Pinky Lilani OBE is a food guru, motivational speaker and founder of ‘The Asian Women of Achievement Awards’, ‘The Women of the Future Awards’, ‘The Ambassadors’ Programme’ and ‘The Global Empowerment Award’. Indian cookery specialist and owner of Spice Magic Ltd, she has advised supermarkets, written cook books and runs team building days for major corporations based around Indian food. She is patron of several charities and was named as one of Britain’s 100 most entrepreneurial women, one of the 30 most influential Muslim women and appears on the BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour Power List.
“…I think succeeding in any business is about passion and clarity of purpose. I am never fazed by the gender issue…”
Pinky, please can you tell us about your career to date and what made you want to work in the food industry?
I was a really late starter – my first job was teaching cookery to adults and then because one of my pupils was in the food manufacturing business she invited me to do some consulting. So, I landed up in the food business by default.
You’re extremely active in the entrepreneurship space. Please can you tell us about your various businesses?
I run team building days combing leadership development with Indian cookery. I sell my books and spice boxes. I run the awards and the subsidiary programmes as a business now. I am also on the speaker’s circuit with my wok.
To what extent is the food industry male dominated and how have you managed to succeed?
I think succeeding in any business is about passion and clarity of purpose. I am never fazed by the gender issue.
You’ve set up a number of awards to celebrate the achievements of women across all sectors. Why was this so important to you and how did you go about it?
Recognising achievement and giving women a platform is pivotal to success. I have been running the awards for 18 years and I am still so moved when people come back and tell me how the awards changed their lives. Kindness and collaboration has been the key to making the programmes work.
The nominations for the 2017 Asian Women of Achievement Awards are now open. Please can you tell us about the categories and what the judges are looking for?
We are looking for people making a difference, for excellence, for role models, for inspiring stories. Perhaps people who have battled against the odds to get there. They will all become ambassadors for the programme. We have nine categories and they range from entrepreneurship and business to community spirit.
Given the challenges for all women in the workplace, such as the gender pay gap, what additional challenges to BAME women face and how can these be minimised?
I think a lot of women lack self-belief, sometimes even more so for BAME women. Networks and support systems can add a lot of value and help women succeed. Finding a champion is also important.
What is your advice to BAME women about how to use their cultural heritage to their advantage?
Being yourself is so important. Even though the culture here may be different to the one we grew up in, we should use the best of our cultural heritage and incorporate it into our daily lives. I love entertaining people, very much something I saw my parents do all the time. I ask people I hardly know to come over – sometimes they are surprised! I also hold business meetings at home and serve lunch. Having people home is part of my culture.
What is coming up next for you and the awards?