Life after Ashoka: Mridul Aggarwal
"You may or may not exactly know what you want to do with your life, but the Fellowship will definitely pave a way for you to figure it out."
Mridul Aggarwal, Young India Fellow, Class of 2016, takes us through his journey with food, travel and people, post the Young India Fellowship (YIF).
There’s this thing that everyone tells about the Fellowship to all the young and lost minds who join the YIF Programme- “You may or may not exactly know what you want to do with your life, but the Fellowship will definitely pave a way for you to figure it out.” Two years have gone by since I left the campus as a Fellow, and I can vouch that the above saying is true, or at least it has been for me. Three things have defined my life after YIF- Food, Travel and People, and the seeds for all three were sown when I was a Fellow. In a life full of excitement yet uncertainty, the amalgamation of all three is what keeps me going.
But before I get into the specifics of my life after the Fellowship, a bit about me: I’m a Mumbaikar at heart and have lived in the city for over 25 years. My family comes from Amritsar, Punjab and that’s where my love for food originated. However, in a quest to finding my ‘true calling’, I ended up choosing engineering without realizing that I don’t have a knack for it. 6 months into engineering, I realised that it was not what I wanted to do for the next 4 years and for the rest of my life. So, I took the difficult decision to drop out of engineering and take up a course in BBA at NMIMS. During my time at NMIMS I tried my hands at multiple internships across marketing, education, events, sales in India and internationally, and pursued my hobbies in food, dance and poetry. Still unsure as to how can I turn my hobbies to profession, I learnt about YIF- and there it all began. The one year taught me to try out unconventional ways to do what you love, and I did the same. With the mission to make people happy by feeding them, I started Cakeman- an initiative that was born out of Men’s Hostel, has now become a platform where 11 other people have associated their love for baking with it, and about hundred others savour cakes and pastries, and create memories.
My experience with Cakeman gave me the motivation to follow my passion post the fellowship which led me to take up a job in the hospitality space with K Hospitality.My time in the hospitality industry saw me go from a Management Trainee to Operations Manager to Head of Marketing within 2 years and it gave me a chance to manage multiple brands such as Copper Chimney, Bombay Brasserie across 9 cities in 3 countries along with ideation and creation of new restaurant brands. A typical week in my life goes by executing marketing campaigns for food outlets, ideating and managing events to increase the footfall, leading marketing launches in various cities, ideating on brand elements and working on new menus for brands with chefs. I often travel within cities and countries to explore what’s brewing in the F&B sector, and implementing it on our menus.
To sum it up, I believe it’s just the start of accomplishing my food dream. Of course, it’s exhausting at times, but it’s highly rewarding too. I mean, there aren’t many jobs where one gets to see the results of your work immediately and on a day-to-day basis. People might forget the names of places they go to eat, but they barely forget the memories associated to the place- this is what I want to serve people besides good food- memories for them to cherish the experience afterwards. You ask me what is it that drives me every day to get off the bed and go to work- I tell you it is simply not just the menu I curate or the cakes I bake or the Marketing Campaigns I run for a brand; it is the taste, ambience, authenticity, innovation, authenticity and smile I want to bring to people’s table along with a dish. It all started for me with Cakeman at the fellowship where the smiles of my co-fellows after eating my cakes was the most fulfilling feeling. Working as a Marketer in the F&B space is not just a career for me, it’s a passion and a privilege to get paid for doing something I love. Feeding people is more than just a passion, it’s a way of life.