Update: The article has been updated at the request of Kripa Dharmaraj
From being an IT professional to a homemaker to a CEO, Kripa Dharmaraj has donned many hats. For seven years, Kripa served more than 1,000 nutritious lunchboxes every day as part of her start-up — MC’s lunchbox. Kripa and her husband, Mayilvahanam, brought together a team of 50+ members that consisted of an operations team, a tech team, chefs and dieticians. Over the years, Kripa expanded her business and set up ‘green canteens’ at several schools in Chennai to serve balanced meals to the kids.
Although her lunchbox business and its services were discontinued recently, the proactive lady is currently working on a new venture ‘KD vs KG’, a wellness and weight loss programme.
In conversation with The Better India, Kripa shares with us the ups and downs of managing startups and launching a new initiative.
Becoming A CEO
“I always wanted to start my own business, but after completing my engineering, I joined an IT company in Chennai but as fate had it I got married into a business family and I started helping my husband with his real estate business. This was definitely a turning point for me because I had the chance to have a hands-on experience. It motivated me to start something on my own,” shares the 35-year-old.
After the birth of her son, Maghi, in 2010, she faced the same challenges that new parents do including how to provide nutritious food to your child. “Parents struggle with what is the right kind of nutrition for the growth and development of their child. That’s when I thought, why not create a business that fixes this problem,” says Kripa.
The idea evolved into Maghi Cookery’s Lunchbox (MC’s Lunchbox) which Kripa launched in 2013.
“I spoke to several parents and asked them about the kind of lunch boxes they would send their kids and they all seemed to be trying too hard to fill their children’s tummy rather than focussing on the nutritional value of the food and how it would benefit their child. So we decided to fill that gap,” says Kripa.
MC’s Lunchbox — Everything You Need
In the first 2-3 months of the initiative, as part of their marketing strategy, Kripa and her husband decided to distribute upto 2,000 nutrition-packed lunch boxes to several schools across Chennai, free of cost. Soon after, the company started getting bulk orders for monthly and daily subscriptions from schools and parents.
“My kids grew up eating lunch from MC’s lunchbox and honestly it was a huge relief for me to know that I didn’t have to worry every morning about what to cook for them,” Nithya Vaidhyanathan, a homemaker based in Chennai.
The company started receiving orders for 1000+ boxes every day even with several other food delivery apps as competitors.
“What we learnt from MC’s lunchbox was that we had created a solid customer base that completely trusted our product and was satisfied with it. Our team also functioned like a well-oiled machine and since we were a close-knit group, there was no room for error,” Kripa explains.
The entrepreneur recently decided to halt the lunchbox services and move to the health and wellness space.
“I decided to help people achieve an overall wellness perspective and not stop with food. Another reason to not continue in the catering market, because it became from a blue ocean to a red ocean with aggregators playing a role in the delivery segment,” shares Kripa.
After discontinuing the lunchbox services, Kripa invested her time in creating a new venture that can help people with weight loss and wellness by understanding their individual nutritional requirements.
“Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of experience and better knowledge about what people are looking for in their food. Using this knowledge, I decided to create a wellness program of sorts to enable people to make healthy food choices that are suitable for their body. I named this venture ‘KD vs KG’, that is Kripa Dharmaraj vs. Kilograms, because the idea was inspired by my own fitness journey,” Kripa explains.
With the lockdown in place, this new virtual venture has helped Kripa manage her business and has also been beneficial to several people who have been struggling with their health.
The program started in January and has already a community of 100 people. The program starts out by collecting the input of the customers which includes details of their weight, height, BMI and present eating habits. After this, a framework of their ideal food intake is created.
“I also take several workshops to create awareness about nutrition, through my own experience,” she adds.
“After seven years of being an entrepreneur, the one thing that I’ve learnt is to have a strong passion for what you’re doing. If you’ve started a business solely for money, that’s not going to get you anywhere. But if you truly have a purpose behind your venture, then people are surely going to put their trust in you,” she says.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)