Sumanta Kar is the Secretary General, SOS Children’s Villages of India, the largest self-implementing child care NGO in the country, providing end-to-end group foster care for children without parental care. Mr Kar, who has over 30 years of experience in the field of alternative care, shared his insights on child welfare in India with The Daily Guardian, ahead of the World Day of Social Justice on 20 February.
Q: The deepening social injustice seems to be becoming one of the principal characteristics of the contemporary world. How do you think this is affecting the welfare of children?
A: The term social injustice brings up many words to the mind: discrimination, disparity, inequity, inequality and many other such.
Social injustice deeply impacts the roots of society, stunting holistic progress and growth. It targets the vulnerable, and this could include societies, communities, caregivers and children. It goes without saying that since children are the future of the world, social injustice and indifference can stunt their wholesome and holistic growth, impacting the future of humanity, as a whole.
Q: How does an open and welcoming society, where children feel integrated, help?
A: A society that understands the challenges that vulnerable sections of society face, and works towards their upliftment, serves as a catalysis for change positive and sustainable change. Ensuring this is not just the responsibility of Governments and States, but also of citizens. If each one of us is determined to serve as an Ambassador of Change, at any level, with whatever resources one can muster, then a Domino Effect can be ensured. Such a society can ensure the empowerment and subsequent equality for all its members, slowly yet gradually. This, of course, applies to the empowerment of children too.
Q: How do identity and protection issues shape their daily lives and experience of social justice?
A: Children are aware of different social and economic identities. This reminder is almost consistent and omnipresent. When the identities are liberating, children/individuals are empowered. However, when their identities stem out of discrimination, it stunts their overall growth and development, impacting them negatively. Child safeguarding and protection are other important challenges that demand urgent and consistent addressing.
Q: Does social injustice also apply to those children who are specially abled or are parentless?
A: Social injustice can apply to anyone, more so to those who are vulnerable; this also includes parentless or specially abled children. Being vulnerable makes them more susceptible to denial of opportunities, and vice versa – a vicious circle. For the vulnerable, it is important that social injustice is curtailed as much as possible through generation of awareness, enhancement of equality and empowerment that enables the solutions offered to be sustainable.
Q: Do you have any specific programmes at SOSCVI that empower especially abled children?
A: One of our Basket of Care Solutions focusses on children with special needs. We enable especially abled children without parental care to live a normal life, through a uniquely designed Children’s Village, at Khajuri Kalan, which is equipped with infrastructure for medical care and training. Children and youth with special abilities, live and grow in a loving home that is watched over by trained Mothers and support staff ensuring personalised care and training for each child. Imparting care, vocational skills, exposure to creative fields and sports help bring out the best in the children.
Q: Share your insight on ways SOSCVI helps prevent social injustice.
A: For over five decades, SOS Children’s Villages of India continues to provide children without parental care or at the risk of losing it, a value chain of quality care services that goes beyond childcare alone, ensuring comprehensive child development. Our customized care interventions such as Family Like Care, Family Strengthening, Kinship Care, Short Stay Homes, Foster Care, Education & Youth Skilling, Emergency Childcare and Special Needs Childcare are aimed at transforming lives and making children into self-reliant and contributing members of society. We empower vulnerable families in communities to become financially independent, thereby enabling them to create safe and nurturing spaces for children under their care.
Q: Do children being taken care under the Family like Care programme face any discrimination in schools or other institutions for being parentless? How do you help them with its effect on their mental health?
A: The Family Like Care programme, as the name suggests, is a model that provides care, love and security to parentless or abandoned children with the support of a SOS Mother and Family. The SOS Mother provides unconditional love, ensuring a long-term relationship that continues even after a child becomes self-sufficient. There is no question of discrimination, as the presence of a Mother, siblings, and, hence, family are all present ensuring that no gaps are left in the wholesome development of the child. Integration in society is enabled via wholesome childcare and development, including education and skilling.
Q: Why can Kinship Care and Family Strengthening programmes be citied as programmes aimed at securing child welfare?
