Illustration: Rahul Awasthi
Six months into the lockdown, after the initial flush of success servicing orders from friends and family, home chefs are establishing themselves as small businesses. The Yummy Idea, a platform to discover home chefs, has seen more than 1500 registered home chefs in five months. Another aggregator FoodCloud said over 1000 licensed home chefs have been onboarded since April.
“Some of our chefs are doing business upwards of Rs 2 lakh a month from within their homes,” said Vedant Kanoi, founder, Food Cloud. Other aggregators, including Foody Buddy and Home Foodi, also help in the discovery of home chefs.
Separately, Ghost Kitchens said it is collaborating with these women entrepreneurs to launch professional delivery brands. “We plan to enroll home chefs across different cities, and help in brand building, technology, standard operating procedures (SOP) and capital,” said Karan Tanna, founder of Ghost Kitchens.
A dozen people including home chefs, hospitality executives and bloggers ET spoke to were unanimous that these entrepreneurs are getting more organised. They are applying for Food Safety and Standards Authority of India or FSSAI licenses, opening up small commercial kitchens, advertising locally, taking orders from Instagram and Whastapp, accepting online payments, and using logistics services like Dunzo, Swiggy, and Wefast for deliveries.
“At first I just did it for a few close friends in the initial days of the lockdown but then as word of mouth spread I was approached to do this professionally,” said 50-year old- Bobbie Kaur, a home chef based in Mumbai. Kaur, who was running a small home beauty salon before the pandemic, is now falling back on cooking to help her survive. She is reinventing her menu, price points, and packaging in a way to convert her passion into a sustainable business.
Kaur is not alone. Seizing the opportunity during the lockdown, Delhi based Ruchi Mittal, who baked cakes and ran a food blog called Milesnmeals, saw a new market for home-cooked yet fancy meal bowls and decided to launch a brand. “Professionally I started cooking long back, about 10 years ago, with workshops in Chennai, but commercially, I saw major client base formed during the lockdown,” Mittal said.
Interestingly, customer behavior for perceived exclusivity and hygiene standards that home chefs provide helps get a premium on both logistics and food costs. “I started cooking as a hobby six months back. Today, it’s a business…more than 60% of my orders are from repeat customers,” said Bengaluru’s Maitreyee Maity, the founder of With Love From Home.
Social media continues to be the single largest channel of discovery for these businesses.
“In today’s world, social media plays a big role in getting and amplifying reviews. This, along with original content creation across platforms, personal branding, are important channels to scale,” pointed out Gurpreet Singh Tikku, a food blogger with a following of over 20,000 on Instagram alone.
While experts don’t see home chefs as a threat to traditional food businesses, they are an emerging sector in their own right. “There is a lot of room in the food business in India… with lower overhead costs, the unit economics…along with the growing awareness in consumers with respect to health and hygiene, this business will grow much faster in the coming years,” said Kanoi from Food Cloud. Dedicated aggregators catering to this market are looking to expand fast as well.
“We are present in 20 major food markets at the moment and plan to expand our reach in tier-II cities,” said Tushar Garg, founder of The Yummy Idea.