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A “final project” with his late father ended up jumpstarting this Malaysian’s F&B career

Even through pictures on a computer screen, I can imagine how aromatic the boxed meals from Curried are. With fluffy white rice, verdant greens, and red-orange curries, the meals simply look mouth-watering.

But good food often comes with a story, so I decided to look into how Curried came to be. I was not disappointed.  

“To let you know how Curried got its start, I have to go back to where it all began and it’s very much rooted in a lot of family tradition,” said V. Sanjeev Kumar (Sanjeev), the founder and managing director of Curried.

The story starts with Deepavali, the festival of lights. Like many others, Sanjeev and his family spent Deepavali getting together with friends and relatives to celebrate the festivities with fireworks and food.  

When Sanjeev was younger, his mum would be the one to cook for everyone, spending days in advance preparing the ingredients.

A bento box and bowls from Curried / Image Credit: Curried

“Though it was always my mum who cooked, my siblings and I always helped her in the kitchen,” Sanjeev shared. “Growing older my Mum slowly had trouble standing for long periods of time. This was when my brothers and I took over the kitchen while the ladies (wife and sis) who are all great cooks decided to join Mum and boss us guys around.”

Sanjeev’s father was a little more hands-off with the cooking, but his nod of approval carried much weight. He would also always tell Sanjeev, “We should open up a restaurant someday!”

And that was the start of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A father and son’s dream

One day in early 2021, Sanjeev decided he wanted to do something he loved, which was to cook.

His father, who was an entrepreneur, was supportive of the idea. They planned to open a Malaysian Indian restaurant serving dishes that used their own family recipes.

“I was weeks into planning, conceptualising, and creating the restaurant business plan,” Sanjeev shared. “I remember how excited and eager my Dad and I were, finalising the budget and location for the restaurant just a week before he suddenly passed away on April 5, 2021.”

He continued, “I was left in limbo as I lost my partner, mentor, advisor, and more than anything, I lost my loving Acha. My dad and I were very close, and I always went to him to seek advice on anything that I did. When he was no longer around, I felt a void that couldn’t be explained.”

After weeks of grief and support from his wife, Sanjeev decided to pursue the last project he had worked on with his dad—Curried.

Curried Bento / Image Credit: Curried

However, it was at the peak of the pandemic, which bred a lot of uncertainty. Sanjeev saw many restaurants going out of business.

But a close friend of his introduced the concept of cloud kitchens. Sanjeev realised starting an e-commerce business would lower risks and help him build a reputation first before opening a physical store. Furthermore, the capital needed for an e-commerce business would be lower.

So, he approached some operators in Klang Valley and landed on Foodle, which also offers dine-in services, to let him jumpstart his dream of running a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

What’s on the menu?

Sanjeev started working on the Curried menu from his mum’s kitchen, which had its pros and cons.

“My mum is a control freak when it comes to her kitchen, and she always has to have it her way!” Sanjeev expressed.

He recalled having a spatula in one hand and a pen in the other just in case his mother decided to add a particular ingredient.

According to Sanjeev, his mum was sceptical at the start, but after Curried’s launch, she has given him approval (as well as comments on how to improve the dishes).

While the menu was designed by him with feedback from his family, Curried’s logo, design, and website were made by Sanjeev himself.

Going back to the menu, I was surprised to find a few unique dishes that incorporated non-Indian elements such as mantou.

Fried mantou from the Curried Box / Image Credit: Curried

“Today, curry is absolutely diverse,” Sanjeev reasoned. “You can find curry in almost every country. To me, Curried is on its journey to bring customers the taste of Curried from around the world.”

But for now, Curried mainly offers the Malaysian Indian cuisine that Sanjeev is familiar with.

Diversified flavours

After starting Curried in a cloud kitchen, he realised the ease with which merchants like himself can start an F&B business from as low as RM30K.

“And what’s interesting is I’m not limited to only one virtual F&B brand,” he explained. “In fact, I have five F&B brands that are currently operating out of my cloud kitchen and it’s handled by one to three kitchen staff.”

Curried is still Sanjeev’s “pillar” brand, but he is also simultaneously operating a few other brands, namely:

  • Curried Express, a subset of Curried that caters to a lower-budget audience;
  • That Nasi Lemak Place, which is dedicated to serving nasi lemak and related dishes such as nasi lemak burgers;
  • Makan Hall, where customers can buy both Curried and That Nasi Lemak Place offerings to save on delivery fees.

Sanjeev is also working on another brand called CheekyWrap that serves various wraps, which will launch in his second location soon.

Most of his customers are those who are looking for a convenient and wholesome meal. Sanjeev calls these customers “those in a hurry for curry”.

Curried also does catering for workplaces or events / Image Credit: Curried

On top of individual customers, Curried provides catering services for companies that offer food for their employees too.

Currying forward

Sanjeev’s plans for Curried are nowhere near done. On top of opening at least five to 10 outlets in the Klang Valley by 2023, he aims to have Curried in all major shopping malls in the future.

He also hopes to roll out more menu items, specifically a section for “Curries of the World,” which will feature different curry dishes from around the globe.

“Though I have been running the business by myself with my small Curried team, it has always been a father and son’s idea and dream,” Sanjeev, who now runs the business as his full-time job, shared.

Although Sanjeev took his first step into being a food entrepreneur by seeing it as his “last project” with his father, it actually turned out to be the first of many to come.

  • Learn more about Curried here.
  • Read more articles we’ve written on Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: V. Sanjeev Kumar, founder and managing director of Curried

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