kid as she likes to address herself, having lived and worked in UAE, UK, and USA. She is the Founder of NutriCal, a Dubai based Food Tech venture that enables businesses in the food industry with data about the food they create which they can present to their consumers in easy to read format which helps them gain consumer trust and loyalty. Their vision in the long run is to match food and products of a business to a consumer’s health goals and preferences.

In the interview that we took, here’s what she has to share:

Finden: How has your brand been affected during this pandemic situation?

Soniya: NutriCal depends on restaurants and cafes as the primary customer segment so with restaurants shutting down in the region and the spending power reducing too – we have definitely been affected. Although, firstly with restaurants shifting focus online and wanting to differentiate themselves among competition while secondly with consumers being more mindful about health and immunity – we’ve been able to if not increase but maintain momentum. 

Finden: How is the situation in your city?

Soniya: Dubai as a city is synonymous with socialising, dining out, etc. – so the lockdown restrictions during the months of April and May were challenging for the city generally speaking. Now after some of the lockdown restrictions have been eased out – we have noticed this collective joy and relief. People are wearing masks, gloves, sanitising – but at the same time they are happy to be out, even partially doing what they used to before. Additionally, cases do not seem to be increasing as such so that is a relief too.

Finden: How are you managing to work from home? Has it been challenging for you? Has technology been of any comfort? 

Soniya: Technology is a saviour. We have been relying on services by Google, even Whatsapp for business communication for a while, and Zoom added to the picture as well. There are certainly fluctuations in productivity although manageable ones. Now our offices are open and our mindset has become more flexible and shifted a little – we might be working from home some days and going to the office some days.   The mix is something that seems to work for most of us.

Finden: Are you currently facing any obstacles pertaining to your business? If yes, do you intend to diversify to deal with the ongoing pandemic?

Soniya: I don’t think diversification applies to us as such but the team has been putting their energies and efforts in figuring out furthermore fitting solutions for the customer segment given the times.  For instance – we are a Food Data Company that analyses recipes for restaurants and allows them to publish the data in consumer – friendly formats so we developed a feature wherein if a dish contains certain immunity building ingredients such as turmeric, ginger etc. we highlight that for you.  Another option that we are working towards is about combining hardware and software wherein we provide clients contactless self-ordering tablets / kiosks for their storefront.

Finden: How do you keep yourself motivated during such times? We would love it if you could share some tips with us!

Soniya:

  1. Maintain a routine to maintain sanity 
  2. Meditate
  3. Accept that there are going to be days when you will ‘eat badly’ , ‘feel anxious’ etc. – also know that the next day you will feel better
  4. Be mindful of the content you consume – there is a ton of negative content out there right, create a filter for yourself

Finden: Have you been observing any changes in the trends specific to your industry? Is/are there any particular one(s) that has proved helpful for you and your business?

Soniya: Yes, a few actually.

  1. Focus has shifted to online mediums
  2. Personalisation
  3. Focus on health

All of these are helpful, given NutriCal’s business and vision. We help brands differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace by giving the power of data. We help them personalise offerings for their consumer’s unique tastes and preferences. We allow brands to highlight health benefits and the nutritional content in their food.

Finden: Any particular advice you would like to give to aspiring entrepreneurs and students?

Soniya: Entrepreneurship is a bit glamorised as we do not speak of failure enough. Being an entrepreneur can be compared to being on a rollercoaster so if you are into that – brace yourself and enjoy the ride. Your idea, patience, resilience all of it is going to be tested and tested again. 

To know more about them, visit their Website, Instagram and LinkedIn

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