After 23 years in the IT sector, Rajendra Prasad from Hyderabad quit his job to start a cloud kitchen for traditional Telangana and Andhra Pradesh snacks.
After working in the IT field for over two decades, Rajendra Prasad Regonda from Hyderabad was longing for a change. Despite having a high-paying and secure job, he wasn’t happy.
Besides, starting a business of his own was a long-standing dream for Rajendra, who finally decided to turn around his love for food and cooking into a small business venture. So, in late 2019, he started a cloud kitchen named T Snacks, making healthy and traditional Telangana and Andhra Pradesh snacks.
The idea for the business was rooted in the thought of providing healthy snacks for people, especially children. “Being a father of two, I realised that it was difficult to find healthy snacks for my kids. Also, unlike in olden times, nobody has the time and patience to make such foods at home. That’s how I got the idea of specialising and experimenting with traditional snacks,” says the 48-year-old.
Today, Rajendra sells a wide range of tasty snacks, sweets, pickles, podis and earns around Rs 1 lakh as revenue, per month. Besides, he also ships his products to countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, etc.
A tough beginning
Rajendra, who started his business in December 2019, had to face a tough time within a few months due to the pandemic-induced lockdown. “We rented a building near our residence at Pragathi Nagar and started our kitchen by investing around Rs 5 lakh. But within three months we had to shut down due to the lockdown. It was unexpected but at that point, I had my IT job which helped us sail through the crisis,” he adds.
While working his IT job and managing his business simultaneously, Rajendra says it was his wife who was in charge of the kitchen with his constant guidance. “Though we had to discontinue our regular business, we used the kitchen to cook and distribute free food to the people who were struggling to battle the pandemic woes. Many of my friends, even those from the US, supported me in running the kitchen for charity,” he says, adding that he continued it till he was able to restart his regular business after the first lockdown in June 2020.
Once the business was restarted, he says, “It was challenging as some of our staff were apprehensive about coming back due to pandemic concerns. Besides, it got tougher for my wife to manage the kitchen and our children. I was still working and mostly had to go out to meet my clients. I realised that I needed to choose one, either the job or the business.”
“Starting a business was a dream come true for me,” he says, adding, “I didn’t want to give up on my business, as I knew I might regret the decision later in my life. So, I decided to give up my full-time job to focus on my business completely.”
Though he quit his job to rebuild his business, there was yet another challenge for him to tackle. “Due to the pandemic, there were very few takers for our products. People were very apprehensive and had concerns about hygiene and quality. So they mostly bought branded snacks,” says Rajendra who started marketing his products through Facebook and WhatsApp. “I took photos and made small videos of our kitchen to show how hygienically we manage the entire process from cooking to packaging and posted them on social media. This helped a lot and people eventually started recognising our products,” he adds.
Soon, he started receiving orders through Facebook.
A healthy twist to the regular snacks
While turning his passion for food and cooking into a small snacks business, Rajendra says, it was his mother who guided him with the recipes. “My mother is always a phone call away. In the initial days, she used to guide me with her cooking expertise, suggesting the required amount of dough and other ingredients that go into the making of a particular snack. Eventually, with her tips and suggestions, I made a formula for myself for each recipe and it has been working out ever since,” he elaborates.
Other than making authentic Andhra and Telangana snacks, Rajendra has also come up with a few new recipes for these snacks with a healthy twist to them. “The format of making these snacks are the same but I improvised a few by adding healthy ingredients into it. For example, Chekkalu is a very authentic dish made using rice. I improvised its recipe by adding vegetables like beetroot and carrot thereby making it even more healthy and tasty. We call it ‘Mix veg chekkalu’. Even kids, who don’t usually eat these veggies, love the veg chekkalu,” he explains adding that it is one of the best-selling snacks.
Currently, around 25 varieties of traditional snacks, including murukulu, janthikulu, sakinalu, karapusa, sarva pindi, mixtures, etc, are available at T Snacks.
Other than snacks they also make sweets like ariselu, gavvalu, chalividi, and different varieties of laddoos. They have a long menu for podis and pickles as well.
“I only have retail customers and I believe that people buy my snacks because of the quality I maintain. We only make products based on the orders and are very particular about not using reused oil. We have several regular customers who have been buying from us since we started,” he says, adding that the snacks and sweets are priced at Rs 400/ kg and upwards, pickles and podis at Rs 600 per kg and upwards.
Gowri Manjunath, a bank employee and a regular customer at T Snacks, says that their sweets and savouries are equally tasty and healthy. “I like the traditional Telangana snacks and I learned about Rajendra’s cloud kitchen through Facebook. The concept of infusing vegetables like carrots and beetroots in the savoury is amazing, even kids who usually don’t like these veggies eat them. The snacks are healthy as they are not oily. He uses fresh and good quality oil which I feel enhances its taste and is made very hygienically,” she says.
“One of my favourites is the ney ariselu, which just melts in the mouth. I also buy sweets like dry fruit laddoos from him. I even sent these snacks to my cousins who live abroad and they also love them,” says Gowri, who has been buying from him for the past two years.
Rajendra started his business with just three employees and currently has a team of 11 members, among which 10 of them are women.
“I would say my time is my investment in this business,” he says, adding, “We earn around Rs 1 lakh a month. Though it’s not as much as I used to make in my IT job, I am content and confident in its growth.”
For more information or placing orders, you can visit their Facebook page.
Edited by Yoshita Rao