To empower others, one needs to empower themselves first and the journey of empowerment begins with the self-realisation. The story of Soyara is one such journey of early self-realisation that lead to her self-empowerment as well as the empowerment of others. Today Soyara runs two outlets in the Nariman Point of Goa with the same zeal she had almost two decades back. She not only climbed the ladder of success but she also helped many other women throughout her journey by empowering their lives. The story of Soyara is filled with challenges and how she tackled each of them as she progressed.
Soyara Mohite, born in a farmer’s family in Baramati, Maharashtra, came down to Goa after getting married to be with her husband who was settled in Goa. ”After living here for a short while, I realised that life was slightly slower here compared to Maharashtra and even the newspaper would reach us at 9 am,” she said adding that she started feeling bored staying at home as her husband would go to the office in the morning and come back in the evening and she had literally nothing to do. “At this point, I took a decision of getting involved in some sort of activity to keep myself busy and fresh through the day.”
“I also observed one more thing which is different from Maharashtra, and that is the food habits. People here prefer to eat rice over the chapati or bhakri as we call it in Pune. This gave me an idea to start a venture called Nisha’s Place, where I would provide lunch to the school going kids at Green Rosary, Dona Paula,” said Soyara adding that she did not have any business in mind but did it to keep herself busy. “The response was very cold initially but soon she started getting the response from the parents who asked her if she could prepare the lunch for their kids as they were busy in their work, which she obliged gladly. “Two parents from a school approached me asking if I could prepare lunches for their kids as they themselves were busy with their work and I had absolutely no issues as I didn’t have the idea of business in mind.”
At that time her son was also in the same school as those two kids that made Soyara’s job much easier. “I started preparing the lunch for three kids and slowly other students began observing and in time, that curiosity slowly lead to the tremendous demand for food and this way my business started taking shape,” she said. Soon more schools added to her list of the business and the journey began. But things do not work always the way we plan and if it did life would be so simple. Soon Soyara’s business started picking up some of the parents started raising the issue. “I had to fight a lot to maintain the position but soon I realised that it’s not worth swimming against the current and decided to give up after the end of the academic year,” she averred.
This was the first setback for Soyara in her first venture. It is very difficult as women to shoulder the responsibility of running the business from scratch and later shouldering the responsibility of its failure. “My venture ended prematurely and I had nowhere to go and hence I decided to join my husband in his office and help him in his business,” said Soyara. She started taking care of filing work and other trivial tasks at her husband’s office. But again Soyara was not getting any job satisfaction as she always wanted to do something challenging and filing work was taking her nowhere. “During that time the construction of Dempo Tower was in progress at Patto and there was a shop right on the corner of the building which caught my attention and from here my second journey began,” she added.
Soyara had an experience of serving food to students and now she saw another bigger opportunity: the office goers. Patto was developing rapidly with several big buildings taking shape and so were the number of offices which created a huge demand for the food outlet as Patto had not many outlets then. “In the year 2002, I decided to take up the 10 square meter corner shop in the Dempo Tower Building to start my new venture “Soyara’s”. The rent was RS18,000 for the shop of just 10 SqMts, but I was very positive and confident about the venture I was heading into and hence there was no second thought about that,” she said.
Soyara’s new venture was launched at Patto with just two menu items: biryani and chicken roll, as most office-goers were looking for snacks and lunch during the day and these two items could satisfy that. “Slowly the demand for tea and coffee started coming in from regular office goers as during those days there were no tea snack outlets on the Patto,” she said. To complete the demand, Soyara installed a tea and coffee vending machine but people were dissatisfied with the taste. “I decided to start making a stronger, tastier and better tea that people would not be able to resist,” she added.
Soyara’s point became famous with time. “Initially, I was only providing food parcels as there was no place to sit and eat in that small shop, but soon demand started growing and people started eating right there and with time, crowds started growing,” said Soyara. Some people won’t agree with eating while standing on the side of the shop and some would say “Why stand and eat? Let’s go elsewhere” but this didn’t stop me and I wasn’t demotivated as such and I kept on with what I was doing,” she added.
Soyara’s venture was essentially like running a start-up: there was a risk but there was also result in the same. Slowly the news about the food spread around the entirety of Patto, and the people would literally come to the peace, order, and eventually stand and eat the food. “This was when I realised that the product that we were providing to the customer was really working and the people loved the same.” As time went demand started growing for the food but that came with another challenge. Staff had to leave at 5 pm sharp as there were no regular and late buses then. “5 pm was the last bus and staff had to leave, I could not change the situation so I began preparing the food, served people myself and clean the utensils too. There is a thrill on its own to be doing all these things by yourself,” said Soyara.
The success became the way of life for Soyara and there was nothing that could stop her from doing what she wanted to do. But success never went into her head and she kept doing her work just the way she used to when she just began the business. Soyara did not neglect her duties at home while doing a successful business. She continued to give time to her husband, her two kids and her in-laws. ”There’s other stuff at home that I need to look into as well and hence initially I didn’t think of expanding my business by adding more outlets though I would have if I wanted, the expansion would have cost me by giving up on my responsibilities at home that would have only resulted into complete failure,” She narrated.
Today Soyara has her daughter Samveda working with her and that helped her set up another bigger and better outlet at Patto. “My daughter Samveda currently handles the second restaurant, whereas I handle the first one,” she said. Soyara has many expansion plans in the future, at the age of 50 she possesses the same enthusiasm that she had twenty years back when she started her first venture in Goa. “I have an interest in food packaging and I was looking to enter the field of packaged lunches. Goa being a big tourism spot, there is a lot of demand for the resonant charged packaged food,” said Soyara adding that “Not everyone can indulge in a 5-star meal all the time, so to help tackle this I am looking to provide them with quality, quantity and affordable meal packages. This plan is currently in the works as of now.”
Soyara’s journey is not for only self-empowerment but she also helped many women with no support to stand on their own feet by providing them with jobs. Almost 100% of the staff at Soyara’s are women employees. She also encourages them to save at least 500 rupees every month which will help them with future security. “I have paid off all the money I had taken from my husband during the period of my struggle with the business. I believe that along with me, my staff should also have their own growth. There a lot of people from various backgrounds of life working with us here, some even come from very poor backgrounds, but according to me everyone gets a chance at life and there should not be any difference in the same.”
Soyara believes that every woman should become self-sufficient and always keep herself busy with some work. “I believe that every woman should indulge in some work or business of their own liking at least once in their lives as. There may be some friction in the start at home, but staying adamant and being confident is the key.”