A: Both programmes are part of our Basket of Care Solutions. The Family Strengthening Programme is a community based outreach approach, which is focussed on empowering vulnerable families and communities so that they can adequately care for their children. Children belonging to vulnerable families and communities are at a risk of being abandoned and, therefore, through the programme, the focus is to prevent children from losing parental care. We support families / individuals in generating sustainable income, while building their capacity to ensure that children are provided with an environment where they are well cared for and their basic rights to education, skilling, health and nutrition are fulfilled. The Kinship Care Programme, introduced in 2017, ensures that children without parental care grow up with minimal disruption to their educational, cultural and social lives. Under this initiative, children who have lost their biological parents are cared for by their extended families or relatives. Our interventions safeguard the right of every parentless child to grow up in a familiar environment by strengthening the capability and income of the extended biological families, so that they can provide proper care and education, till the child attains adulthood. Both programmes address different scenarios and challenges. It is the quality of care in different care settings that enables the child to grow and develop to his/her own full potential.
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Bihar, UNICEF learn Delhi model to boost child protection
The Government of Bihar is committed to strengthening its child protection mechanisms and towards this; it is open to learning the good practices in other states. A delegation of nine child protection functionaries that include members of the Child Welfare Committee, District Child Protection Unit, State Child Protection Society, Social Welfare Department, and Child Protection Officer from UNICEF Bihar visited Delhi over 3 days (18-21 May 2022). The learning visit was facilitated by Delhi-based NGO, Udayan Care which runs Udayan Ghars, a unique model of child and youth care with aftercare being integrated into its design and implementation.
During the visit, the delegates were given exposure to the Udayan Ghar unique model, they also visited the aftercare homes for boys and girls, being managed by the Govt of Delhi and had an interaction with the officers of the Delhi government’s State Child Protection Society. The delegates also met the key officials at institutes such as Aurobindo Ashram and GMR, which provides skilling and employability opportunities to the youth.
Aftercare is a critical yet unaddressed area of child protection in India. This is evident from the findings of the “Beyond 18” research study that was conducted by Udayan Care in 2019. There is enough evidence globally and nationally that children growing up in care institutions are not adequately prepared to leave care and are not ready for independent living. Their transition planning and training, during their last years in the Child Care Institutions (CCIs), are often lacking due to the lack of knowledge of the provisions in the existing juvenile laws as well as skills in addressing transition requirements of youth leaving care among child protection functionaries. Often children have turned away on turning 18 without guidance and support or continue to extend their stay in such institutions without any rehabilitation plan. Children nearing adulthood have expressed their feelings by saying, “I felt like a plant being uprooted” to “it’s my life but for social workers, it’s just their job”.
Udayan Care has been working to change the way we care for our children and ensure that they receive continued support and their transition from childcare institutions to independent living is smooth and such young people, also known as care leavers, feel they have a strong ecosystem around them till they get reintegrated as contributing citizens of society. Towards this, it is being supported by UNICEF to work closely in partnership with the Government of Bihar to improve the Aftercare work in the state.
Since 2019, several child protection functionaries have been trained in transition planning and aftercare and have enhanced their skills in the rehabilitation of such youth. Individual Care Plans (ICP), assessments of disability, mapping of the competencies, skills, and interests of children and youth, and life skills workshops have been imparted in two districts, Patna and Gaya. Stitching centres have been opened in the CCIs in Patna and Gaya to provide skilling to children and they have been engaged in learning several arts and crafts that enhance their skills. Partnerships with Upendra Maharathi Anusandhan Sansthan (UMAS) institute and Lemon Tree Hotel in Patna have led to young persons being placed for jobs.
It is hoped that this interaction will be mutually beneficial for officers of both states and will reinforce their conviction to work with children and youth in more non-institutional approaches.
WHY IMMIGRANTS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BECOME ENTREPRENEURS
What do Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jan Koum, Sergey Brin, Arianna Huffington, and Elon Musk have in common? They all are immigrants who despite cultural differences and language barriers, succeeded and established their names in a foreign land.
