How Deepika Nagasamy of the Rs 200-cr Dindigul Thalappakatti Biriyani brand was able to empower women leaders
In most parts of South India, biryani is this amazing mix of staple food and a delicacy. The Dindigul Thalappakatti Biriyani brand is one name that has really stood the test of time, and 2is much loved by its patrons. A family run business, the Thalappakatti Biriyani brand started with one outlet in a small town in Tamil Nadu in 1957. Today, it is a global brand, with its customers swearing by the food.
For Deepika Nagasamy, getting into the business was through marriage. The wife of Satish D Nagasamy, Deepika for over a decade now has been a significant part of the business and has been pivotal in bringing a strong branding and marketing effort to the food brand.
In an interaction at HerStory’s Women on a Mission Summit, Deepika talks about her journey of becoming a part of the family business. She admits joining a legacy business has its advantages, but also has its set of challenges. The sweet spot was finding a way to be in touch with the tradition and bringing her own personal flavour.
Joining a legacy brand
Joining a legacy brand comes with set rules and guidelines, it takes time for people to let you try and create something new and different. Deepika says it takes time to build trust.
For her, joining the family business was quite serendipitous. Coming from a textile background Deepika was working in the US and UK, and after her marriage, she moved to Chennai.
“While I had my own furniture business and work, I was pregnant and had to take time off. But I simply couldn’t be still. When my children were young, I was teaching and was consulting on branding and marketing. I would also give inputs to Thalappakatti on how the menus are done, colour schemes, and I can’t say when I went full-time. It was a gradual process. Whenever Satish was travelling, I would give my inputs and I slowly started handling the marketing,” says Deepika.
Building a team of women leaders
From being the sole woman in the office, since joining the business, Deepika has ensured that more women are on the team. Today, Thalappakatti has close to 35 percent women on the team.
“But I did not actively start doing that for a few years. It was first about getting them to accept me, the one woman on the team. It was about sitting down with different people, chefs, people cutting the vegetables and getting their voices in. Even the HR function was completely male-dominated. I started with a little voice, that you have women in different functions, have someone they can talk with,” explained Deepika.
That is when HR started bringing one woman on the team, and other teams like accounting. Deepika said what worked in her favour was that women have the name of being more honest- especially in the accounting department.
“I used that to my advantage. Now I can proudly say we are 32 to 35 percent women on the management team.”
“There were moments when people asked me why are you here, shouldn’t you be home taking care of the children? It is a man’s job. But for me it was just one thing - make it fun to shatter these biases and pick your battles,” Deepika said.
While the change may have been slow, it has been a welcome change, nonetheless.
From there on, everything else is history. What helped was focusing on the process and slowly changing things. “Nothing is ever complete, everything is always work in progress,” added Deepika.
She explains it is about finding the right battles to pick, and working things around by understanding the different points of views.
Advising all women she says, “Be yourself. Despite what people say, if you deep down believe you need to be there and build something, do it. There is no bigger support system that you can find other than yourself. If you can get that in place, everyone else will feel your vibe and push you forward.”
A shout out to the sponsors of Women on a Mission Summit 2022, an Initiative by HerStory, by YourStory - BYJU’S, the presenting partner, and other sponsors - Kyndryl, Sequoia Spark, Zilingo, Atlassian, Akamai, Freshworks for Startups, and Netapp Excellerator.
Edited by Ramarko Sengupta