Money & Me: 'I bought a fancy car with my first big commission at 21'

Kunwal Safdar, creator of a food delivery business, says the pandemic inspired her to become an entrepreneur

Kunwal Safdar is head chef and creator of Moreish By K, a food delivery, retail and events business based in Dubai. She moved to the UAE in 1992 with her family when she was nine years old.

Having begun her career in sales, she made the decision to go into business for herself when the major investor at a company she was working for died. Ms Safdar expanded her business into a series of bespoke pop-up supper experiences in scenic settings and multi-course culinary journeys at venues such as XVA Gallery and Nightjar.

The UK citizen lives in Dubai Marina. She is newly married and has two stepchildren.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I was born in London into a British-Asian business family with interests in publishing and property. Investments and risk-taking were a normal part of dinner table conversation and that acumen was passed down when I was young.

At what age did you start working?

My first jobs were summer internships in London, aged between 15 and 17. I was on minimum wage but loved the feeling of financial freedom. My first real job was selling advertising space at the age of 18 and I earned Dh4,500.

What was your first big money lesson?

When I received a big commission cheque at the age of 21, I went out and bought a fancy car outright. I learnt later about the smarter ways in which I could have financed it or bought a more practical car.

What prompted you to set up a company?

Moreish By K was started one evening during lockdown last year. The company I had been working for was shutting down its Middle East office and it made me rethink my attitude towards the corporate world.

I realised the best way forward would be doing something I enjoyed and building a business I could mould. I felt compelled to start something that was personal to me – so I began cooking from my kitchen and delivered meals and soups to people who were on my Instagram.

How much money did you start the company with?

Moreish by K was started with Dh500, which was used for packaging, some basic branding and ingredients.

I have now identified the properties I want to own in the next two decades of my life
Kunwal Safdar

How did the coronavirus affect your business?

Coronavirus was, in a way, the best thing for my line of work, as horrible as that sounds, and I am sorry to say that. The food delivery business thrived as many people were at home and, even until now, are still a little sceptical of going out, which leaves a room for businesses such as mine to grow.

What challenges did you face?

The business spread through testimonials but my biggest challenges were around logistics – delivering meals to people in one piece, operating the kitchen on a tight shift, ordering ingredients and produce in time, as well as predicting sales.

During lockdown, I could only order limited amounts from supermarkets in my area, so I had to shop from 12 different places every single day – that was a nightmare.

Cooking was the fun part but because part-time drivers did not deliver the food the way I wanted it to be treated, I started doing my own deliveries. Some days, I was personally delivering more than 30 packages around town after a day of cooking and packing food.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I hope to have built a self-sustaining retail-focused business, with various consistent revenue streams representing a vast portfolio of lifestyle and food-related brands.

What is your financial moonshot?

In eight years, I would like to sell my company to a multinational conglomerate while retaining a creative role through the transition phase, then turning that into just a percentage of equity and an advisory role.

What emotions do you have around money?

My emotions have changed over time. When I started working really young, money brought me a feeling of entitlement. That changed into a mindset woven in with optimism, ambition and a sense of stability. I understand fully well that this changes as I go through the ups and downs of life.

Where and when did you buy your first home?

I bought my first property in the UK when I was 21. My mother and grandmother helped pay for the deposit and after that it was a mortgage. The rent paid for the mortgage and that first property appreciated considerably. I was lucky to have a consistent and good tenant for more than 15 years.

Where do you own property now?

My family’s and my property portfolio are in Dubai and various parts of the UK, predominantly London.

Who has been your biggest financial inspiration?

Because of my family history, my inspiration has always been to have a vast property portfolio. I have now identified the properties I want to own in the next two decades of my life.

My grandmother has been a major financial inspiration. When she passed away, it only then came to the forefront that she had financially helped lots of people who then made something of their lives through education, microfinancing their businesses, paying off their debts and helping their children get married.

I would like to allow myself the luxury of helping people around me, giving back to build the next generation we leave behind.

When did you decide you wanted to go into business?

The company I was working for had a major investor/partner die. They owed me a lot of money and it made me feel a bit helpless. The economic situation at the time did not help the industry I was in and I found myself desperate for a stroke of luck.

My instinct to make better decisions for myself and better protect myself kicked in after that blow and I had the idea of being independent of the corporate world through self-employment.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I have been a spender most of my life but, over the past few years, I have become a saver.

What do you invest in?

Property, first of all. Both my mother’s and father’s families have had property in their blood for generations. Secondly, equities as that is the direction I see for my company, too, and thirdly, in the most traditional sense, gold.

What is your most cherished purchase?

The best money I have ever spent is on holidays and experiences with loved ones. I also cherish educating a pair of siblings in Syria.

What has been your best investment?

Improving myself educationally through courses tailor-made for me.

What has been your worst investment?

A mutual fund and a property investment just before the market crashed.

Do you use a financial adviser?

I rely on the advice of friends and family friends.

How much do you have in your wallet right now?

As always, Dh1,000.

What car do you drive?

Porsche Cayenne.

Updated: October 21st 2021, 6:00 AM