Craving home-cooked food after moving to Bengaluru from Aligarh led Shekhar Mittal to start a food catering business called ‘Maa ka Dulaar’, employing 100+ mothers and homemakers.
Remember when you moved out of your parent’s home for the first time? The one thing, most of us dearly missed, besides the warmth of home, was home-cooked food.
When Shekhar Mittal moved to Bengaluru for graduation with dreams in his eyes, what he struggled with the most was food.
“While I enjoyed eating South Indian cuisine, I craved my mother’s home-cooked delicious food. I struggled to adjust to the food, and soon, I realised that I was not the only one. So I wondered, ‘How can we tap this section of the food industry?’,” the 32-year-old tells The Better India.
He eventually figured out a way to bring delicious homecooked meals from various mothers’ kitchens in Bengaluru and Aligarh. With his startup Maa ka Dulaar (mother’s care), Shekhar has incubated over 100 mothers and homemakers. They cook their speciality food and Shekhar delivers it to people’s doorstep through his catering service.
From moms with lots of dulaar
Born and brought up in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, Shekhar was born a foodie. He loved the spicy delicacies that North India offers.
“I moved to Bengaluru in 2008 for my graduation. I have always been a fan of North Indian food and really missed it initially. When I missed it too much in the hostel, I ordered from various restaurants, however, the restaurant food was no match for the homecooked meals that I craved,” he says.
After completing his graduation, he started working for Accenture. But the idea of making homecooked meals available to people kept pushing him to do something.
“In 2015, I convinced a woman who was a homemaker and an acquaintance to cook some meals for me. I just had a vague idea of what I wanted to do. I asked a few of my friends if they want to try some authentic homecooked meal, and they willingly placed orders. I did everything from packing to delivering the meals,” he says.
He continues, “They absolutely loved the food and asked me — ‘Can we get this tomorrow too?’. This was all the motivation I needed to go ahead with this venture. I continued to do this for a couple of years, but only on weekends while I continued my day job.”
Soon more and more orders started to come in. A huge turnaround happened in 2020 when the pandemic peaked.
“I remember when all other businesses were shutting down, my business was flooded with orders. It was affecting my work, and I realised that it was the right time to go full-time,” he shares.
Shekhar, in 2020, decided to quit his decade-long career to become an entrepreneur. “I had understood that I can’t do everything on my own and that I needed a team,” he says.
But the decision to leave his career behind was not well received by his peers and family.
“The reaction, even back when I had started it as a part-time gig, was not in my favour. But when I decided to give up my career for good, the reception was not very motivating. The things I would get to hear were, ‘Why did you study so much if you wanted to do this’, and they would call me ‘tiffinwala’. However I knew this is the right path for me,” he says.
Empowering homemakers of the city
Bengaluru, being a hub of people migrating from different parts of the country, came as an advantage to Shekhar’s business.
“The homemakers who are passionate about cooking are always welcome to join us. The best part is, they cook what they love to cook. This way, our consumers get the best home-cooked meals. If a mom is originally from Rajasthan, she will cook her favourite Rajasthani cuisine,” he explains.
Maa ka Dulaar has served over one lakh meals so far. The menu is a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
“We have also ventured into the catering business now. We cater for business events, birthday parties, weddings and other social occasions too,” he says.
About how the business works, he explains, “There is a procedure that a candidate goes through to become a mom chef. It is a basic quality check, and we also look at the various dishes she makes. Besides, we focus on incubation moms who are passionate about cooking but don’t know to make a career out of it.”
“As for a consumer, they can simply visit our website where they can choose from various options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We also make pickles and sweets for special occasions. For instance, we make laddoos (sweet) for Diwali and gujiya (sweet fried snack) for Holi. This Holi, a mom chef was able to sell 60 kg of gujiya!” he adds, saying that his aim is not only to make homecooked meals available but also to empower homemakers.
Preeti Agarwal, who has been a chef with the business for nearly six years says, “It is very empowering. I was a homemaker before this and was doing a 24-hour job of being a mom. I was very passionate about cooking, and this business gave me a platform to become who I am today.”
She caters to at least 50 orders a day and also cooks for functions in the HSR layout area of Bengaluru. “The best thing about it is that I am still a stay-at-home mom. I can take care of my kids and manage my home while making money on the side. In a month with no special occasions, I earn around Rs 50,000–60,000. The income goes upward when there is a festival in a month. The work has given me confidence and independence. I can buy my daughter anything with my own money,” she says, adding that her kadhi chawal (curd curry with rice) and paneer (cottage cheese) starters are her best sellers.
Shreya Choudhary, a regular consumer of Maa ka Dulaar says, “This is just what was needed for Bengaluru. The food is delicious and very healthy. It reminds me of my mother’s cooking that I have always missed. They have a good variety and fast delivery.”
The services of Maa ka Dulaar are currently available only in Bengaluru and Aligarh, and orders can be placed from their official website. They get more than 500 orders each day from both cities combined.
“We get a lot of enquiry calls from other cities, and for the future, we want to reach as many cities as we can. Also soon, we are launching physical stores where customers can directly reach out to the homemakers for cakes, pastries, chocolates, snacks, and many other healthy home-made offerings,” he says.
“Additionally, I want to reach as many homemakers as we can. Many mothers who had no financial independence earlier call me to inform me how they were able to buy their kids an iPhone or something they wanted. This makes me feel like my work has a purpose. It motivates me and keeps me going,” says Shekhar.
Edited by Pranita Bhat