Such success stories lay the foundation of the idea that you too can similarly succeed. Recent trends suggest that in the United States, immigrants are almost twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as U.S.-born citizens. Out of the total 44.9 million immigrants in the U.S., which is 13 percent of the total population, more than 12 million people are entrepreneurs. This shows that immigrants not only have higher chances of success but, essentially, are driven to take the risk.
In past decades, the rise in immigrant contributions to entrepreneurship in such developed nations is unprecedented. There are multiple reasons for this change. This includes the fact that their talents and skills are appreciated and recognized more in foreign countries compared to their own. Developed countries also serve as a solid platform for globalized industries and societies, acting as a meeting point for people of varied cultural backgrounds and migrant origins. The past two decades have witnessed the highest number of migrants living thousands of miles away from their homes, from 173 million in 2000 to 281 million in 2020. Furthermore, about one-fourth of all technology companies or startups established in the U.S. or Canada have at least one founder who is an immigrant.
THE GROWING CONSCIOUSNESS
Access to world-class education, ease of doing business, advanced infrastructure, global mobility, and a better quality of life has always been the key reasons behind immigration. The Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty brought by it have further made people realize the importance of living in a safe and economically stable country.
Countries such as the U.S., Canada, the U.K, and the EU are among the most popular destinations for immigrant entrepreneurs. A recent study by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs study showed that two-thirds of the world’s immigrant population is concentrated in 20 countries.
CHANGING IMMIGRATION LANDSCAPE
Immigrant entrepreneurs looking for a permanent residency in Canada do so through three critical pathways – Canada Startup Visa, Intra-Company Transfer (C-11) visa, and Canada Provincial Entrepreneur Visa.
The U.S. offers an E-2 visa that allows foreign nationals to invest and carry out business activities in America. Though it is important to note that Indians cannot directly apply for the E-2 visa. They first have to obtain Grenada Citizenship by doing an investment to be eligible for the route. Further, the EB-5 Program permits the applicants to apply for US Green Card via investment.
The current Biden administration considered more welcoming towards immigrants than the Trump administration, has introduced the International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) Programme. The Program will allow DHS to exercise its parole authority and issue a temporary visa to foreign entrepreneurs coming to the United States to launch innovative startups with solid job-creation potential.
Similarly, the EU Golden Visa Programs have also been around for less than a decade and doing well in attracting foreign nationals seeking to invest in Europe. Europe Startups and Entrepreneur Visa programs are making a significant impact on foreign nationals, whether they are just looking for a business expansion or have a business idea.
Golden Visa programs also have a lower minimum investment amount than other countries.
The United Kingdom is also changing its immigration landscape by inviting more foreign entrepreneurs in the post-Brexit era. It may present more opportunities in the coming times for Indians planning to relocate to the United Kingdom.
Australia is also attracting immigrant entrepreneurs through investment programs like the Business Innovation and Investment Programme, Global Talent Programme, and Employer-Sponsored Programme.
THE BOTTOM LINE
One of the most compelling reasons for these entrepreneurs’ rise in developed nations is their Cross-Culture experience. It helps them identify better business opportunities and draft competitive business plans. Their various businesses and cultural expertise help them launch new products, be more creative, offer better services, and prioritize customer preferences. The exposure also allows them to efficiently transfer their knowledge related to customer issues. Many successful immigrant entrepreneurs show similar traits.
The author is President and Founder-Abhinav Immigration Services Private Limited
HOW THIS BRAND OFFERS ONE-STOP SHOP SOLUTION FOR CLEAN BEAUTY PRODUCTS
In an interaction with The Daily Guardian Review, Naina Ruhail, CIO & Co-founder, Vanity Wagon, shares that they are aligned to offering the best in class to their consumers. As of 2022, they have launched their scratch-built mobile native app, thus making shopping seamless and more convenient for users.
Q: How has your journey been so far as an entrepreneur? What compelled you to get into the clean beauty space?
