Sumati Menda is the Dubai-based founder of Veggiebuzz.com, an online portal for vegetarian food in the UAE. The thirtysomething Indian lawyer turned food blogger grew up in the UAE and attended law school in New York. She worked for six years as a lawyer in New York and India before joining the family business, World of Electricals, as in-house legal counsel in 2010. She started her portal as a blog in 2014.
Three times a week I have a workout at 7am so I wake up just before that. I have a trainer who comes to the house and we do strength training. After the workout, I have a shower and breakfast: scrambled egg white or chia pudding or peanut butter on toast.
I head out the door at 9am. I live in Emirates Hills and my office is five minutes away at JLT. I am still working out of my father’s office because as I am handling his legal affairs I have my own little section there. I started the blog on the side as the family business workload started to decrease. I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life and I’ve always eaten at really great restaurants. I’ve had fantastic experiences at some of them and at others the chefs were like: ‘If you are vegetarian don’t even come to our restaurant.’ I felt I had interesting experiences to share. It started as a blog but then I hired a freelance developer to spice it up a bit and get the branding done properly. Then I realised there is a lot of scope for this but one person can’t do it all. I decided to make it a user portal where users can log in and write their own reviews. When I arrive at the office I check my analytics [to see how many visits the site has had] and I start going through my emails and getting my schedule together. I have a to-do list so I just start going through that.
If I have a lunch review I’ll leave for that about 12.30pm. Otherwise, I’ll have a healthy lunch in the office with my father and brother: we lay out the newspaper and open up a packed lunch from home. It takes about 15 minutes. I don’t eat out more than two or three times a week. At lunchtimes, I will eat at a restaurant and do a review. In the evenings, there may be an event with lots of other bloggers. I’ve gotten to know the blogging community now and we’re all really good friends. I also do interviews once in a while – I’ve interviewed some really famous chefs. I currently have listings for about 3,250 restaurants in the UAE with basic information such as timing and location; I also list the top four most popular vegetarian dishes. I created a rating system called the “grassometer” which allows users to rate the vegetarian food on offer at any given restaurant.
I’m back in the office. I do a lot of writing on my own but I have a full-time content writer as well, so I go through ideas with him and brainstorm what the next few reviews will be. If we are doing a round-up, then we’ll discuss that. Right now, we are working on a pizza round-up so we are deciding which pizzas we want to try. I spend a lot of time looking at résumés; at the moment I want to hire a more senior developer to take the site to the next level. I speak to a lot of people in India who are guiding me and I have a team of people who keep the listings up to date.
If I’m going for an evening run I try and leave by 6.30pm. If I start late, I run around Emirates Hills, otherwise I drive to The Palm and run on the soft track there. At the moment, the portal is self-financed. Over time I am hoping it will be funded by advertising and sponsorship but I haven’t got to that stage yet. Until I launch in another city I am not even thinking about revenue. I haven’t decided whether to go east or west: Bombay, or another major city in India; or New York – that’s a great market.
If I have an event, I’ll get ready and go to that. Otherwise I eat dinner at home with my family. Then I’ll do some light reading and go to bed. Other than running, I swim pretty much every Friday and bike once in a while. At weekends I catch up with friends. We do dinner or I’ll go to the movies once in a while. I travel a lot, so when I’m at home I keep a low profile and recover from my trips. Any leisure trip I do I always cover on the blog and my social media to keep people engaged. I currently have 14,300 Instagram followers.
I’m usually asleep by 11pm.
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