After Monika Chhatwal’s husband passed away earlier this year, the financial burden of running the home entirely fell on her. With two children in the house, she had to find a stable livelihood.
So, she gave up her dream of opening a restaurant. But she still wanted to cook. So she looked for opportunities to sell food from her own kitchen in Noida.
But how could one start collecting orders other than through social media? Like so many of us, Monika could not build an app, or spend all her time marketing herself. She could cook for sure. But needed a place to sell – digitally.
Monika found her opportunity via ‘Homefoodi’ in February. Homefoodi is an app where customers can directly order from home chefs. And thus Monika began her entrepreneurial journey with ‘Monika Kitchen’.
She started with a few orders, and the response has been overwhelming. “Dahi Bhalla, Pav Bhaaji and Biryanis are our popular food items. It is very encouraging to see 362 reviews and 685 likes for our ‘Kitchen’ on the app. We deliver to social gatherings and corporate functions as well, which makes our monthly earnings touch almost a lakh,” says Harshita, Monika’s daughter.
Harshita, who is a school teacher, does the cutting and chopping and takes care of sourcing the right ingredients, “Financial independence is the biggest advantage, and mom is thrilled.”
Like Monika, there are close to 250 home chefs who are unleashing their love for food and entrepreneurship via the Homefoodi app, launched in October 2019.
Homefoodi, a Noida-based startup founded by husband-wife duo, Narendra Singh and Dr Mona Dahiya, is a mobile app (available on Android and iOS) that brings authentic local cuisines from home chefs to customer doorsteps.
“There are two goals we aim to achieve,” Narendra and Dr Mona tell The Better India. “Financially empower homemakers by getting the right value for their culinary skills and make home-cooked meals accessible with just one click.”
The food venture is not your typical cloud or commercial kitchen as the food is not prepared in advance and kept ready for delivery. The chef begins preparations only after a customer places an order. That’s why the average waiting time is longer (45 minutes) under this ecosystem.
The app is a one-stop destination for regional and global cuisines that include everything, from a simple brunch choice of Kadhi Pakoda with Chawal, to Kashmir’s delight Mutton Rogan Josh, Rajasthani Dal Baati Churma, Gujarat’s Khaman Dhokla to sweets like Motichur ke Ladoo, Jalebi, Sewaiya Kheer.
The Ghar Ka Khana emotion is kept alive in every dish as all the FSSAI-registered chefs strictly follow hygiene protocols and sprinkle it with their love, “Only fresh ingredients and vegetables are used, and food is safely packed in containers. Our team visits the chef once in a week to check the quality and hygiene standards,” says Narendra.
The duo believes that this simple strategy has managed to define its brand in three words – trust, authenticity and hygiene. No wonder, their business is thriving even during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, with a steady growth rate of 15-20 per cent and home chefs are earning up to a lakh every month.
Doesn’t this make for a sustainable, successful business model where everyone, from customers, chefs to the founders benefit?
It may come as a surprise to you that the couple has no background in running a business or any professional experience in the culinary world. All they have is their eternal love for food.
How It Started
While Dr Mona is an IVF Super Specialist practising for the last 20 years, Narendra has an engineering background. He worked with various Multinational Corporations before quitting his job in 2018 to focus on app development. Meanwhile, Dr Mona juggles between her practice and running the business.
“The idea was to build a sustainable ecosystem. After several brainstorming sessions, we decided to do something for women who end up as homemakers due to various circumstances. We wanted to create financial opportunities for them without them having to leave the house. So Homefoodi is our ‘Work from Home’ version,” shares Dr Mona.
Food being one of the key skills, the duo surveyed 2,000 homemakers and customers respondents across India about delivering home-made food in 2018.
“More than 10 per cent homemakers were willing to begin a home kitchen if given a hassle-free platform that ensured logistics. Meanwhile, 90 per cent said they preferred home food over restaurants. With these encouraging figures, we invested our savings and launched the app a few months later,” says Narendra.
The announcement of Homefoodi was made on social media platforms, and the day of their launch, around 100 home chefs were invited to grace the event. It got media coverage, and that helped establish a strong network of chefs across the city.
The criteria to join the app are to be an FSSAI registered chef, have a clean cooking place and possess culinary skills.
After a short formal training workshop on standard operating procedures, packaging, hygiene, the chef begins the work.
Next, they identified a delivery partner to pick the freshly cooked food from the chef’s house and deliver it to the customer.
What Makes Homefoodi Stand Out
Family is a priority for every homemaker, so the system is kept flexible. They can decide their work timings, prices, menu and area of delivery.
As for customers, they have an additional option of pre-ordering for the future. Many customers book the next day’s breakfast in the evening. This feature is also beneficial for the chefs as they know what’s coming their way.
Sure, there have been times when the chef is unable to meet the demand, or there are delays but seeing the monetary benefits, such instances have reduced over the months. Dr Mona mentions how, in some houses, the entire family pitches in when there is a surge in demand, especially during occasions/festivals. (Monika’s is one of them).
Customer feedback is a crucial factor behind the company’s steady growth. Every new customer gets a phone call about her/his experience. All the detailed feedback is relayed to the chefs.
Anju Mittal, the wife of a retired army officer, who prefers her dishes with less spice, testifies to the process.
“After our first order, they took all our preferences and had been implementing them since then. We order five times a week. Homefoodi is a brilliant concept behind reviving the charm of home-made foods while generating employment,” Anju tells The Better India.
The algorithms of the app like what is the most popular dish, recurring customers and disliked food items are also shared with the chefs to raise the overall standard.
For example, after a complaint of spillage was recorded, the company started packaging thalis in different containers. They also switched to microwavable containers to ease the heating process.
A Home Growth Story
Homefoodi receives 10-15 applications daily from home chefs who want to be associated with the app, thus making it a lucrative business. Figures back this assumption. More than 30 per cent of the registered chefs earn above Rs 50,000 per month.
One huge reason behind such a high revenue margin is the company’s profit rate. It takes only 10 per cent commission from the employees – which is lesser than food tech companies.
There have been one lakh app downloads, and 65 per cent of its customers have ordered at least four times in the month. As per the app reviews, the satisfaction score stands at 98 per cent.
Thanks to the overwhelming response and twofold sales during the lockdown. Homefoodi will expand its operations to Gurugram by the end of 2020, and it hopes to enter other metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru by next year.
All the images are sourced from Homefoodi. Get in touch with Homefoodi here
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)