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Navigating the F&B Industry with a Blend of Tradition, Sustainability and Innovation: Ilvika Chandawarkar’s Journey

  • Name: Ilvika Chandawarkar
  • F&B Industry Experience:7 years
  • Favorite Alcoholic Drink: It depends on the mood. On some nights, I prefer a classic Martini or a Negroni, especially if it’s late. she says
  • Favorite Non Alcoholic Drinks: “For ready-to-drink options, I enjoy ginger-flavored beverages like ginger beer or ginger ale. If I’m making something, I love a drink called Malaka Gaspacho. It’s made with kombucha freshly squeezed tomato water, and green pepper. It’s incredibly refreshing.” she adds

Ilvika’s journey in the food and beverage (F&B) industry began in 2017, when she joined the prestigious Taj Hotels as a management trainee. Over two years, she managed Shamiana in Colaba and navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 lockdown, even living in the hotel for a year. This intense experience ignited her desire to diverge from the corporate path and explore entrepreneurship, leading her to join her family business, Malaka Spice, in 2021.

A Shift to Hospitality

Interestingly, Ilvika’s initial career aspirations were far removed from hospitality. Passionate about marine biology and mass media, she envisioned a life dedicated to research. However, a serendipitous decision to study hotel management at IHM Bombay altered her trajectory. Growing up around vibrant and experimental cuisine, with a chef mother and a business-savvy father, she found herself drawn to the culinary world, eventually choosing to work with the Taj, a brand she admired since childhood.

The Entrepreneurial Path at Malaka Spice

Joining Malaka Spice wasn’t an obvious choice for Ilvika, who initially intended to carve out her own niche. However, the opportunity to learn about standalone restaurant operations and entrepreneurship within the family business proved irresistible. Over three years, she immersed herself in various aspects of the business, from project management to brand development, ultimately spearheading the bar program to elevate Malaka Spice’s presence in Pune’s bar scene.

Integrating Ancient Wisdom: The Chiranjeev Gurukul Program

One of the unique aspects of Ilvika’s business philosophy is her involvement with Chiranjeev Gurukul, Malaka Spice’s educational wing. Rooted in the ancient Indian Vedas and the Arthashastra, this program emphasizes understanding and managing people, a crucial skill in hospitality. By adopting these philosophies, Ilvika has enhanced her ability to address team dynamics and customer interactions effectively, underscoring the importance of purpose-driven business operations .

Commitment to Sustainability

At Malaka Spice, sustainability isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a core principle that permeates their operations. The restaurant sources fresh produce from its own farm, adhering to a farm-to-table philosophy born out of necessity when key ingredients were not readily available in India. This practice not only ensures the freshest ingredients but also supports local agriculture and reduces environmental impact .

The team is dedicated to minimizing waste, evidenced by their adoption of composting practices and the elimination of plastic in favor of glass. They use cold-pressed oils for cooking, barring deep frying, to ensure the highest quality and health standards for their guests .

Social and Economic Sustainability

Sustainability at Malaka Spice also extends to economic and social dimensions. By empowering employees to become suppliers, the restaurant fosters an entrepreneurial spirit within its workforce. Long-time staff members like Dennis and Pradeep have taken on roles as suppliers, providing essential ingredients like soy milk and fresh coconuts, thus creating a mutually beneficial ecosystem .

Moreover, Malaka Spice’s commitment to sustainability is reflected in their menu practices. They prioritize local ingredients and wines, reducing the carbon footprint associated with importing goods. This focus on local produce not only supports the Indian economy but also showcases the quality of local products, challenging the notion that imported goods are superior .

CSR Initiatives and Community Impact

Ilvika’s dedication to giving back to the community is evident in Malaka Spice’s CSR initiatives. Inspired by personal tragedy, the Charity was established in 2014 to support cancer patients who cannot afford treatment. This initiative, born from the loss of Ilvika’s mother to cancer, raises funds annually to provide much-needed financial assistance for cancer care, reflecting the restaurant’s commitment to societal well-being .

Ilvika’s journey in the F&B industry is an inspiring blend of tradition, innovation, and social responsibility. Her leadership at Malaka Spice demonstrates how ancient wisdom can be seamlessly integrated into modern business practices, creating a sustainable and purpose-driven enterprise. As Ilvika continues to explore new horizons in hospitality, her story serves as a powerful reminder of the impact one can make by staying true to their values and continuously seeking growth.