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WHEN Ranna Joshi arrived in Invercargill in 2009, tears flowed.

She had made the shift from Ahmedabad, in India, a congested city with a population of 6 million, to Invercargill, a sparse city of about 50,000 people.

Ms Joshi had enrolled to study business at the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT), but she was not prepared for the quieter environment which Invercargill provided.

“It was so quiet and empty. My first impression was very depressing, it was lonely and there was nobody here to hold our hands at the start,” she said.

Initially she found it difficult to connect with the people of Invercargill.

“In 2009 I found it a bit restrictive, it was hard,” she said.

But almost a decade on and Ms Joshi has no regrets – she loves her new home of Invercargill.

Her perception of Invercargill, and the people, had changed dramatically.

“I’ve seen them open up and be more accepting of different cultures and different foods,” she said.

“At the Diwali festival [a fortnight ago] we had great support from the local people. [Invercargill] people are very accepting now.”

Another difficulty during her early years in Invercargill was sourcing ingredients for her Indian cooking.

She sourced products from an online business in Christchurch, before in 2016 deciding to fill a gap as the Indian population in Invercargill continued to grow.

Ms Joshi and her husband Ankur set up Tasti Bitz, an Indian grocery store on Kelvin St.

“We felt there was a need for a dedicated Indian grocery store in Invercargill. [The Indian] population is growing rapidly,” she said.

The store on Kelvin St is situated in the block earmarked for demolition early next year.

The demolition will make way for a new $200 million retail precinct driven by HWCP Ltd, a joint venture between the Richardson Group and Invercargill City Council.

It prompted the couple to look for an alternative site for Tasti Bitz, and they found a new home on Deveron St.

Last week they opened the door to the new store.

The new location remained close to the SIT campus and also a lot of SIT accommodation, which Ms Joshi said was important.

“Most of our customers are SIT students, so we wanted something close to them where they could still walk to,” she said.

As well as the Indian students, Ms Joshi said they had more and more New Zealand families visit the store as Kiwis branched out to try cooking with various Indian ingredients.

To help in that quest to branch out, for the past two years Ms Joshi has held Indian cooking classes at the SIT.

The new Deveron St venue was triple the size of the old Tasti Bitz store and the owners believed it offered an opportunity to expand to help cater for the growth of other ethnicities in Invercargill.

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