Changing social trends have caused rapid growth in the food and beverage industry over the last five years. Increasingly time-poor lifestyles and a craving for on-demand information mean people are dining out much more frequently.
Combined with the rapid rise of social media, Australia now has food bloggers coming out of its ears. Instead of picking up the glossy newspaper lift-out to choose where to go for that next date, celebration, or just to get out of the house, many Australians pick up their phones and see where the food bloggers they follow have stopped by recently.
But the food blogging phenomenon is no longer uniquely Australian, or Western, for that matter. Developing countries such as India are becoming more and more educated on the power of social media platforms as sales and marketing tools. Madhumita Mandal, lecturer in social media at Amity University, says that many people in India are still not educated on the uses and benefits of social media.
“The majority of the population don’t know what the exact use of social media is - why it was invented, why it was launched, et cetera. They just use it as a way of talking to people. But abroad, they use it actually as a part of the media, as a way of reaching the masses.”
One Indian harnessing the power of social media is Kiran Bathija, the face behind @the_mumbaigirl and food blog The Hungry Cancerian. I caught up with Kiran over a coffee to chat all things food blogging, social media, and the restaurants in Mumbai I need to visit before I die.
Kiran Bathija, 21, is a popular food blogger in Mumbai.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I studied a Bachelor of Commerce, and I was doing my chartered accountancy. I did that for fourteen months, but I have quit the post now, as I didn’t feel it was not my forte…so I decided to do something about it. Now I am pursuing my MBA in Human Resources.
My family are originally from Pakistan, so I’m a Sindhi. I live in Navi Mumbai with my parents and younger brother. Oh, and I also have a dog, a Labrador called Muffin. I love her so much!
How long have you been food blogging for?
I started a year and a half back. Basically, I used to post food pictures to @the_mumbaigirl, it was my personal blog – well really, it was just my personal Instagram account. One day, I made poori bhaji, and I posted a picture to Instagram and got a very nice response. So, eventually, I started posting a few more pictures, sometimes once a week, and then eventually increased it from there.
I then started to see other people doing blogging. One of my friends, who now actually helps me with the blog…he himself was a blogger, and he helped me to create my blog. When I got it started, I did a bit of my own marketing, and then I got offers from PRs from there.
It sounds like you keep yourself very busy! How do you manage your time?
Earlier, when I was working, I hardly had time to do it. It’s been just a month now since I’ve quit my job, so now I have more time because I am at home and preparing for my exam. But earlier, I couldn’t even post on time and things were a bit difficult…I could only do reviews on weekends.
I actually write my content on my phone and upload it, because I don’t carry my laptop everywhere, so whenever I am travelling or I have free time, I just jot it down on my phone.
What makes your blog unique?
I write straight from my heart. I make it a point that I write in simple English so that even the layman can understand.
I also don’t do much editing of my photos. I might either adjust the brightness or the saturation, but I don’t use the filters. Earlier, I used to use the filters a lot, and then I started trying to keep the pictures more natural, and I got a much better response. It’s always good to give what people like, that’s how it grows.
In most of my reviews, I write about each and every dish. I mention everything point by point. If you are recommending something to people, people should know the reason why you are recommending it, what exactly made you recommend that dish to them.
It's the question that divides the nation: Snapchat, or Instagram stories?
I personally hate Snapchat, but I love Instagram stories. Whenever I cook something, I put it on the Insta stories. Whenever I go for a review, I do live updates, so that people are more interested and they can know everything. Because ultimately, you might go to a restaurant and you might try five or six dishes, but you might only post about two or three. So Instagram, Snapchat, whatever one you prefer - live updates are great for us and for everyone.
What’s the strangest experience you’ve had at a restaurant?
One time I visited a place not very far from here, and there was a mocktail that looked very beautiful. It was pink in colour and it had kind of a frothy white layer on top. I went to have my first sip, and it smelled kind of like rotten eggs. So I called the waiter over and I said ‘it smells…what is this about?’ The waiter went and spoke to the bartender, and came back and said that this drink was supposed to smell.
What’s your flavour: Indian food or Western food?
I personally like Indian food, but when it comes to cooking, I suck at making Indian food. I have two to three dishes I can make, but I make more Asian food or Italian. I love cooking pasta.
Your top five places to eat in Mumbai?
Top five! That’s a difficult question because there are SO many.
The first one…Tea Villa Café. Secondly, I’d say The Upper Deck, which is in Navi Mumbai, just ten minutes from here. Third, the Momo Café. Fourth…I should have prepared for this! Okay, then there’s Bar Bar. It’s in the Phoenix Markets, a mall like Inorbit but twice the size. The fifth one…okay, then there’s Grandmama’s Café.