A small group of new Canadian entrepreneurs is bringing food from India to Saskatoon.
"It's very exciting," said Kiran Sharma, one of three partners in Bombay Spices, the first Indian food store in the city.
It carries a wide range of spices, curries, beans and vegetables used in Indian cooking.
Bombay Spices also offers a dozen varieties of rice and flour, including the kind used to bake a traditional Indian unleavened bread called chapati.
The store opened on Aug. 16 and, according to Sharma, some 300 people came into the store that day.
Most were immigrant Indians who have settled in the central Saskatchewan metropolis of 300,000, which is the prairie province's largest city.
"I remember thinking, 'Oh wow!'" said Sharma. "We never thought it would be this popular."
She credited an invitation on Facebook and the solidarity of the tight-knit Indian community in Saskatchewan for the successful launch of store, which is now open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"It's nice because everybody knows everybody and wants to help," she said.
That karma, added Sharma, was present last Christmas when she and her partners—friends Lomesh Patel and Rahul Desai, all of whom come from Gujarat in Western India, and who now live in Humboldt, halfway between Saskatoon and Regina—discussed the store idea with another friend, Hetal Patel.
The latter owns Bombay Spices, one of eight Indian food stores in the provincial capital.
"Hetal suggested we do market research on the potential in Saskatoon, which we did and was very helpful," recalled Sharma, a one-time bookkeeper at a Loblaws store in Regina who, like her partners, makes the one-hour commute from Humboldt to work her shifts at the new store.
Petal also agreed to lend the new venture the name of his own popular four-year-old store, and to be its supplier.
"Lomesh is a good friend and I wanted to help them out (and) teach them," Patel told Canadian Grocer.
He notably supplies the new store with popular spices, many of which he buys from local producers, as well as grocery items from Toronto, and fresh fruits and vegetables like squash and okra that he has flown in daily from India.
"That's what sets us apart," said Patel.
He added that is now considering selling franchises of his retail concept to entrepreneurs in other cities in Western Canada where Indian populations are growing.
"There are definitely business opportunities there," he said. "Indians can't get many of the foods they like to eat in regular Canadian grocery stores."