A: So far, my journey as an entrepreneur has been that of learning and evolution. At every step, the immense response that the brand has received from its consumers has helped us understand the purchasing outlook of consumers much better along with consumer preference for brands & specific ingredients.
The idea of a clean beauty marketplace was conceived in 2017, a year before the actual work started. It stemmed from my learning’s of the Clean Beauty Industry in the UK and the exponential growth the clean beauty industry was experiencing. With the rapid growth in the Clean Beauty space in India as well, existing e-tailers were unable to offer the right push to these new generation beauty brands and that created a void, where the number of brands and products in the space continued to grow but they didn’t capture relevant market share. Indian Clean Beauty Market was in a nascent stage with no clear market leader for such products and that’s when Vanity Wagon was born.
Q: Vanity Wagon is the first-ever clean beauty marketplace. What challenges did you face setting up this marketplace? How has Covid-19 impacted the business? What are your strategies to navigate through this and what’s working best for you?
A: Challenges come in all shapes and sizes, be it getting the right resources, partnering with suitable brands, or something as simple as building customer trust. From building a stable high performing team to also streamlining our marketing systems, Vanity has gone through its fair share of challenges. One of the toughest challenges is to make customers understand Clean Beauty and convince them to switch to healthier and safer alternatives and also that every product they purchase is genuine and directly sourced from brands. This is due to the influx of duplicate products online, on several top portals too. Having said that, with the right kind of content, information, and persistence, we have aimed for and are on a continuous path upwards.
In the last couple of years, a lot of B2C buyers and sellers have gone digital colossally. Even though the brands and business owners are trying to eke out, Vanity Wagon- India’s first and largest direct-to-consumer e-commerce clean beauty marketplace, proved relatively resilient. With the safety of shopping in the comfort of one’s home, the online retail industry has seen multi-fold growth in the last couple of years, especially during the pandemic, the brand withstood the storm and came out stronger with an ever-growing team and ever-evolving strategies to cater the consumer better through experiential marketing. Challenges came in the form of, disruption of the supply chain (upstream mostly) and also managing a company that thrives on its people through work-from-home modules. But thankfully it is a young and resilient team that helped us evolve and adapt to situations faster.
Q: What is the future for clean beauty in India? What are your thoughts on the evolving sustainability beauty trend in India?
A: Consumers, these days, are taking a much closer look at what they put in and on their bodies which has pushed the brands to remove perceived harmful ingredients from their products. This beauty trend is seeing elevated growth rates over conventional beauty. Looking ahead, we are expecting more brands to become plastic neutral, vegan, and cruelty-free to make them more sustainable and eco-conscious. We see a skyrocketing increase in online search terms and the popularity of sustainable beauty. Cruelty-Free has also been driving the conversation and has immense gains during past years. Hence, it is safe to say that the clean beauty trend is more than skin deep.
Q: How are you planning to expand yourselves? Where do you see yourselves in the next 5 years?
A: The 5-years horizon for Vanity Wagon should put us in contention as one of the leading beauty marketplaces in India and APAC. We have already started our operations in Singapore. The next 2 years should see us covering 2 more major destinations in APAC and 2 in the Middle East. Further, once our base is solidified in these regions, we would look to launch in the European and American Markets.
We are also targeting to open offline stores in the next few years and strategically acquire 10-15 brands by 2024.
At Vanity Wagon, we are aligned to offering the best in class to our consumers. As of 2022, we have launched our scratch-built mobile native app, thus making shopping seamless and more convenient for users. Further, we are in motion of developing an AI engine that enables users to digitally try and understand products, the same should be deployed by late 2022.
Q: What is the skin care regime you follow in your daily routine? Any tips or quick beauty hacks you would like to share?
A: For me, less is more. I believe a skincare routine should be minimal yet effective. Instead of incorporating a wide range of products and steps to skincare, I stick to the basics to keep my skin healthy. Apart from a daily CTM routine, serums and sunscreens are what I cannot do without.
