Interview: ‘The Apprentice’ star Sanjay Sood Smith

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Sanjay Sood Smith (right) with his new food brand
Sanjay Sood Smith (right) with his new food brand

‘The Apprentice’ season 10 contestant, Sanjay Sood Smith recently spoke to BizAsia about leaving the show and his new food product.

How has your journey been since leaving The Apprentice?
Crazy but amazing! I lasted about 3 days back in my banking job before I decided to resign and follow my dream of working with food! I�۪ve spent time travelling, getting restaurant experience and doing a lot of charity work talking to kids in schools about diversity issues. Plus I�۪ve launched my new business Tuk In ��� curry-in-a-naan!

How much did the exposure on The Apprentice help with boosting your profile?
Being on The Apprentice has been amazing ��� it�۪s a show that is watched by millions of people and so I�۪ve definitely had opportunities that I wouldn�۪t have had otherwise. The best thing though has been that it helped me realise that I wanted to go and start my own business which I may not have done otherwise. It�۪s helped open a few doors but ultimately I think that if you don�۪t have a good product then nobody is going to buy it, whether you have been on the TV or not!

You have recently launched food product, Tuk In – where did the concept come from?
I grew up eating Indian food and it is something I have always been passionate about. My business partner Tom and I used to work together in banking and loved going for a curry. Tom dreamt up the idea when he was at uni in Cambridge sitting on a train wishing he could have a convenient way to eat a curry. We all know that the best way to eat a curry is scooping it up in a bit of naan bread, so Tuk In gives you all the joy of that without any of the mess!

[quote]…ultimately I think that if you don�۪t have a good product then nobody is going to buy it, whether you have been on the TV or not![end_quote]

Is Tuk In not just another Indian flavoured sandwich?
Tuk In is designed to be as convenient as a sandwich, but much more satisfying. It combines all the great elements of delicious curry, succulent pilau rice and fluffy naan to give you the experience of eating a full Indian meal but in a mess free way! I am 100% confident that anyone who tries Tuk In will prefer it to the regular chicken tikka sandwiches you see at the moment! We�۪ve worked really hard on developing the balance of flavour and ingredients to give much more depth of experience than you might expect from a shop bought Indian meal too. It�۪s contemporary Indian cuisine!

Sanjay's new food brand 'Tuk-In'
Sanjay’s new food brand ‘Tuk In’

With curry being such a hugely popular dish in the UK, its surprising that no one else has thought of curry filled naan wrap, what’s your thoughts on this?
It�۪s one of those things that seems so obvious when you see it! There are a couple of similar products out there but Tuk In takes eating Indian food conveniently to a whole new level. Burritos have seen huge popularity in the past couple of years so it was about time there was something similar but Indian available to the mass market. Key market trends are around convenience, spicier flavours and fusion ��� Tuk In ticks all of those boxes!

How much research went into this product before you launched it?
We�۪ve worked really hard to develop the product ��� Tom had a restaurant in Reading that sold curry-in-a-naan which really helped gain great customer feedback. We�۪ve also done pop ups where we have sold Tuk In direct to consumers and got on the spot feedback. We�۪ve also worked hard to find the right manufacturers and spent a lot of time and effort to develop a brand that we really feel will resonate with people.

[quote]I am 100% confident that anyone who tries Tuk In will prefer it to the regular chicken tikka sandwiches you see at the moment![end_quote]

How has the response been so far since Tuk In hit supermarket shelves?
Fantastic! Launching in Spar we sold over 100 in one store in our first week! So we are looking to build on that success!

What marketing plans have you got to promote the product?
At the moment we�۪re focusing on building a social media presence. We�۪ve also been doing in store tastings and will be looking at ways to really get people excited about our brand through some exciting campaigns that we have planned. I can�۪t say too much just yet but needless to say, they involve Tuk Tuk�۪s!

In terms of future work, is food the area that interests you most, or are you looking at something different later?
My efforts are all going into Tuk In at the moment and will be for the foreseeable future. We have huge plans for what we want to do with the brand which are going to take a lot of hard work. I�۪ll carry on with my volunteering and potentially some other bits in the media as well.

Have you been watching the recent series of The Apprentice, what’s your thoughts on it?
I have been watching it religiously! It�۪s so nice to watch it without being scared of what silly thing I might say or do! It�۪s been a good series, the characters seem a lot more serious this year I don�۪t think it�۪s been quite as funny. There have been a few tasks, like designing the children�۪s book that I would have loved to do! I�۪m really jealous of all the new candidates if I�۪m totally honest, I would love to do it all again it was so much fun!

[quote]We have huge plans for what we want to do with the brand which are going to take a lot of hard work.[end_quote]

Are you still in touch with Lord Sugar?
No which is to be expected I guess. If he kept up with every candidate that had ever been on the show he�۪d be at almost 200 by now. Climb Online, the company that Mark who won The Apprentice set up with him, is designing Tuk In�۪s website though!

Has Lord Sugar tried the Tuk In?
Not yet ��� but I�۪m going to give Mark some to give to him though!

Final thoughts…
Thanks for taking the time to speak to me! I can�۪t wait to hear what you think of Tuk In ��� oh and please follow us on twitter! @tukinfoods

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