India’s green Mirchee chilli packs a powerful punch, as does Cindy Buser, the dynamic founder of the Destination Management Company that bears its name.
Born and bred in Mumbai, Cindy moved to South Africa 14 years ago having married a South African. Widowed three years ago, she is now a single mother supporting two children and the owner of a DMC specialising in the Indian, Middle Eastern and American markets.
“I spent six years as the general manager and director of sales and marketing at Spirit of Africa, but after my second child realised it was time for me to start my own business instead of making money for the whole world,” says Cindy.
And so Mirchee DMC was born in 2013. With international tourism experience and the skill to turn loss-making companies into profitable businesses, Cindy set about adding that sizzle for which she is renowned in her own Cape Town-based business.
“Since then, we’ve grown from strength to strength and, before COVID-19 hit, we were a team of six strong women. I have had to retrench my entire team except for one consultant working from home. Everyone is surviving on their UIF thanks to TERS. That’s all we can do for the moment, and hope that the industry does get better,” says Cindy.
Be hopeful, grateful and realistic
Cindy admits it has been difficult, as a single woman, running a household and not having an income. “All your profitability, the money you keep aside for a rainy day is gone. I’m not a huge company with huge overdrafts, so unfortunately this has hit me personally quite hard.”
But with characteristic pragmatism, Cindy knows that one still has to make ends meet and has drawn on her talents to start her own food business, called Mirchee Foods, which she is running from home while trying to juggle everything else, of course.
“What else can one do, but be hopeful, be grateful and, of course, be realistic and hope that this industry gets better,” says Cindy.
Reinventing a ‘fractured’ Industry
When asked what this self-made business transformer would do to fix South Africa’s tourism sector, Cindy admits there is only so much one can do in this environment. “There really is nothing one can do besides to motivate, inspire and keep everyone’s sense of stability going. That’s all we can do.”
This is especially since Tourism is very important, not only for the economy, but for the people who work in this industry, says Cindy. “If we don’t have this industry, the economy will definitely get hit. It’s imperative that tourism comes back to normalcy in some way or the other in terms of jobs, sustenance, the economy of the country.”
Why South Africa is home
Cindy compares the drive and spirit of South Africa to her homeland, India. “We have the same mindset, the same drive. When I go back to India to visit, I miss home. Home is South Africa. I love this country with a passion.”
While India will always be home for Cindy because it’s the land of her birth, South Africa will always be home in her heart. “When it comes to home where I connect my soul, my heart, my work, my children, the people, what inspires me, I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else. I love South Africa and especially in Cape Town,” says Cindy.
And that inspiration transcends to inspiring other women to be their best. Cindy talks about the importance of having your own self confidence to “work miracles” and to think out the box by making do with what you have.
“We cannot sit and wait for someone else to lift us up. We have to lift ourselves up and that only happens when you can think out of the box. Ask yourself: what skill, what talents do I have? At least that puts food on the table,” says Cindy.
However, Cindy is also a great believer that women have to inspire each other. “Women have to uplift other women. Women are strong with other women.”
Hoping for change, but also taking matters into her own hands to work miracles, Cindy lends her voice to the #IAmTourism cause, calling on the women leaders of South Africa to put themselves in the shoes of the women in tourism.
“I would say to the women leaders to put themselves in the same situation we are in and ask themselves, what would they do? That’s all it takes for a woman to know how another woman is going through the same difficult situation.”
Cindy Buser spoke to Natalia Rosa, view their #IAmTourism conversation here