NamakShamak: Our Story from Home Cooks to Food Bloggers

By Harshada Sandhan




Nostalgia has its way with emotions... when a parent look at their children growing into young adults,its an emotional feeling to think about the childhood, about the journey that brought both the parent and the child at the present That shaped us into what we are....

NamakShamak has been our baby. And when we look at it now, we feel the same rush of emotions, as a parent feels looking at their young grown up Children. Its a mix of pride, nostalgia, struggles and those little moments that we still cherish....

Journey of                    To              

So after 7 long years of blogging and many more firsts, we decided to share our journey from the ever enthusiastic Home Cooks to Food Bloggers,You Tubers and many more professional hats that we proudly don.

I still vividly remember the evening of May 2012 when me and Sonatai (Sonali Raut) were sitting and she was ever insisting on starting a blog...:"Common It's the IN thing, lets get started atleast !" is what she said. And the procrastinating Me, said " We need to knw the process details and many more things, let it be, we ll see later."

She persisted, and I gave in. When we first registered on a free platform by Google ie. Blogspot, we were not even sure what should we name our Blog. 

We debated on all names , from typical Sister Kitchen, Sonali n Harshada Kitchen, PassionKitchens and what not.... but none seemed promising. Eventually television came to rescue.There was a Cookery show, where a visibly excited happy Chef was humming something while sprinkling a dash of salt. You guessed it right..... That was Chef Harpal SIngh Sokhi, humming Namak Shamak Namak Shamak on his show... n I just said lets keep it Namak Shamak for now..I am too tired to think... though I was hoping Sonatai puts that off and we start the thinking process again. But  Surprisingly, She agreed!....And that gave birth to www.namakshamak.blogspot.com

NamakShamak.Blogspot.com

The Regional recipes that our blog is popular for, still didnt appeal to us at that time, to project them as our blog Nichness. We decided to start with simple baking recipes..Orange Chiffon cake was our first recipe.... the Image quality was a shame and the write up was another thing totally. We worked with lower pixel phone cameras and basic digi cams. And had limited knowledge of fixing the image quality and lights. But we kept evolving with each recipe. But we showcased each of our culinary creations with pride. And kept our pace of posting atleast one or two recipes every week.

From Daily cooking to Weekend specials, we had it all covered.The content was picking up with the pace of our recipes and blog statistics looked promising after almost a Year and over 100-150 recipes.

Taking the next leap....Going the Dot Com way....

That's when we decided to buy our own server space... to go dot Com was a big step. It meant, yearly  investment and demanded commitment to breakeven the Cost.

 

The challenge was to find a good Graphic designer. We assigned the job to a reference we got online. And  he did do a decent job. But there was a catch. One, he said we cannot migrate the older blog data, which meant we had to manually upload the 150 odd recipes along with pictures and text from existing blogspot platform again. Two, (the repcussions of which we felt only after 3 years when we decided to move to another server) He never gave us the source code, or rather hand over the website server or hosting details  to us... which meant NamakShamak was almost hostage with him. So despite the website facing no visible problems,we kept paying him yearly sum for hosting and maintenance charges, which could have been avoided had we taken charge of hosting on our own.

After spending a fortnight of endless copy paste and uploads, the new website was ready in March 2013.

    

 

Going to the Press: " Life in a Floatel" Mumbai Mirror August 2014

 

 

Namakshamak.Com, was doing well. It was a beautiful and easy to use template. And lucky for us, it was the time when we were featured in Mumbai Mirror editions for our Khandeshi Food. Twitter did the trick for us and Journalist Joanna Lobo connected with us to do a story. Luckily the otherwise Nasik resident me, was in mumbai for holidays. So we seized the moment and hosted Joanna for a Khandeshi Lunch at Sonali's home. We made two of our most popular recipes"Khandeshi Chicken and SHev Bhaji" When the Story was finally published in August 2014, it was a matter of Pride not only to us, but to everyone who in some way was involved with Namakshamak!

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Life-in-a-floatel/articleshow/40334927.cms

 

 

FBAI: Food Blogger Association of India: Association, affiliation and awards

I have been associated with Food Bloggers Association of India, through Founders Sameer and Saloni, in their early years. It was a pleasure to freelance for them. and be a part of product samplings, surveys and reviews. 

So when Sameer told us , they are hosting their first Indian Food Bloggers Awards (IFBA), we were delighted as well as disappointed at the same time. Our personal commitments did not allow us to be a part of the first edition of Awards.. 

But in 2014, we did manage to be a  part of IFBA 2014, at JW MAriott. It was a humbling experience. There were bloggers, vloggers from every corner,every region of India. Industry stalwarts , Chefs ad many more. 

We missed winning the award that year. And the subsequent year 2015 got me busy with Mommy duties after I gave birth to my second son Arjun. 

By 2016, I had started writing and blogging again, mostly on Khandeshi recipes. So we thought we had enough credibility to file our nominations under General food and Regional Food Blog Category for IFBA 2016. Nervously, had our fingers crossed, very well knowing , that the blog will be judged by well known Chefs Gaggan Anand,Vicky Ratnani, Ranveer Brar, Food Critics Rashmi Uday Singh, Rocky and Mayur, Kunal Vijaykar and many more.

