Saba Mohsin Shaikh is a 26-year-old homemaker, a passionate home chef and a social media enthusiast, who runs a very successful all-female group ‘Karachi Chefs at Home’ (KCH). While Saba was still doing her undergraduate, she decided to create a group where she could share tips and tricks, recipes and anything food related with people who love cooking. She believed that while there were websites for international cuisines, a lot of these recipes couldn’t be replicated in a desi kitchen. Four years later, KCH has become synonymous to a search engine for information related to cooking food. Members of the group have contributed umpteen recipes that can help a newbie to start off their cooking journey. In addition to that, they have launched three cookbooks and host grand events for home-based chefs also. Keeping that in mind, this week You! talks to the innovative Saba Mohsin Shaikh to get to know about her online group...
You! What do you aim to achieve with all-female group - Karachi Chefs at Home?
SMS: The group was made so that Pakistani women from around the world who love cooking could connect on one platform. My next aim is to help women who make amazing food start up their home-based catering businesses.
You! Tell us about some of the events that you have arranged for home-based chefs?
SMS: We have two types of events for KCH, the ones that we host in Karachi and the other ones that are hosted by regional heads all around the world like UK, USA, Europe, Australia, Africa, KSA, UAE etc. Events in Karachi are hosted on a larger scale (60-600 ladies) and have collaborated with various brands. Our special event is KCH Chef Fest that we have hosted for two years, where chefs have a cook-off. Celebrity chefs also attend this event with lots of activities.
You! Are there any future events coming up soon?
SMS: We are planning to have an event in Karachi in November. The regional events are planned and announced by the heads themselves. Also, KCH is turning five in May 2019, so we want to do something grand for that too.
You! How did you get selected with the first Facebook Community Leadership Program (FCLP)?
SMS: Nadia Patel (owner of Sheops, an e-marketing website for women) got in touch and told me about a delegation from Facebook visiting Lahore, and that I was one of the people nominated to meet them. Later, I sent a detailed summary of KCH to Ali Khurshid (representative of Facbook in Pakistan). We had a meet-and-greet in Lahore where we were told about the FCLP programme and the details. After I came back, I applied for the programme but didn’t get accepted. Later, Ali contacted me for the project ‘Highlighting Facebook communities in Pakistan’ where we had to pitch an idea to make our group better and create a positive impact for our members. I was thrilled to know that Facebook intends to invest in the echo-system of Pakistan by empowering people from all walks of life. Few weeks later, I found out that I was selected for the said programme.
You! What are your responsibilities as the admin for your Facebook group and how many people assist you?
SMS: We have a large team with assigned roles at KCH and its sister groups. Our major task is to moderate the group; approve/decline posts, add members to the group, ensuring people follow all the rules and encouraging members to contribute to the group. Our extended job includes organising events, online contests, publishing cookbooks and resolving conflicts.
You! What skills are most important to have for a person in your position?
SMS: Patience, to resolve a new challenge every day; interpersonal skills, as you need to work in a team to achieve goals; focus, determination and hard work to achieve your target.
You! What’s the most interesting thing that you have come across through your group?
SMS: We were discussing milk on the group on day and a lady commented that milk from Australian cows is not ‘halal’ as those cows are not Muslims. We removed the comment immediately, but I still have a good laugh over it.
You! What has been the defining moment of your career?
SMS: When I got the first copy of the KCH cookbook ‘Tasty Treasures’ in my hand and I gave it to my father. It felt like I have achieved a milestone in my life.
You! Have you ever faced any prejudice in your field and how did you deal with it?
SMS: Oh, yes! People used to come up to my husband and tell him that I’m crazy and wasting my time; and that I should close down my Facebook groups. We ignored it but today the same people call us up and ask for event passes and books.
You! Do you think the general mindset of our society is changing?
SMS: Yes, people have started realising how hard it is for working women to maintain balance between work and home, especially when you are constantly judged. But, we still need time to completely erase the predefined image of a working woman.
You! How do you maintain a work-life balance?
SMS: I work from home, so it’s easier for me handle things. I usually work when my husband is out or sleeping. My husband, Mohsin, is very social and usually hanging out with friends. I was recently told how I am ignoring him because of KCH, so the balance is in my mind not those who just look at my life through a glass window.
You! What is the most challenging part of your job?
SMS: Explaining the group rules to members... it’s a constant struggle.
You! What does a typical day look like for you?
SMS: I get the house chores done along with my house help after breakfast. After that I normally have my meetings (work and social), then come back home. Evenings are usually spent looking after the group and replying to emails. Mohsin and I try and go out everyday even if it’s for getting apples from the fruit vendor around the corner. We have dinner and then watch television before bed.
You! How do you unwind?
SMS: I love travelling, so either I am doing that or just reading up.
You! What are your plans for the next five years?
SMS: We have another volume of the cookbook in the pipeline. Apart from that, I really want to work towards women empowerment so you might see me working with a few NGOs and obviously planning a family.
You! What advice would you give to other women struggling to follow their own ambitions?
SMS: You might fall flat on your face or you might fly high, but you will never know until you jump off your nest. Take the risk, and hopefully you will do great.