Ten months after landing a dream job with Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi, 29-year-old Rahul Magotra, from Jammu, lost his employment thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have worked with domestic airlines like GoAir and IndiGo taking care of the air ramp and other cargo related tasks. Getting a job in Etihad was my first stint with an international company and would have helped me immensely for my career,” Rahul says.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 crisis hit the aviation industry the hardest. Air operations started to slow down in January itself. “The crew started getting less work, and our roosters got emptier. The appointing company, Transguard, promised us food and accommodation, but it helped little,” he recalls.
Rahul said though the company ensured his basic needs for shelter and food, the situation kept worsening. “We were put in strict quarantine as some of our colleagues started testing positive. We were even restricted from moving out of our apartments,” he added.
After a never-ending wait, Rahul decided to return home in Sanjaynagar, Jammu in June. “I wrote to the company requesting them to let me return home, and the company agreed to process the same,” he adds.
A fresh start
“The situation back home was also deteriorating. It was unsafe as Covid-19 infection cases were increasing. But I wanted to do something that did not involve much interaction and could be done safely,” Rahul told The Better India.
Rahul always liked cooking, and there was a lot of demand for home-cooked meals in the area.
“I always wanted to explore this area in my life and thought of giving it a try. Moreover, the business could be pursued with minimum interaction,” he adds.
With some savings and a loan given by his father, Rahul created a makeshift kitchen in his attic. Rahul lives in a bungalow with just a ground floor. The terrace has two small rooms built on it – one for the house help and another for storage. This is where Rahul set up his business.
After naming the home-cooked food delivery service as ‘Chef City’, Rahul was good to go in the first week of August.
A different routine
Instead of moving cargo on tight schedules and managing the workforce efficiently while avoiding flight delays, Rahul’s routine is much different these days.
“I wake up around 6 am and go for a run or cycling. Then there are vegetables or material to be bought on some days. By 10 am I am preparing basic meals for the day like boiling vegetables, preparing gravy and other raw material,” Rahul explains.
“I have a helper who has good knowledge about recipes and both cook together.”
Rahul says orders start coming in around noon. “The orders start picking up around 5 pm to 6 pm, and the last order gets accepted at 9.30 pm,” he adds.
Weekends are the busiest days for Rahul. “On a good day, I see around 20 orders to serve. Some of them are regulars like bachelors or individual professionals. Customised orders in terms of spiciness, variety and choices get offered according to taste requirements,” he adds.
Rahul said his orders mainly cater to New Jammu area of Gandhi Nagar, Shastri Nagar, Channi, Saint colony and Greater Kailash which falls around a six-kilometre radius.
Safety, a priority
“I offer all kinds of food from Chinese to Maggi to Indian dishes. My Unique Selling Point (USP) is that the food is completely safe, and I take the utmost precaution. I made sure that I am the only single point of contact between the orders and the delivery. All the orders are taken only over the phone, and no walk-ins are allowed,” Rahul explains.
Explaining the safety aspects, Rahul says he is the only one to deliver the food order or a trusted friend.
“The masks, gloves and sanitisers are always worn or applied. All the deliveries are contactless, and food is dropped safely at the door,” he adds.
Rahul says that two months into his business, he is still progressing.
Patience is the key
The new entrepreneur says profits do not matter immediately. “I am getting an average response and still reaching out to new customers. There are no losses, but neither am I making huge profits. All I can say is the decision to do this is satisfying,” he adds.
Satpal Singh, one of the regular customers Rahul serves, says, “I was looking at an option that is safe and guaranteed safe food.”
Satpal, a cinematographer by profession, says he doesn’t like to cook much. “The food is homely and ensures safety by not relying on restaurants. The venture is getting quite popular as the posters, and other advertisements are seen very often,” he adds.
Rahul Magotra accepts food delivery orders on +91 8494089756 and +91 1913590802.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)