“Where did you get the idea for this business? People often ask me this question, so here’s the story.
As a long-time admirer of Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, I was intrigued by his concept of a social business and moved by his understanding of human beings and the human condition. His book, Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, was the catalyst and immediate source of inspiration for Upohar. Within months of reading the book, the business concept was a reality and we catered our first event.
Although it may seem that everything happened quickly, in reality this has been in the works for a long time. Since 2002 I have been holding this question “what will never get done, if I don’t do it in my own unique way?” It’s a question about both self-expression and legacy. Starting businesses, working with refugees, expressing creativity through cooking, building community through food, are all part of my background.
During the partition of India, my paternal grandparents moved their family to Calcutta from what is now Bangladesh. They were refugees. While my grandfather, Sukhamoy Dasgupta, started new businesses to reestablish his family in the new city, my grandmother Bina Dasgupta, housed and fed waves of relatives in their tiny apartment until they found their footing.
I have always admired my grandfather’s ability to create something out of nothing, and his tenacity and resilience. And I’ve loved my grandmother’s creativity and self-expression through food. She loves to cook and experiment with recipes. At age 96, she still cooked (or directed someone else to cook) food to send as gifts to family members across the city and the world.
Ashoka Gupta, my maternal grandmother, worked to rehabilitate refugees after the partition of India. In her autobiography, In the Path of Service: Memories of a Changing Century, she talks about how she saw that there was work to be done, so she just did it. Till the very end, she was active, running the show from her wheelchair! From didima, I found the courage to answer the call.
So why did I start Upohar and where did I get the idea?
It is just an expression of who I am. Through it, I live my values, express my creativity and invest in my beliefs. Every day.