The SMART Interview #30 Pinky Lilani
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The SMART Interview #30 Pinky Lilani

  • 11 Nov 2015

Pinky Lilani CBE is an Indian cookery specialist, advising supermarkets, writing cookbooks and running team building events for large companies. She is the founder of the Asian Women of Achievement Awards and was recently named as one of the 30 most influential Muslim women in the UK. So what are her secret ingredients to entrepreneurial success?

At Heathrow Express we like to celebrate doing things that bit smarter. Each month we seek out someone who really exemplifies this approach to work and life and ask them some questions. This month: Pinky Lilani.

We have five copies of Pinky's recipe book Spice Magic to give away in our prize draw below.

Beccy Smart Photography-7597 448x350

You both celebrate entrepreneurs and are one yourself.  Do you think people are born entrepreneurial or is it something you can learn?

My grandfather was very entrepreneurial and was well known in Calcutta where we lived – he was in the film industry and bought the first talking movie for distribution in the city. I think anyone can learn to be an entrepreneur, but you need to have an open mind and be passionate about what you do. You have to be very resilient because often things don’t work and you have to find another way to do things. You need to also be aware of the broader landscape and be constantly looking for new opportunities.   

Being creative and working smarter is something that many people struggle with. What are your tips to unlocking the creativity?

I believe ideas can come from collaboration and kindness. I have a mantra: ‘You have not lived a perfect day unless you have done something for someone who can never repay you.’ I live by that if I can. Kindness isn’t talked about much in business but it’s very important. If you help others to grow they too will help you grow and help you with new ideas. Learning brings new ideas – so I try to learn something every day. Also, remember difficult times can bring creativity. In dark times the eye begins to see and you come up with ideas you would have never thought of before. 

You use cooking in your business life and in coaching leaders – why is it so effective?

Food relaxes and connects people and then they share their stories; everyone has a food story. People often ask what I'm doing with a wok inside a big organisation! But it demonstrates my passion and creativity as I’m talking about leadership and intelligence. It is a way of nurturing and sharing with people. I also love to do my business entertaining at home, which is not so common in the UK but I see no boundary – everything flows into everything else.  

You travel often for business but how important is travel to you personally?

I travel into London every day on the train and I use that journey to always have a conversation with someone new. And international travel is very important – I always learn something new about food and I meet such great people on my travels by talking about food. 

When you travel what do you always take with you?

My wok! It has been to India where I taught, it came with me to Marrakech where I did a TED talk and I took it to Washington DC. I also always take my books and I give copies to people I meet – they aren’t going to dump it immediately so they remember you for a little while. I also keep chocolate coins in my bag and every day I try to give five chocolates to people I don’t know. If someone has given me good service I’ll give one or if a child is looking miserable, I will ask their parents if I can give them a chocolate. 

What’s your favourite hotel?

The Ritz Carlton in Istanbul was stunningly beautiful – it really took my breath away: the Turkish delights were amazing and their pillows were the best in the world. 

Where is next on your travel list?

Years ago I promised myself every year I would visit one new country and that’s what I have done – but the Greek islands have escaped me so far. I really want to go to China too.

And finally what’s your favourite country or city in the world?

That’s a difficult one. I love Italy but I also love going to Spain – I like their energy, their attitude and their food of course. And I love Las Vegas – I like it because it’s almost not real. I stay at the Bellagio, I have been there 10 times and I would go every year if I had the opportunity.  


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WIN! One of Pinky's recipe books in our prize draw 

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