In the first of a series of events designed to celebrate some of hospitality and retail’s most innovative businesses and founders from the Bruntwood retail portfolio, we hosted the first ever ‘Bruntwood Dines’ event with Mowgli founder, Nisha Katona MBE. Sharing her inspiring growth story and taking questions from our guests, Nisha chatted to Andrea George, Head of Retail and Leisure at Bruntwood.
So who is Nisha, and what’s her story? In her own words, Nisha is the “daughter of immigrant grafters”; she was a barrister, and a damn good one at that, before setting up Mowgli. She had no business connections and sacrificed all her security to become an entrepreneur. But that gamble paid off with Mowgli being ranked number 17 fastest growing British Company in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 and Nisha being honoured with an MBE for her services to the food industry.
Nisha is involved in every part of her business: the decision making process of new sites, what features on the menu, the interior design of each individual restaurant, she’s even responsible for managing their social media. “I respond to pretty much every tweet, from eight in the morning to two in the morning, because this is my product and I’ve got to be accountable.”
What inspired Nisha to start Mowgli? Well, she’s a self-confessed foodie and before she even started Mowgli, while she was still a barrister, she used to teach Indian food classes and write cook books. “In terms of the product, I have a complete passion,” Nisha says. “Then the thought came to me that if I’m completely addicted to these dishes, which are ancestral dishes to me, and I haven’t tired of these dishes in over 40 years maybe the public wouldn’t either.” The food is very personal to Nisha. Her father was a Hindu priest and according to Hinduism certain ingredients are forbidden such as garlic and onion, so they’re not often found in Mowgli dishes making the food taste fresh and light.
Mowgli has recently opened its second site in Manchester at our University Green development on Oxford Road. “This site left me more nervous than any of the sites,” says Nisha. “I went to college nearby, so I knew this area and I knew that there was life here. When I came and did site visits, there were loads of people but nothing servicing those people in terms of food.” Nisha chooses every one of her locations, and visiting the building she could instantly see what it could be; “it was this space that captivated me,” she says.
When it comes to getting food inspiration, London is Nisha’s go-to place. “If it’s happening in a weird village in Peru, it’s happening somewhere in London,” Nisha says. There are no plans for Mowgli to expand into the capital though, with a passion for the North and creating jobs outside of London being more of a priority for Nisha.
With more and more Indian restaurants popping up across the UK, Nisha says she believes this trend is down to the movement towards vegan and vegetarian living. “Indian dishes lend themselves really well to plant-based food,” says Nisha. But she also believes “Britain is uniquely one of the most open-minded nations when it comes to other cuisines,” which has paved the way for curry houses and Indian street food across the UK.
The Bruntwood Dines series is just one of many events the Bruntwood Retail team has planned over the coming months. Next up is the February installment of YFood Tech Wednesday Manchester; taking place on the second Wednesday of every month, we’re going to be joined by Twisted on 13th February. You can also catch our retail team at the Northern Restaurant and Bar Show at Manchester Central 19th and 20th March.