Submitted by admin on Tue, 01/02/2018 - 11:20

Shashank Surana, VP, New Product Development, DS Group shares how his yearning for home-cooked food during his college days at Birmingham in the UK led him to discover a side of him that he did not know existed, an inner chef.



VP, New Product Development, DS Group

As British novelist Jasper Fforde said, “In the creative industries, there are few things more exciting than a zinger - a thought, idea, line, plot device - anything really, that just totally works in a fundamentally new and fresh way. It’s like a uniquely lovely melody or a new taste idea in cooking; something special, something new and something wonderful.”

My tryst with cooking started when I was a student in Birmingham in the UK. Bored of eating fast food every day, my yearning for home-cooked food took me to the kitchen. It brought out what I thought never existed in me - an inner chef. I was already exposed to many international cuisines and started experimenting with a combination of flavours, balance of taste and a lot of interesting food fusions, which yielded surprising and sometimes very pleasant results.

The saying, ‘Variety is the spice of life’ was no more a bookish line to me. I sliced and diced away recipes and altered flavours to get to the depth in taste from the food and ingredients.

Over time, as I joined the professional world, I realized that fusion cooking and large companies have a lot in common, especially in the FMCG sector. They both have to keep evolving and constantly reinvent their products to create something new and exciting to break the cycle of monotony and to generate interest.

A dynamic executive is not one who never makes mistakes, but one who takes on challenges with patience and perseverance like a good  chef, who aims for a perfect dish even if he needs to start off from scratch. Both are noncompromising in their offering and for both, the consumer/ customer satisfaction is most important.  In some cases, chefs take extreme measures to please the customer and that has actually resulted in new recipes. French fries were discovered after a chef cut his potatoes really thin and twice fried them with a good measure of salt to satisfy guests, who sent back his earlier plate of fried potatoes for being soggy and bland. Innovation in the business for the discerning customers follows the same principle and this helps companies to cut down failure in a rapidly evolving world.

My fervour for cooking has also helped to understand flavour combinations that are pleasing on palates, which have been effectively utilized to create new products in the Food & beverages category, especially confectionary. Brainstorming and working with like-minded people who believe in creating flavours for a spectrum of demanding customers is the key to working in a division that thrives on new ideas. At our ‘New Product Development’ division, we explore new ideas, new research, new methodologies and new products. Two years back, we launched a new product in the hard boiled candy segment that crossed the Rs 300 crore sales mark in just two years of its launch to become the market leader. This is one of the many ways in which we measure success. Like a seasoned chef, who is constantly evolving his food to suit evolving palates, we thrive on our ability to chart nimble strategies that change with the times.

Passion is the secret ingredient of success. When an individual does what he loves to do, his happiness quotient is high and the success multiplies. Professionals, like seasoned chefs, are not only focused and motivated, but also practise the art of calculated risk-taking. Our life is a fusion of success and failures. We have to learn from our failures and move ahead in life to achieve success along with contentment  and satisfaction.



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