Business voyage for winner


A back injury was the reason this year's Asians in the Bay business award winner moved to Hawke's Bay.

MP Foods' Mohindar Nagra "did the hard jobs" in Wanganui after emigrating from India in 1989, aged 22.

He worked in kiwifruit orchards and as a taxi driver before starting a food business from a caravan in 1996.

He opened his first Bollywood Indian Restaurant and looked around for more opportunity, opening Hastings' Bollywood in 2002.

"Hastings is a nice place and there was only one Indian restaurant here at that time," he said.

In 2004 he opened his third Bollywood in Gisborne and in 2006 the fourth in Dannevirke.

Suffering a back injury, the three-hour drive from his Wanganui home proved prohibitive, forcing a move to Hastings. His Wanganui business was taken over by family members.

He sold the Dannevirke restaurant, "but he didn't run it properly so it shut down".

In 2008 he started MP Foods.

"We had to buy all our spices from Auckland and sometimes they weren't up to our standards, so we started importing from India.

"We are from Punjab and there are some big exporters there. I knew a few from my town and sometimes we used an address from a previous importer."

Direct shipping to Napier gave him a price saving which he passed on to other food outlets throughout the lower North Island from 2010.

The range of imported goods has steadily increased to include other ethnic foods and tandoor clay ovens.

With wife Kuldip he also owns Hastings' HB Sports Bar, which they plan to renovate, and recently opened a retail food outlet beside their Gisborne restaurant.

They employ 10 people in Hawke's Bay and will soon appoint a marketing manager for MP Foods.

Exporting is "too hard" at this stage - he wants to continue expanding MP Foods and will soon replace his 8-tonne delivery truck with one nearly twice its size.

A Justice of the Peace, he spends lot of time helping the 700-strong Hawke's Bay Sikh community and is also active in the local temple.

They are usually busy seven days a week: "We take some time off - we have good staff - but we can never take two days off in a row."

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