Jul 7, 2022 By Ester Changaoker Category: Blueprint Negev,
From India to Israel: Thriving in Be'er Sheva
I was born into a Jewish Indian family in a village near Mumbai and made aliyah (immigration to Israel) when I was only six years old. Upon landing in Israel, we felt the same connection that so many of our ancestors had felt upon their return to our ancestral soil. We settled in the southern city of Be'er Sheva and like so many other new immigrants we started building our new lives in Israel, day by day, week by week, brick by brick. My family faced similar challenges to what other olim chadashim (new immigrants) faced, yet we were determined to find our path to success in this new life.
Fast forward quite a few years and in 2006, I met a man named Anand in an online chat room. We clicked immediately and I think I gained a new meaning for the Hebrew word, ‘besheret,’ which loosely translates into ‘destiny.’ Six months later I was heading to Mumbai with my family to visit relatives and friends so Aanad decided he will come visit me in Mumbai even though he was living in Bangalore – which is eight hours drive away.
I thought he was kidding when he said he would make the “short journey” to see me. But there he was waiting for me in the airport with a big sign with my name on it! I think I almost cried. Anand joined me and my family on a trip we had to northern India and we had a great time together.
After I came back to Israel we continued chatting and Anand proudly declared that he thought “I'm his girl.” We continued our long-distance relationship for almost two more years until we got married in a big wedding ceremony in India that rivaled even the most colorful of Bollywood movies.
After the wedding, we moved to the United States to follow Anand and his start-up company dream. Five years went by and we could have applied for a Green card to live the American dream. However, when our first daughter was born, we realized that we didn’t want to raise our kids away from our extended family. In Be’er Sheva I have my parents, my brother and sister, uncles and aunties, and a sense of community which makes me feel right at home.
All of our lives we were entrepreneurs so when we decided to move to Israel, we knew that our small business dreams would continue there. And of course, there’s a reason they call it the ‘Start-up Nation.’
To create a successful business, you have to solve a problem. In Israel, we realized that there is a big community of Indian students and workers, yet they didn’t have access to local stores that stocked Indian food.
We decide to launch an online store and rented a physical store in the Be'er Sheva Shuk (market) for our new business. It was risky but with risk comes reward. We thought we made the right decision. What could go wrong? Well, let me sum it up in one word: COVID.
You have to remember, we were still new in Israel. We didn’t have a large network of fellow entrepreneurs, customers, or companies who could work with us during those challenging years. The odds were against us, however we weren’t going to let a once in century global pandemic stand in our way.
Things weren’t easy. We did a lot of foot work (physically and metaphorically) around Israel and delivered by our products to customers by hand. Yet even with this new approach, we couldn’t break even. They say that cashflow is king and we knew that we had to keep the ball rolling.
Then one day, we heard about an initiative helping small businesses like our own. Supported by Jewish National Fund-USA and their Lauder Employment Center, a Small Business Association was created to help people like us overcome the business challenges caused by the pandemic.
During our first meeting with the Lauder Employment Center, they mapped our special business needs and created a tailor-made solution for us. They subsidized services we couldn’t even imagine using like helping us build our web site and online store and subsidizing our product distribution so we could reach every Israeli household - even for individual clients whom we couldn't reach before.
Our subsidized online media consultant also taught us how to promote our business presence online and how to create boosted campaigns with target audiences.
These are lasting's tools that we will use long after the challenges from the pandemic fade from memory.
With the help and support of Jewish National Fund-USA and Lauder Employment Center of the Negev, we not only managed to survive COVID, but rather we thrived and expanded our business and we are about to open our new Indian restaurant in the Be'er Sheva Shuk.
Yet we were just one of their success stories. Thanks to Jewish National Fund-USA the Center helped over 120 small business from around the Negev develop their businesses during a time of great economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
With our resilience and support from Jewish National Fund-USA we can say:
सब कुछ मिलेगा
(Sab kuch milega / Everything is Possible!)
Store No 5 & 6, Ha-Shvakim St,
Be'er Sheva, IL 8443720
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