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27 Questions: Anushka Purohit, founder of BREER

Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. In our 27 Questions column, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims and aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same duration of a casual speed date. This week, we speak to Anushka Purohit, the determined BREER founder who works furiously to both reduce food waste and fill pint glasses at the same time. 

What were you doing when you were ten years old? We recall bike rides and overly zealous visits to the library as a bookworm of a child. An ordinary childhood. Certainly, we didn’t identify any pressing social issues or environmental problems, but this is exactly what Anushka Purohit did on her tenth birthday when her parents took her to a Hong Kong Starbucks for a birthday treat for the first time. It was near closing time, and ten-year-old Anushka watched the baristas take the baked goods out of the window and put them in rubbish bags to be thrown away. She says, “I think that interaction left this imprint in my mind that as advanced as Hong Kong is, as one of the financial hubs of the world and the amazing city that it is, we do have this running food wastage problem.”  

Thirteen years and an engineering degree later, the HKUST alumni has founded BREER, a beer company that makes beer out of discarded bread. Since bread and beer are both made from cereal grains, Purohit reasoned that there should be no reason why beer can’t be brewed using bread as its base ingredient. BREER (a portmanteau of “bread” and “beer”) currently offers a pale ale, a hibiscus sour, and a small-batch bolo bao IPA, made from — you guessed it — upcycled pineapple buns. Most recently, she collaborated with Maxim’s Group to produce BOB “Bottle of Bread,” made from upcycled white bread to produce a pale ale and a stout.


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There are many groups in Hong Kong that are working hard to counter the immense amount of food waste in the city, yet their efficiency is hampered by city regulations as to what can and cannot be donated. In the context of bread and pastries, city laws dictate that produce left on display all day cannot be donated — and anyone who so much as walked around the city for an hour will note the plentiful bakeries on every street, with their wares on proud display. During Purohit’s time volunteering with Feeding Hong Kong, she noticed the legal binds which resulted only in 30% of the bread wastage in Hong Kong being eligible for donation. BREER aims to tackle the other 70%, and currently the company is partnered with Maxim’s, who supplies most of the bread used in the making of BREER and the two companies’ collaborative brew, BOB. BREER still uses bread from bakeries that fall outside Maxim’s purview, but having a well-funded backer to support on a mass scale, even with something as seemingly trivial as transport, alleviates a significant portion of the burden for both start-ups and non-profit organisations such as Feeding Hong Kong.  

We asked, what are some easy lifestyle tweaks that we can all implement to reduce food waste? Purohit’s answer: Bringing your own Tupperware for take-out meals helps reduce packaging waste. Restaurants are typically more receptive to special portioning requests when they’re not using their own standardized containers which may dictate serving sizes. Receiving our preferred portioning sizes (more/less vegetables, rice, etc) makes it easier for us to finish our food, in turn reducing food waste. Another tip, she says, is to eat dinner when shops are nearing closing time, in order to support them in buying the food items that didn’t sell yet. And most importantly? “Just knowing that there’s always something you can do. If you try, you’re making an impact, no matter how big or how small.”  


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27 Questions with Anushka Purohit

Name: Anushka Purohit
Age: 23
Neighbourhood: Whampoa, Hong Kong
Occupation: Student, CEO and Co-Founder of Breer, Reel creator and Bollywood Lover 

1. What is your life motto?

To be MAD: embrace my crazy and Make A Difference. As a little Indian girl growing up in Hong Kong, I often was told my ideas were too crazy — you want to learn Cantonese? Crazy! You want to solve the food wastage problem? Crazy! You want to enter the brewing industry at the age of 19? Crazy! Now, on the other side of these conversations, I realise how grateful I am to have embraced that craziness. That craziness pushes me outside of my comfort zone and compels me to seek comfort in discomfort —an area where one can only grow.

2. Who is your role model? 

I really look up to Priyanka Chopra. As a brown girl carving her own niche in the international space, she has always shattered the glass ceiling. She won Miss World, dominated Bollywood as an outsider, tried her hand at singing, failed (in her words,) went on to dominate Hollywood, is a UNICEF Ambassador and has launched numerous successful brands. She gives every project her all, and I love her hustle. She’s putting brown girls on the map and, most importantly, using her platform to make a difference. 

