Meet the UoM second year who’s started a Pakistani vegetarian food business

Malik’s Tiffin Boxes is freshly prepared and even does delivery within the Fallowfield area


Malik’s Tiffin Boxes is a Pakistani vegetarian food business which has recently been started by second-year University of Manchester student, Leila Malik.

Leila started the business as a result of having spare time during lockdown and needing an income, but also due to her love of cooking, inspiration from her dad and a strong desire to start her own business.

Malik’s Tiffin Boxes is freshly prepared and even does delivery within the Fallowfield area.

Credit to: Rosa Fryer

The inspiration behind Malik’s Tiffin Boxes actually started back in 2014, with Leila having told the Manchester Tab: “I often bought in a packed lunch and it was usually left over curry from the night before at home. Both my parents are seriously good cooks and I was more than happy with this arrangement.

“One day I was sitting eating vegetable rice, seekh kebab, and pakora for lunch when one of my friends asked to try a bit. He was so impressed, I remember him saying ‘nah that’s seriously good, you know I’d actually ​pay ​for that!’ After that, Malik’s Tiffin Boxes was born.”

Subsequently, Leila and her dad would cook the meals the night before school, however Leila noted, “except the pakora, it really has to be cooked fresh so it’s nice and crispy”. Leila and her dad would do about 20-30 takeaway boxes and then Leila would take them to school and distribute them before lunch.

Leila has reignited the business, initially due to needing an income whilst at university. However, Leila was also inspired after creating an Instagram page in first year called, “HalfAsianChefs” with her flatmate, where they would, “often take photos of our cooking together and post it up on this page for fun”.

The account grew a small following and they grew a reputation for their amazing food, so when Leila came back after lockdown, Leila decided that when she came back to Manchester: “I was going to flip ‘Half Asian Chefs’ into ‘Malik’s Tiffin Boxes’, and make money by doing two things I love: Cooking, and running a business”.

During lockdown, Leila has said that the take-away food businesses have “actually been thriving”. The one thing she has noted is, “how much more aware of hygiene and proper kitchen sanitisation I am now, and the fact that I had to cancel one week because I was waiting on a test result”.

The response Leila has received has been really encouraging. Leila told the Manchester Tab: “It’s a bit of a mad one-woman-show, as I’m doing marketing, production, sales, shopping, finances, etc. on my own (as well as being a full-time English student), but I enjoy it, it gives me energy and a feeling of independence”. Leila commented how grateful she is to supportive friends and her boyfriend who delivers the food on his bike.

In the future, Leila hopes to expand the menu, as has said: “There’s only one of me and I can’t cook several different dishes at once as only have one really big pot!”.  She also aims to find a more developed software in which people can order their food. At the moment Leila uses Instagram which “has been working so far but isn’t perfect” and would prefer something where people can “enter their addresses, pay online and select a time-slot”.

Leila is thinking of announcing a new menu each week, along with “a video of myself cooking it just to show people what the food is. It’s always going to be Pakistani food, but a lot of my customers aren’t Pakistani so they won’t know what it means if I tell them this week’s box is aloo gobi and pilau rice.

“I think the video will help with reach as well, it’s so satisfying watching those instagram videos of people cooking and I hope Tiffin Boxes will be the same.”

Leila’s main inspiration behind the business was her dad, who started his own business when she was young: “He started his own business when I was really little and has always tried to teach us (me and my siblings) little things about business, always encouraged us to work for ourselves, to experiment with different ideas, to start small, grow slowly, and go niche.

“He and the success of his business is living proof of his principles and such an inspiration to me”.

“Even if Tiffin Boxes never expands past 20 boxes a week, I know that he’ll be proud of how I decided to take the risk of starting a business, and of all the work I’ve put into it.”

Despite warning her of the difficulties of the food industry, Leila’s father has been a massive support and despite the challenges, Malik’s Tiffin Boxes has been thriving.

Feature image credited to: Rosa Fryer 

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