Reading time: 4:10
Mother and daughter team Surinder and Safia Hothi-Bellamy explain how learning to use eCommerce software and adopting it for their website has led to business growth, as well as recognition as one of the top eight Indian cookery courses.
Ecommerce: Pure Punjabi
Time to watch: 2 minutes, 52 seconds
In 2010, after starting to sell local artisan foods in her Wiltshire shop, Surinder Hothi-Bellamy became frustrated at the lack of authentic Indian food sold locally. It was then the idea for Pure Punjabi was born.
Surinder and her daughter Safia started by selling traditional, non-perishable items including dried ingredients and spices at local markets and food shows before creating their first website.
They soon realised creating their own online space wasn’t without its problems.
‘We learned early on things don’t just happen organically when you start to sell online,’ Safia explains.
‘We’d set up the website purepunjabi.co.uk, and someone told us they’d Googled us and couldn’t find us.
‘We just assumed it all happened organically. We thought if you had a website and someone searched for Pure Punjabi, it would just appear.’
Learning the ropes
Like many businesses, Surinder and Safia didn’t have too much technical knowledge or money to invest into increasing Pure Punjabi’s online presence.
Surinder says: ‘We were self-funded and didn’t have the tech know-how, so we tried to learn as we went along, which makes things difficult for anybody starting in eCommerce.’
Having understood the importance of being found online, Surinder and Safia knew that adopting eCommerce software was going to play an essential role in helping to grow their business.
‘We needed somewhere for our customers to go and somewhere for them to look at our products online,’ Surinder explains.
‘Without the traction, or any history or record of sales behind us, we had to find a solution - that solution was eCommerce.’
In 2013, Surinder attended a four-day business course, which helped her find out more about eCommerce and the potential it had to help the family business to grow.
She says: ‘I sat down with a web expert, who explained how eCommerce software worked and the things it does that you can’t see – it’s what’s under the bonnet that counts.
‘It was at this point I realised that eCommerce software was a must-have and not a nice-to-have in order to help Pure Punjabi to grow.
‘He advised us to change from our existing website provider and we switched to another platform that had eCommerce functionality built into it.
‘One of the key things was the amount of research and questions I was asking people. I saw that people who were doing quite well had a good eCommerce set up.’
Making the change
Surinder and Safia switched to a web- hosting platform which included eCommerce plugins, software which acts as an add-on to a web browser and gives websites extra functionality.
‘The eCommerce platform offered us advice on which plugins we needed, not only for our shopfront, but also anti-hacking tools to protect our site,’ says Surinder.
As their business began to grow and Surinder and Safia carried on hosting live cookery events, they spotted an opportunity and made the decision to start selling food kits online.
Safia explains: ‘We basically did pop-up events but realised some people were unable to attend, so mum said, “Why don’t we do a workshop in a bag?”
‘We started providing people with all the dried ingredients and spices online, all the specialist ingredients – the same sort of stuff your grandmother would use.’
The pair also started offering hospitality services for weddings and large corporate events, enlisting more staff to help.
Challenging times ahead
‘We’d normally do one big national show a year and quite a few regionals, but we realised everything was gone and we were left with the meal kits.
‘We sat down very quickly and thought about what our customers usually asked us; we’ve always been led by feedback, and a lot of questions were based on what food goes with what.’
Using their eCommerce software, Surinder and Safia began pairing different food types together on their website’s shopfront, called them dinner kits and sent an email out to their customer list. ‘We saw a 1200 per cent increase in sales within the space of three weeks,’ Safia explains.
The team also invited people who purchased their dinner kits to online cookalongs in order to bring people together during lockdown.
Reaping the benefits
Since adopting eCommerce software, Pure Punjabi has gone on to receive a number of Good Taste awards and has also been named one of the top Indian cookery courses in the UK by Olive food magazine.
The company has also been able to reach new audiences and sell to customers anywhere in the world without physical boundaries.
‘eCommerce has also made the customer journey easier for visitors to our site. We can constantly tweak it if any feedback’s received, including moving what’s on our shopfront and improving the search functionality for the things we sell,’ Surinder says.
‘We suddenly had people from Ireland, LA and Madrid coming together to cook with us online,’ Safia says.
‘Our customer support was so strong, and because we’d set up everything up digitally and we had an eCommerce website that was functioning, it was simple for customers to click and order. That was it. It was done.’
And, as their business has continued to grow, so too has Surinder and Safia’s confidence in using eCommerce software.
‘I think the key thing was reaching out to organisations which helped us gain the confidence and fine-tune things to grow our business,’ says Surinder.
- Business name: Pure Punjabi
- Sector: Food and hospitality
- Location: Wiltshire
- Business founded: 2010
- Visit: https://www.purepunjabi.co.uk/
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