Workforce diversity: A key to improve productivity
A diverse workforce helps an organization bring more creativity and innovations. Diversity practice is not only a leveller. It is also an immense possibility for an organization’s growth
“Diversity” is about embracing the full range of differences that make each unique. Much of the discussion in the public sphere often revolves around gender diversity but as you can see from the graphic below, it is about so much more than that. Beyond the physical, it is also about embracing cognitive, occupational, values, relational and societal aspects of humans as individual beings. It’s pointless to have a diverse workforce without fully including and maximising such diversity. Here are some ways diversity will make your business a better one.
Teams of mixed gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, and work styles are more representative of the customers that companies serve. They offer a variety of viewpoints, they have a wider range of experiences and they produce more innovation. Simply put: A diverse workplace can capture a greater share of the consumer market.
In an increasingly global economy, where the best companies hire only the best people, it makes logical business sense to hire from the widest pool of talent. Access to the largest and most diverse set of candidates eventually makes for a truly qualified workforce — talent is borderless, color, and gender-blind!
Be aware that your customers are watching and acting with their wallets. With social media and an active citizenry, businesses are being held accountable for their every action. To be a responsible business, actions speak far louder than words.
4. EMPLOYER BRANDING
Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is a key talent attraction and retention strategy. In today’s intense battle for talent, having a strong employer branding proposition is key to business success. Not only does it make your company more attractive to work for, but a diverse and inclusive workforce can also help reduce costly employee turnovers.
At the basic level, build awareness and consciousness about how everyone is different and celebrate that individuality. Diversity education and bias training could be part of onboarding. The next step up would be to have action and alignment around diversity and inclusion policies. Implement formal processes, systems, and policies around diversity and inclusion and keep everyone (all ranks and levels) accountable. Simple examples include allowing flexible schedules for parents.
The author Senior Managing Director, Michael Page India & Thailand
BATTERY SWAPPING: SOLUTION FOR EV BATTERY CHARGING PROBLEM
Battery swapping replaces depleted batteries with freshly charged ones at swap stations
Electric vehicles are becoming more prominent in today’s time, especially with the increasing use case in commercial vehicle space, Many Industry manufacturers and solution providers are working on the measures to make electric vehicles more affordable, easy to charge, and economical to operate. One such technology that gives all these benefits to fleet operators is battery swapping. A battery swapping technology, as the name suggests, is a method where a user can swap a battery to keep the vehicle running.
A swapping station that is being installed at any particular location comprises multiple batteries getting charged constantly. An EV user can locate a swapping station, replace the depleting battery with a charged one, put the empty battery on charge, and can go to work. Battery Swapping technology has opened wide opportunities for fleet owners who want to keep their vehicles running without worrying about charging time.
Under battery swapping, EV users replace the discharged batteries with charged ones at the swap stations. It helps to solve the problem of setting up charging stations and also reduces the range anxiety of drivers. Apart from this, battery leasing can help EV consumers to save on the cost of purchasing a battery. It consumes minimum time and requires minimum infrastructure to charge at a battery station which could take hours.
According to the research by 2030, more than 12 million tonnes of lithium-ion batteries are likely to retire. It needs raw materials such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt that have an environmental and human impact. At the end of their lives, batteries also create a lot of electronic waste. Many industry players are working on how to discard dead batteries and extract valuable metals at scale to keep materials in circulation and reduce reliance on mining. We should work on a better solution to keep the battery in use for longer in alternative sectors.
Battery cost currently constitutes about 40-70 percent of the upfront cost for an electric vehicle. If these batteries are decoupled and sold separately, it can help to shift the upfront cost to the energy operator’s network that is shifting the cost of ownership to operations. Battery swapping and interoperability can play a vital role in this as it helps to build the network of the supply chain to boost EV adoption, which in turn will impact faster transition.
Modern mobility solutions have two agendas such as technology transition and mobility as a function. We need an aggressive target with a proper roadmap for battery swapping that will help to change this ecosystem.