We got our first sign of Serendipity when I read a comment by Rocky Singh on Khandeshi Nashik Misal recipe...it was followed by a retweet and mention from Rashmi Uday SIngh on Khandeshi Bharli Vangi recipe. That came as a pleasant surprise. Being recognised by food experts itself was a win for us. That did boost our confidence, but the nervousness stayed. After spending two days hunting for perfect outfit for the awards, we were ready to go.... with shaky legs and butterflies in our stomachs.

JW Mariott Juhu was a different universe totally. .it was initially intimidating to enter the banquet hall and watch all professional bloggers standing cradling their glass of wines with confidence. and here we were, returning after a gap of a year, still unsure of whether we belonged here. Thats when the lovely hosts Sameer and Saloni came to rescue to make was at ease, and help ourselves with wines and cocktails....As much as tht sounded promising, we did not want to be tipsy and fumble if at all we got lucky to interact with the celebrity chefs and food experts and maybe click a selfie. So setting the temptations aside , we went in to sit alongside like minded bloggers, whihc by the way were plenty, We made great friends and partnerships on that evening.

Eventually, it was time for the awards and knowing very well that there was a common name which won every single time under Regional blog, we were stil very optimistic. Eventiually when they were announcing the second place under regional food blog, I thought I heard it wrong....Harshada Sandhan and Sonali Raut for Namak Shamak, Regional Blog......

With shaky jittery legs we somehow managed to get up to the stage. Out of excitement and nervousness, I gave the elite stairs a miss and directly jumped on the stage to the hosts surprised face and my embarassment later on...But It was a pleausre receiving the Award from Kunal Vijaykar, theFoodie Show host. Indeed IFBA2016 win changed a lot of things for us.

Awards gave us our niche. We got our focus right. But at the same time, we knew we need to get that hostage fear out of our minds now. So we decided to confront our webdesigner, to hand over our website hosting totally to us. But to our dismay, he refused.

Bringing Independence to  Namakshmak.Com 

That was the turning point. We decided to migrate again. To another hosting that will be in our control. But with our limited technical capabilities,we needed to hire a trustworthy hand. Sonali's references came handy.That's when we met Nikhil and Anuraag, fresh crop of engineering pass outs with latest knowledge and eagerness to work. We knew despite getting started, all the technical process was going to take time, so we stuck to the current website, until our new framework was ready. It took a good one year to shape up new website with some upgraded features. But that wait time was terrible. Those were trying times for both of us. We werent posting new recipes on the blog , thinking we ll do it on new website. It reached to a place of stagnation. Personally, I even considered writing off NamakShamak.. it was taking up too much of my energy and capital. 

That was the time Namakshamak took a back seat and newer faucets opened in our respective lives. I started Angel Delicacies, a retail home based Bakery Venture, which gave instant cash, gratification and seemed very promising. At least initially. Slack is something nobody takes into consideration. The thing about Retail businesses is the uncertainity. You need to innovate and yet be prepared for a down phase too. 

Sonali got an assignment to host the regional recipe show on Youtube Channel by Rajshree"Ruchkar Mejwani". It opened a new career for her. She got busy with her shoots. I too got the rpiviledge to shoot few cameos with her, thanks to the generous and creative director of the Show. 

But amist all this NamakShamak got neglected...To me it felt like a nagging liability that I was unwillingly carrying. Me and Sonali had our share of disagreements and fights. But I must say, Sonatai, never gave up on NamakShamak.....She couldnt help much technically, there were some things that I could still do , but it was tough for her to execute. But,she never gave up.

And like an elder sister, she took my anger, let me vent it out, and then waited till  she could talk some sense into me. 

In 2018, after spending almost 2 months, uploading 350 recipes from previous server, each manually, we finally went live by year end. Each migration , meant reindexing of the google pages, which mean , all the ratings,  popularity you commanded , earned so many years, is all gone....a Master Reset you may call it. And we went through it twice. So now we do not fear anything. Twice fallen Three times stronger.

Our latest Leap was starting our own Youtube Channel. 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaYuMKF7PzB0ReZzJk4Oxog

Our Channel had been into existence over last couple of years,with some really shaky home videos. But this Holi, we decided to get professional help. Anagha has been with us since a month, but she gets us at ease, keeps her patience while we stammer through our lines, fumble through the recipes sometimes. My first solo video gave me a lot of confidence, thanks to her. Sonali has always been a pro, thanks to her work with Rajshree and other production houses over past two years. We have great plans for Namak Shamak, be it our YouTube channel or our Blog. From Niche Khandeshi and Vadvaali recipes to modern Instant Fusion cooking, we plan to cover them all, adding our own...Namak Shamak.....

As I conclude this writeup, my heart has mix feelings of Sadness,for the uncalled struggles, Pride for what they shaped us into, and a bit of nervousness for what the future holds.....But with Sonatai, I know, we will take NamakShamak to greater heights.

Few more years fast Forward, I ll be  writing another feature on our journey....from where we left here......

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