With a lockdown in place till recently, a number of people put their culinary skills to the test. While for most, this remained limited to making fancy coffees and perhaps a few cakes, some decided that they had found a new calling, and turned the lockdown into the start of their journey in entrepreneurship and startups. To paraphrase Martha Stewart, baking or cooking is equal to running an empire, and these people have started mini empires to reap the profits.
Here’s a look at five of them:
Grandmother’s Pizzas Are a Hit
When Pratibha Kanoi, a homemaker, saw how her family, especially grandkids, missed having restaurant food, she took it upon herself to try making their favourite dishes at home.
Among all the items, the 67-year-old from Mumbai also made a pizza that instantly became a hit in the house. Impressed, her sons, Visshaal and Vikaas pushed her to start her own small venture.
Thus was born Mommy’s Kitchen on May 2. It delivers fresh pizzas to people’s doorsteps, and in just 3-4 months, her clientele has grown to over 200 people across the city.
Talking to MAKERS India, Pratibha says, “I have always loved cooking for my family, but I have never dreamt of such a wonderful response to my pizzas. We started with just 10 boxes on day one, with orders from my sons’ friends. In 10 days, we needed more than 100 boxes! In fact, we started serving pasta also.”
All the ingredients, including the dough for the pizza base and gravy, is made by her and her stay-at-home staff. She ensures proper hygiene by washing and drying all vegetables in the sun for an hour before using them.
Mommy’s Kitchen’s menu includes pizza varieties like Margherita, Fungi, Primavera, and Diet Pizza.
Samera Kumar is a dance and yoga teacher, but her classes came to a standstill a few months ago. Uncertain of when her work would resume, she decided to bank on her culinary skills.
“I used to bake brownies and sell them on the weekends many years ago, and one of my old customers reached out to me during the lockdown wondering if I still take orders, so that’s where it all began, I thought, maybe I could start this off again, so I contacted a few people to help me start out. Nathaniel Dias helped me click amazing pictures for my Instagram feed, Eesha Keskar designed my logo and helped with branding and Sooraj Joshua manages the content on my Instagram page. Three days after the idea was born, the page was up and running and we were open for orders on May 22,” Samera tells The Better India.
Samera’s venture The Brownies Stories offers a wide range of options including fudgy brownies with chocolate ganache, sea salt, dark chocolate brownies, to name a few.
Samera has collaborated with a delivery app to send across her delicious desserts, “He (the delivery partner) ensures maximum hygiene with mask and sanitiser. His temperature is checked and recorded every day when he comes to pick up the orders. Customers can opt for a zero contact delivery and can even opt for a pick-up,” she adds.
Samera is also actively involved in procuring raw materials for baking, and in the packaging of every box. Masks and gloves are worn at every stage and all counters are wiped down with disinfectant every hour. The boxes are sealed and put in a paper bag which is also sealed, so the box is completely untouched through the process.
To ensure complete transparency and build trust with her clients, Samera has now applied for a licence. Three months into the venture, the baker has clients not only in Bengaluru but across India.
The business has done so well that Samera now takes only a limited number of orders every day. To keep up with orders, she has begun to give slots to customers in advance. “Customer feedback has been really encouraging and plus the orders have been quite consistent,” she says.
Reviving Business Like a Pro
When the lockdown was imposed in March, Bengaluru-based Aanchal Suri’s at-home food business that began in 2018 suffered. People were indoors, there were no social gatherings or any celebrations.
Unsure of how she would keep the business going, she took a break for a brief period before coming back with another idea.
“I realised people who are working from home hardly get time to cook and they don’t want to order from outside due to hygiene issues. So, I rebranded my venture as one which would provide fresh and authentic home-cooked food. I gave people the confidence that my food was hygienic and well-prepared. That’s when orders started picking up. I resumed my work in May-end and business has been steady since then,” Aanchal tells The Better India.
From Gatte ki Sabzi, Dahi Waale Aloo, Lauki ke Kofte, Tomato Rasam to Chocolate Almond loaf, Aanchal’s venture Bhaturas to Brownies serves delicious home-made food in Bengaluru to people living in her locality.
She uses Whatsapp to take orders and cooks a special dish once a week (like a weekend brunch, lunch or dinner) and people can place orders on the group.
“For people staying close by, food is picked by them in their own vessels. And for others, I use Dunzo to deliver the food. All payments are digital. Other than the weekly specials, I also take orders for any special dishes that anyone might want to eat. I cook both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food,” she adds.
Aanchal believes that her passion to feed people is what has helped revive business during the lockdown. “Cooking comforts me and lets me experiment in more ways than one. This venture has given me immense satisfaction as I bring to people food that is not easy to find in the city. I love it when people tell me that my food transports them to their childhood and brings back fond memories of times spent with family. Compliments like these are what keep me going.”
Reinvention is Key During The Lockdown
A banker-turned-homemaker, Shweta started her own firm Artventure Educraft in 2015 to bring art and craft into the school curriculum.
“I conducted a few online sessions, but the flow of the class was not engaging and interactive. Teaching craft skills requires a physical presence,” Shweta told eShe. So, she switched to making DIY craft kits for children but that also did not work out due to lack of materials.
Not one to give up so easily, Shweta channelled her creativity towards and started making exotic dishes. Seeing the pictures, her loved one encouraged her to sell her healthy dishes.
In April, she made a WhatsApp group and added her friends and family. With time, enquiries and orders increased, “And that’s how I started my new venture. My son named it Quarantine Bakers,” she said.
Now, Shweta gets up to four orders every day, and she cooks on her own without any help. Seeing the success of this project, she hopes to continue doing so post-lockdown.
A Business That Helps Lowering Anxieties
For Abhishek Thukral, a publicist in Mumbai, his new venture Whimsical Baker started in the first week of July. This was after his friends encouraged him to cook and bake professionally. His first order was for his friend’s mother’s birthday and there was no looking back.
His professional workload reduced during the lockdown and he ended up with a lot of time on his hands. His venture was up and running within a week. All he needed to start was basic inventory and social media platforms.
“The business has been great so far. Initially, I had apprehension about gaining people’s trust but I think home-made sweets and desserts work like a charm and the demand is always there. I believe cloud kitchens have really sprung up during these anxious times because people want to indulge in a good meal or a dessert,” he tells The Better India.
He has relied on word of mouth and social media to market his food and there is an increase in 20 odd customers every week.
Abhishek is very particular about personal hygiene so he makes sure there are extra layers of protection or packaging in the process. He uses third party trustworthy apps like Swiggy and Dunzo for deliveries, as they regularly screen delivery executives.
Edited by Gayatri Mishra