Use standard battery technology: Standard battery design, such as pack size, cavity, electric power control unit, and output performance per unit, will make battery switching easier. These innovations serve as catalysts for achieving economies of scale more quickly.
Recycling of EV Batteries: Battery recycling is a huge opportunity for India. Batteries that are being swapped can be built with a recycling-friendly design to enable ease of repurposing. The manufacturing and then recycling of the batteries of these EVs with recycled materials will eliminate sourcing that will positively impact the unit cost of vehicles.
Battery-as-a-service (BaaS): Battery needs to be treated as a service segment like liquefied petroleum gas, or other functional batteries. It is necessary to extend the Incentives to battery-unit to subsidise per-kilometre operations rather than the purchase cost. The gross-cost financing models, along with the standard operating procedure for energy operators can help to explore the financially viable solutions.
The subscription model of Battery Swapping: BaaS can be available to users at a subscription model to gain the trust of the users and to boost confidence in availability.
Building co-reliance: It is important to identify the value-chain propositionsfor users, drivers, energy operators, urban local bodies, and financing institutions in the swapping of EV batteries. Many start-ups and big EV manufacturers should also work on the inventory of previous existing modes, the infrastructure of land, Space for parking, spaces for charging infrastructure, and EO network in cities.
To deploy the intelligent transport systems technology: Using and promoting the use of digital applications that use databases to aid in the human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interface, which helps to increase EV and battery swapping station usage, traction, and ensure efficient operations, safety detection, seamless delivery, and improved convenience in the EV ecosystem.
Usage and adoption of electric vehicles have been growing at a rapid pace globally. According to the industry standards, an EV is costlier than its ICE counterpart and at least half the cost is from the battery pack. Many manufacturers are offering batteries separately from a vehicle, reducing the cost. In that case, a fleet owner can buy vehicles without batteries and utilize battery swapping to power their vehicles, reducing the initial cost.
One of the major reasons that create a hindrance to buying EVs is the range anxiety and the fear of the battery getting empty without finding a charging station. Compared to petrol or diesel vehicles, EV charging facilities are hard to come by, which raises range anxiety even more, especially when travelling long distances. One or two charging stations are available; the charging process is similar to charging mobile batteries. The best and fastest charger will replenish 80 percent of the battery in almost an hour, that’s quite long considering fuel pumps can fill up a tank in 5 min. In the case of a swapping station, one can simply locate a station and go and replace the empty battery with a new one.
Our government is also attempting to address this issue by finalising the incentives under the battery switching program. The policy mainly targets the battery swap services for three-wheeled auto-rickshaws and two-wheelers such as electric scooters and motorcycles. Under the policy, EV consumers will get incentives of up to 20 percent on the subscription or lease cost of the battery. Technologies that are being used for battery swapping have not yet been popular in India and charging is preferred. Swapping of batteries is a very good alternative to fuelling automobiles in the post-transition phase.
Swappable batteries can not only be compact but eliminate anxiety about range and availability. But it will also mirror the existing network of fuelling stations to facilitate seamless operations. The investment from many private sectors can be leveraged for operations of the supply chain networks and sustenance of energy operators. The battery swapping and network of energy operators becomes a service segment. The availability and connectivity to this energy infrastructure are critical to the operation of these exchanging stations. So, it is most important to establish sustainable business models that can be leveraged to shift this upfront cost to the cost of operating an EV.
The author is Founder & CEO of eBikeGo, India’s largest smart electric two-wheeler mobility platform.
‘MORE FOR FOOD CAMPAIGN WILL HELP INDIA EXPLORE FOOD FROM EU COUNTRIES’
Chef Ajay Chopra is the face of European Union’s ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India. The ‘More Than Food’ campaign is aimed at increasing awareness in India about the food and beverages from the 27 EU Member States through a series of social media, B2B activities, and promotions by highlighting their safety, quality, authenticity, sustainability, and diversity.
In this interview he talks about the vision behind the ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India, authenticity and safety of European Union food ingredients, and the need to take European food to the common Indian household, among other things.
Q. What’s the vision behind the ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India? Also tell us about your association with the European Union as well as the campaign.