3. What is your drink of choice?

Easy — I can never say no to a delicious Pina Colada. Anywhere, anytime. 

4. When was the last time you drove a car?

Almost a year ago. My favourite car to date (I named her Carla) was a Volkswagen Golf with a sunroof. I had to part with her because my travel schedules didn’t justify the 6.5k HKD carpark rent and petrol costs, but she will always be my first car-love! 

5. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?

There’s a life-size, zoomed-in picture of me. For Hong Kong Science Park’s Job Fair this year, I was selected to be an InnoCaptain, so they got these massive pictures of the 4 InnoCaptains Afterwards, they were kind enough to send them to us – mine is now up in my living room, welcoming me home everyday and scaring the living daylights out of my friends who visit. 

6. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I think I’ve now become both. I used to be a major night owl in school because the stillness and quiet of the night would make me the most productive, but at the current moment in time, I’m a morning person. I’m up everyday at 6:30am to get a workout in before I start my work day. Trust me, Anushka 1 year ago would never believe this. 

7. Which phone app do you think more people should know about?

Poe.com is my new favourite app because it allows you to leverage generative AI anywhere in the world (yes, ChatGPT in HK without VPN!) 

8. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

With the prerequisite that I get to make it each time. I have a very specific method of cooking Indomie – from the right moment to rinse the noodles with cold water to stop the cooking, to the addition of the crisp garlic at the end, and the alternating of the soy sauce, garlic oil and chili sauce (in that order)… yeah, safe to say I take my Indomie seriously. 

9. What is your biggest regret in life?

I hate having regrets, so I make pretty spontaneous decisions: for example, my parents were in Mumbai for their 25th anniversary and I really didn’t want to miss this milestone which fell on a Sunday. Yet, I had a commitment in Hong Kong on Friday evening and another one on Monday morning. So I did what any other person would do. I bought a 9,000 HKD round trip ticket from HK to BOM on Friday night and returned from BOM to HK in the early hours of Monday. I made it to my commitments and celebrated with my family, and thank god I did, because I know I would’ve really regretted it if I didn’t go! 

10. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?

That time literally flies. Whenever I’m on holiday, or in any other part of the world, the day goes by so slowly. In Hong Kong, your entire day can pass and you still wouldn’t have processed everything that happened. Everything is so quick! 

11. When did you last ride the Star Ferry? What were you doing/where did you go?

I tried the new Hung Hom to Central Ferry line to see how long it takes. It takes exactly 21 minutes and 23 seconds. I timed it. 

12. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Sweet treats. Any and all I can never say no to dessert — I could be having a bad day and all I need is chocolate to cheer me up. I could’ve had the hardest workout and all I need is a creme brulée after. I could even overload on sugar and vow never to have dessert again, and then in 15 minutes, I’d crave dessert.  

13. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

New York City — that city is a beating heart. So much culture, so many opportunities and the heart of all the action. I’ve manifested this as my goal in the next 2 years, move to New York and hopefully create impact there! It helps that Hong Kong’s familiarized me with the fast pace and the crazy rent, now it’s just about moving there and experiencing what life is like as a New Yorker! 

14. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?

The belief that Hong Kong is Home Kong. Hong Kong is the most beautiful melting pot of culture. Take me for example: I’ve grown up here (all 23 years of my life spent in this city), speak Cantonese and Mandarin and hold a HKSAR Passport. Yet, you couldn’t know if you just looked at me. Being a Hongkonger is a feeling, not just an identity. 


15. Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had, what is one important lesson that they taught you?

I am one of the few people in Hong Kong who has studied in both a local and international schools. When I was in my early primary years in a local school, parents had the choice between a “Chinese” and “non-Chinese” stream for their children. My cheeky antics meant every night, at 7:30pm sharp, I would sit and imitate the TVB News Anchor in Cantonese with full confidence, eventually leading my parents to think that I was a pro Canto speaker. They asked my teacher to switch me to the “Chinese” stream to see how I coped, and as you must have guessed, I sat there, for an entire day, clueless. My teacher, Miss Au, called me after school and asked me if I understood anything. When I said no, she asked me if I wanted to learn Cantonese, so I said yes. Miss Au told me to meet her before school, during break times and after school for a Cantonese lesson, and every day for three years she taught me common phrases, sentence structures and keywords. Today I’m confidently able to speak Cantonese, and it’s only because Miss Au sacrificed her time to teach me. I will forever be indebted to her!


