The Spice Sisters
We caught up with two young entrepreneurs Binal and Ashishwang about their unusual culinary website called SpiceWok.
What is Spicewok all about?
Spicewok is a culinary website that focuses on all aspects of food and dining. It was launched in November 2011 as a Pune-centric website and is working on expanding to other cities later this year. Under Spicewok’s umbrella, you can find reviews of new eateries, food trails, recipes from chefs and readers, listings of all F&B venues in the city, global food news and trends, and a foodie’s guide to the food festivals and promotions.
Spicewok has two directors – Binal Zaveri-Ghelani (31) and Ashishwang Godha (32). In their previous work lives, Binal has worked as Assistant Editor – Femina, Marketing Communications Manager – Westin Pune, Senior Correspondent – The Times of India, Campus Coordinator – MTV-India.com and Layout Editor – dailysource.org while Ashishwang served as Editor – Savvy Cookbook, Senior Correspondent – The Times of India and Editorial Coordinator – Times Good Eating.
“We have a decade of experience working as journalists and communications professionals with industry leaders including The Times of India, Savvy Cookbook, Femina and The Westin Pune. A big chunk of our experience has been in food writing. So we bring to the site an in-depth knowledge of the vast world of food, immense experience with food writing and reviewing and a keen insight into the workings of the media,” mentions Ashishwang.
Spicewok’s forte is bridging the gap between the diner and the restaurant, between the user and the chef.
She adds, “We have a platform for interaction whereby users can ask questions to chefs and comment on their dining experience. And while Spicewok is primarily a Pune-centric website, most of our sections are broad in their scope and can be used by foodies across the world. We aim to cater to a foodie’s every question while also providing him/her with a delicious online world to get lost into.”
What makes Spicewok unique?
Spicewok has two very cool and unique features – expert panel and menu planner.
“The expert panel consists of the city’s leading chefs who answer our user’s questions on their cuisine of expertise. And the menu planner is a tool whereby a user can pick the ingredients he has in his/her kitchen and the website generates recipes using those ingredients,” says Binal.
Their USP is the fact that the sales and editorial teams are separate. Spicewok does not sell reviews or any other kind of editorial space for ads or financial benefit — something that is, unfortunately, a widely used practice in the media. So the content that the users get is absolutely undiluted!
The making of Spicewok
The team studied national and international food websites, magazines and blogs to see what did well, what was missing and what could be improved upon.
Binal adds, “We also spoke to several culinary professionals to understand the pulse of the Pune diner. We handed out questionnaires to potential users to see what they were looking for in a food portal. Then we prepared a detailed flowchart of the website and were extremely involved in every step of the design phase.”
What sets them apart from the rest?
What sets Spicewok apart from other food portals are its authoritative editorial leaning, comprehensive scope and inclusive reach. “We go much beyond listings, menus and a calendar of events, which are the key focal points of other food websites,” mentions Ashishwang.
Any entrepreneur knows that the key to success is to be constantly innovating and staying continually motivated. There’s really no day off as what you’re doing is your baby and needs constant tending. All start-ups have their share of challenges and they have theirs.
“One such challenge is that people make timeline commitments that are rarely adhered to. That is not how we function, so we find it to be a constant irritant. But, it’s a part of the learning curve,” mentions Ashishwang.
Marketing the website
In keeping with current technology trends, they make innovative use of social media including Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Blogger and Google + to market the website. Besides that, they run regular contests. Both directors are well networked in the culinary world, so are able to generate a lot of word-of-mouth publicity as well.
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