A. I am extremely honoured and delighted to be a part of European Union’s More Than Food campaign in India, as their campaign ambassador. Through this campaign, the European Union and I want to help the Indian audience explore the diverse and rich nature of ingredients and agricultural products from its 27 Member States. It aims to create a range of culinary experiences, bringing alive applications of European food and beverages in Indian cuisine. Every product reflects the commitment of European agricultural producers to offer authentic, safe, quality and sustainable products, from farm to fork. All of this is done in accordance with the EU’s high standards of production, processing, and packaging, following robust regulations with utmost transparency, ensuring that each agricultural product is fully traceable, and its origin can be identified at any stage of production or distribution.
Q. As the ambassador for ‘More Than Food› campaign in India, how do you look at the prospects of bringing the culinary experiences to India with this campaign?
A. The idea of this campaign is to create a range of culinary experiences and bring alive applications of European food and beverages in Indian cuisine. The Indian palette is used to a myriad of tastes and with this campaign, we want to bring to the audience a collection of flavours, full of character and history and will give the audience a chance to explore these rich ingredients.
Q. In a country as diverse as India the Food habits vary greatly from place to place. How authentic, safe, and sustainable European Union food ingredients are for Indian consumption?
A. Agricultural products from the European Union are a lot more than just food and drinks. They are a collection of flavours that are bursting with characters, tracing back to its origin. Each ingredient has a unique story to share, which is a heritage that has been passed down through generations. The products are built around quality and tradition, with an emphasis on genuine and unique ingredients that are subject to rigorous regulations at every stage of their production, processing and packaging.
Each EU country or region has employed ancient techniques to produce food and drinks that reflect local weather, cultures, and values. The food and drinks of the EU are produced, processed, and marketed in adherence to comprehensive standards for plant health, animal welfare and environment protection, which are among the strictest in the world.
The EU´s Farm to Fork Strategy aims to make food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly. Sustainably produced EU products are the output of sustainable farming practices and leading innovations in agriculture and food science, and they help preserve the ecosystems and thus are a step forward to ensuring the planet’s health for us all.
Personally, I feel that the ingredients are a treat to work with. To share a personal experience with you, I used Blue Cheese from Denmark and created this beautiful concoction with fried garlic and stuffed them in a naan (Indian bread) and created these gorgeous naan pockets with creamy blue cheese coupled with the sharp flavour and crunch of the garlic. This was just one of the most beautiful dishes I have created.
Q. How keen are you in taking European food to the common Indian household?
A. The entire idea of the More Than Food campaign is to take European food into the Indian kitchen. As the ambassador of the campaign, I am really looking forward to educating the Indian audience of the authenticity, quality and safety of European ingredients. The options of what you can make using these ingredients are endless and over the next few months of my association with the European Union, I will keep my audience engaged and take them through a journey where they understand the different nuances of European food.
Q. What would be your recommended delicacies/preparations to someone uninitiated to European cuisine?
A. I think the best way to start and get acquainted is to prepare a cheese and charcuterie board. It’s the easiest way to get familiar with a host of products and create one platter which will have a variety of flavours. You can use different kinds of cheese, fruits and vegetables, meat and pair it up with wine or even some beer.
Q. You had hosted a Virtual Tasting Event a few months back. What was it all about?
A. The Virtual Tasting Event was hosted basically to kick-start European Union’s ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India. The idea was to get importers, distributors and members of the HORECA sector in India acquainted with the ingredients and flavours from the EU. During the session, the audience got an opportunity to understand the heritage behind each ingredient, as I took them through some interesting stories about European Food. While they loved the anecdotes, they also got a chance to try these products as we curated and sent them amazing hampers with EU products. We wanted them to understand how such high quality and flavorful products come from EU’s member states and we did just that alongside offering some tips and tricks to create a perfect cheese and charcuterie board. It has been a great experience as the Ambassador of the More Than Food campaign so far, and I am sure the journey is just going to get more and more interesting.
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