Gauri Karkal, or Gauri Dempo as most of her close friends know her, comes from a well to do family. Born with a silver spoon, Gauri never took her privilege for granted and always worked hard to achieve whatever she wanted in life. This is what makes her stand apart from the rest. Gauri Karkal’s story is inspiring and will abolish all the prejudices you may have about her.
I do not know Gauri personally but I have always seen her around. For me, hers is a familiar face from the pastry shop she owns in Panaji where I would frequently go to buy cakes and pastries, and later on in the colony where we stay. I have always seen her as a person full of energy and that is the first and most important ingredient behind her journey to success.
Gauri began her journey right at the age of 19 when she was still going to college. “I was just 19 years old when my husband and I started the Pastry Cottage. I was studying then and we were just engaged,” said Gauri adding that back then the only famous pastry shop in the town was Pasteleria which belonged to Hotel Mandovi.
Gauri and Suhan’s Pastry Cottage ushered in a revolution in the segment of cakes and pastries, with several new product introductions like Mexican Tikka Role and Chicken Roll which didn’t exist in the market then. According to her, Goa was oblivious to such food items. “I knew the need of the hour as I had travelled extensively and seen what people needed. So when my husband and I decided to set up our first venture I knew exactly what I was going to do with it,” she said, adding that “I can say that today we have become a role model because a lot of our ideas have been copied and practised at various outlets.”
When I asked Gauri about her background in the food processing industry, she said neither of them belonged to that field. “My husband did a course in Hotel Management for a couple of years then moved to interior designing,” she said. According to Gauri, both she and her husband are avid food lovers. “My husband is a voracious reader due to which he keeps getting different ideas and that helps us a lot in the initial stage of our business setup. We learned the tricks of the trade and from there on, he handled the production while I handled the sales and marketing section,’ she averred.
Gauri carries the legacy of Dempos, one of the biggest business conglomerates in the state of Goa. But you will be surprised to know that she never made use of her name and legacy while nurturing her business. “I started my business from scratch and have never used the name of my family to influence my business activities. The Legacy of Dempos is zero in my business. I am very proud of my husband that he always supported me in all my decisions and we never took a single penny from our parents to start the business.”
According to Gauri, her parents offered her financial help, just like any other parent would. But she denied to take anything and instead applied for a loan to take up the small place in Panaji in the year 1994 to start her brainchild the “Pastry Cottage”. “I started the business from scratch, without any financial help from my family. It was a basic small place. I would finish my college and work at the shop,” said Gauri.
When Gauri started the Pastry Cottage with her Husband Suhan Karkal, some people had built hype by saying ‘Dempo’s daughter behind the counter’. “But one person who supported me in this was my father. He would always encourage me to go ahead and do it; saying that I have started small but one day I will make it a huge success. Today his words ring true and Pastry Cottage is a brand that everyone knows about.”
Another challenge Gauri faced from society was regarding her legacy of Dempos. When people walked inside the shop they would call it Dempo’s Shop and Gauri would explain that she is the only Dempo there who has now become Karkal so there is no legacy of Dempos behind her. “I would not forget the encouragement and moral support that my father gave me throughout my journey. Even when people used to tell him that his daughter is running a small shop he used to reply saying “I am proud of my daughter. That is the way to work”. According to Gauri, her husband Suhan has been strong support; without him, she would not have been able to achieve what she has today.
The major challenge that women face in our society is taking over the responsibility of a family and career together. Gauri’s situation is no different. She managed work along with her duties towards her family simultaneously. “For women, it’s very important to set priorities in life. You need to give the right time, to each particular thing. I got married in 1998 and had my first child in 2001. I had to take care of my business and my baby too,” said Gauri adding that she is very lucky to have very understanding in-laws who supported her throughout her endeavours.
“Due to the full support of my in-laws, I could work at my own leisure. When a child comes, it becomes the priority in a woman’s life which she cannot neglect. There were times when I had to juggle between my work and my kid. Today both the kids are grown up and can take care of themselves, but back then I had a tough time managing.”
Gauri’s social life also got affected due to her priorities and according to her, she is not a party animal and preferred to spend time with family instead. “To be upfront and frank, I do not really like to go party. I have a very different lifestyle than what people may think. I start my day at 6:30 in the morning to go for a jog; anything that comes in the way of this routine is a big no. Fortunately, my husband also does not like to party so it works perfectly. Even if we do go out on a Saturday night, by 11 pm we are back and in bed. On regular days we finish the day by 10 pm.”
According to Gauri, in today’s world women have an equal opportunity as compared to men, be it in education or job prospect. Earlier it was different.
“As I said before, we need to prioritize our work, and if you are blessed like me to have an amazing family, amazing in-laws and a lovely husband then it gets easy. But prioritizing your self is the most important thing to do. When people ask me what is your strength, I say that strength is in being a woman because the amount of multi-tasking we do is immense, be it taking care of the family or managing little things at home.
Meanwhile, men can go bizarre. I feel amused about how women handle things so beautifully; I feel blessed to be a woman. If I was to be born again I would want to be born a woman.”