16. How many countries have you been to?

I’ve been to 18 countries. Traveling is one of my favourite activities because it’s like learning about different cultures through a temporary exchange of environments – I can’t wait to tick off more countries very soon.


17. What would you do if you won the lottery?

Keep a portion of the funds to invest in some of my crazy ideas and use the remaining funds to set up a charity in India and build a school for children in rural communities near my home in Bhopal and Indore. The children would go to school at no cost, so the funds would be used to pay the teachers’ salary and maintain the school.  


18. What was the best gift you ever received?

For my 21st birthday, Anupam got me a billboard in Times Square that read “Happy Birthday Nushu” on a backdrop of a photo of me. In the Times Square. In New York City. Also known as the city I want to move to. It was the most thoughtful, extra, tugging-at-my-heartstrings gift I’ve ever received, and I don’t think anything can top that. 


19. What’s the best or worst career advice you’ve ever received?

“Accept the status quo.” When I told my high school mathematics teacher that I want to study engineering and move to the advanced mathematics class, she advised me that there aren’t many other girls who have succeeded in this field, and that I should prepare to leave it halfway. As a naive 17-year-old, I actually first accepted her advice, and went back home to tell my parents I probably wouldn’t study Engineering anymore. It was then that my parents made me realize that I am the one who will need to put in the hard work, so nobody but I can decide whether or not I can do it. That’s also when they told me to “Never settle for the status quo,” a piece of advice that I still hold very close to my heart. I truly believe if I set my mind to it, have passion and work hard, I can, and will, shatter any and every glass ceiling. 


20. When was the last time you felt starstruck?

When I met Priyanka Chopra in her restaurant in New York City. I was shook. I was also majorly starstruck when I met Bani J, my all-time favourite VJ, in Mumbai for the very first time— I’m not exaggerating when I say I stood there with my jaw dropped for a solid 38 seconds before I realized how dorky I looked. 


21. A genie gives you three wishes — what are they?

1) To eliminate health complications around the world for everyone
2) Teleportation
3) To make all my wishes come true — just kidding. Enough money to make all my startup aspirations and impact goals become a reality. 


22. What is the top destination on your bucket list?

I really want to visit France because I want to use my French skills and see if I can communicate with the locals there. I also really want to visit a patisserie and ask about all the pastries using French. It’ll be the real-life execution of all the practice conversations I had in French class in school!


23. How often do you prepare your own meals?

Never. I’m a very impatient cook. I get too hungry in the process of cooking and take way too long to prepare a dish, so I never cook my own meals. I am so grateful to have an aunty who makes the most scrumptious Indian food come and cooks for me and my family every day!


24. What was your first job?

My first job was at a local healthcare startup called Gense Technologies — fun fact, I was their first female hire and their first Business Development Intern! That experience taught me what it is like to build a startup in Hong Kong, and gave me the opportunity to do my first ever pitch competition. My manager at the time, and now mentor, Justin Chan, let me explore all aspects of the startup – from business development to technology to pitching to market research. It was like a crash course in Entrepreneurship, and I truly believe that experience is what got me so excited about launching my own startup one day.

25. What is your greatest fear?

That I won’t be able to make education a choice for children around the world. I am a huge advocate for education and the opportunities it brings, and one of my lifelong goals is to do what I can to ensure children around the world, especially in India, all have access to education. This is a huge goal, and sometimes I fear that I won’t be able to execute it all by myself, which is why I’m always on the lookout for individuals who are as passionate as me to make this a reality, because everyone deserves an education. 


26. How many countries have you been to?

I’ve been to 18 countries. Traveling is one of my favourite activities because it’s like learning about different cultures through a temporary exchange of environments.I can’t wait to tick off more countries very soon. 


27. What energises you about your work?

The tangible impact I’m able to see. When I started working on Breer, my motivation was crystal clear:I wanted to reduce the amount of food heading straight to the landfills in Hong Kong. Today, I’ve first-hand witnessed the saving of over 60,000kg of bread, some of which has turned into beer, some of which was donated to elderly in Hong Kong alongside food boxes, and some of which became brewer’s spent grain and was fed to farm animals.

27 Questions: Anushka Purohit, founder of BREER

Vanessa Lee

Managing Editor

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