Nisha Katona MBE
Presented by Time Nichol
Pro-Chancellor, it gives me great pleasure to present Nisha Katona for the award of Honorary Fellow.
They say that variety is the spice of life and for Nisha, who describes herself as a curry evangelist, there can be no more fitting statement.
Nisha is the founder of the Mowgli group of restaurants that have built up such a following since first opening here in Liverpool in 2014 they could almost be described as a cult – certainly amongst our student population who are willing to queue around the block for a table on a busy Friday night.
But how did Nisha, the daughter of two doctors, who came to Lancashire from India in the 1960s, find a way to spearhead a revolution in the notoriously competitive restaurant business.
For Nisha, this was more of a calling than anything else, so let’s start with the traditional career path. Born in Ormskirk and brought up in Skelmersdale, Nisha attended Scarisbrick Hall School, went on to study law and was a successful child protection barrister for over 20 years.
Even at an early stage in her career, Nisha made an impression, as Dr David Lynch, retired Circuit Judge and one of our Fellows remembers and I quote:
“As a very young undergraduate she impressed me greatly when she sat with me on the bench as a marshal. After she obtained her LLB at LJMU she passed the Bar Finals and joined the Northern Circuit in 1996 beginning practice as a family lawyer from Liverpool chambers.
She appeared in my court regularly and I was impressed by her from the beginning. She was self-assured for one so young but not over confident. She was fully prepared on the facts and law, was good at controlling the troublesome client and it was a pleasant experience whenever she appeared in a case.
I must confess surprise on learning that she had left the Bar for the restaurant business. In my view had she remained in the law she would have made a first-rate family circuit judge.”
A loss to the law perhaps, but a tremendous gain for Bengali cuisine.Utilising the considerable skill she displayed in court, Mowgli is a real labour of love, built on careful planning with good preparation. Nisha’s flagship menus combine her perfect sense of light and flavoursome Indian cuisine with recipes and combinations handed down through generations of her own family.
With Nisha at the heart of the enterprise, Mowgli now has eight restaurants in the portfolio and employs over 270 staff – instilled within its people and its brand is a strong sense of responsibility and integrity, with values that come directly from their founder. Nisha has used the power of the business to mobilise a considerable fundraising and philanthropic movement through the Mowgli Trust, which each year raises hundreds of thousands of pounds for local and regional charities. Just last Sunday the Mowgli Trust Dog Show took place in the Wirral and drew crowds from around the North West in aid of the Claire House Hospice.
Thanks to Nisha’s drive, determination and enthusiasm, Mowgli has become a model of commercial success, and success with a heart and a deep feeling for helping people. As an employer Nisha supports her staff to travel to India to learn about the Mowgli Trust sponsored village with its female entrepreneurship and land management programmes. Further still, for each new employee, and remember this is a business singled out by the Sunday Times as as one of the fastest growing in the UK, for each new member of the team, Mowgli will sponsor and support a child. Ethical business in principle and in practice.
Female empowerment is an important part of Nisha’s story to date, as a role model for her own daughters as well as others. She is generous with her time in support of growing new business – in 2016 she took part in a Dragon’s Den panel for our students union to help budding entrepreneurs and went on to mentor the winning student.
As a regular broadcaster and published author, Nisha has a growing profile and in the New Year’s Honours list this year was appointed as an MBE for services to the food industry.
Being recognised for bringing the dishes she enjoyed at the family table to the wider public is an incredible achievement. For business students, Nisha is an inspiration for how to do things properly, with credibility and without losing sight of the impact your own story can have on the generations who will follow.
Pro-Chancellor, in recognition of her outstanding achievement in the food industry and as a champion for entrepreneurship, it gives me great personal pleasure to present Nisha Katona for the award of an Honorary Fellowship.