Exclusive interview with Karpum Pegu, a flight attendant turned restaurateur
A flight attendant turned restaurateur, Karpum Pegu from Guwahati runs the much-talked about Phat Town. Serving up a host of delicious treats, this trendy new joint is a dream-come-true for its young, hardworking owner who tells us how it all began…
TNT. You were a flight attendant for 9 years. Why did you leave?
KARPUM: Being a flight attendant was great but at the same time I was away from my family here in Guwahati. Career-wise,I was at the top of my game but there were no more challenges and I strive for more professional growth.
TNT. Why open a cafe? Did you have the relevant experience?
KARPUM: Opening a cafe was always on my mind. It was one of those "one day I will have a restaurant of my own" whims.Relevant experience? I would say no though I am passionate about food,always have been.
TNT.What does Phat Town, the name of your cafe mean?
KARPUM: Phat Town is basically an abbreviation for Pretty, Hot and Tempting Town.
TNT.What do people come to Phat Town expect? And what do they get?
KARPUM: Take a break from your busy schedule, relax, order a cuppa tea/coffee, have massive burgers, catch up with your long lost friends, enjoy free wi-fi while the staff in Phat Town whips you a sumptuous meal.
TNT. What are the best selling products at Phat Town?
KARPUM: There are quite a few dishes, I can't really single out one but these are the ones I can immediately recall – Burgers: Meatloaf / Sliced pork /AlooTikki /Double egg bacon / Tuna bacon
Sandwiches: Tuna / Chicken /Cucumber cream cheese / Egg & potato
Butter rice with chicken/pork roast
Non veg maggi
TNT. What were the challenges you faced and still do…especially being a woman?KARPUM: Challenges were many. First and foremost I have always been an employee, didn't have any idea about running or even starting a business. Secondly, the work culture in Guwahati is very different from all the places that I'd worked so far. Challenges as a newbie in the business front were more than challenges faced being a woman. But yes, there are times when people would rather stare at me than talk business.
TNT. What do you enjoy the most about being an entrepreneur?
KARPUM: Being an entrepreneur? Haha, I still am not sure if I should call myself that. But yes, it's definitely a feel good factor to be your own boss. I rely on myself for all the decision making. That's also a potential risk I take every day,as my decisions can make or break the business and that's probably the kind of challenge I was missing in my aviation career.Not the uncertainty but the fact that I could shape things for myself.
TNT. Do you have plans to expand or train yourself by taking "cooking" classes etc?
KARPUM: Plans to expand is still a far-fetched dream. I want to concentrate only on this outlet for now,hopefully be successful and then expand and it involves a lot of calculated and well-planned moves. Cooking classes is definitely on my list. I want to go to Italy and Japan and learn of their cooking culture, authentic dishes and come back rich with experience and more dishes to serve here in Phat Town.
TNT. What is the Guwahati 'food scene' like?
KARPUM: Guwahati is growing. Lot of amazing outlets have come up and I have quite a few new favorites myself. One thing I must mention is that Guwahati doesn't have variety when it comes to food. I wish there were more outlets serving international cuisine.Also, I believe people here need to re-invent food with the produce that is readily available here.
TNT. Your advice for women from the Northeast who return after careers outside and want to start their own business?
KARPUM:If you believe in yourself and you are truly passionate about it, then go ahead and do it. Risks,Challenges and the ever frowning society has always been there and will perhaps never cease to exist, but hard work, dedication will pave the way for you. Treat your business like your baby. There is no happiness that can be compared to seeing your baby grow.