The Covid-19 pandemic may have turned the world of several firms in the gig economy upside down, but it could not deter two graduates of business management in Odisha’s capital city of Bhubaneswar from starting their own food ordering platform amid an environment of overwhelming gloom.
In August, 20-year-olds Suryanshu Panda and Epari Pritam, graduates from Bhubaneswar’s Xavier’s University of Business, started chefjunction.com, an online food ordering platform that fashions itself as the only platform that delivers food prepared at home.
“Unlike Swiggy, Zomato or UberEats, our food ordering platform delivers food prepared by people at home. Due to the high amount of spices and poor quality of cooking oil used by restaurants, food quality in local restaurants have always been a matter of concern. During the pandemic, when immunity is the biggest issue, we realised a business opportunity exists as many people may not be ready to order such food from restaurants. After some brainstorming, we decided to start a food ordering platform that would connect customers to people cooking food in their homes,” said Panda, who did his Bachelors in business administration this year with specialisation in human resources.
Panda’s batch mate Pritam, who did his BBA in marketing and shared his love for food, was too enthused to join. “Before the pandemic, both of us were planning to launch a start-up in advertising. But after some research, we realised that we may not get the clients we desired. As both of us were foodies and faced issues in getting quality food during college days, we agreed on a food start-up after 5 months of planning,” said Pritam, who hails from a businessman family.
The two friends then pooled in Rs 1.5 lakh, rented an office space opposite a mall in the city and hired around half a dozen people. They then contacted several people in the city whose culinary skills were known in their small social circles and signed them up for the food platform.
“Before we sign in a person for cooking food for our customers, the first thing we see is what kind of oils and spices they are using. If a home cook wants to join, they call us and we get to taste their food. If we like it we get them a licence under the food safety & standards authority of India (FSSAI) which is mandatory for any food business operator under the Foof Safety and Standards Act, 2006. The licence remains valid for 1 year,” said Panda. “For ensuring quality, we conduct surprise checks by ordering from the cooks without them recognising us.”
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The start-up has so far signed in 30 home cooks across the city and has hired a dozen delivery boys who bike around the city wearing gloves and masks to deliver the food at doorsteps. Till September 6, the platform has delivered more than 1200 orders.
“At a time when most of the business is not seeing much uptick, we are doing pretty decently. In the last one month, we have managed Rs 1.7 lakh turnover. We keep 15-20 per cent margins on the food and fix costs of each item so that they are affordable. As the food is being cooked by our chefs at their homes, the customer is relieved about the hygiene and taste. For many of our home cooks the platform has brought in extra income at a difficult time,” said Panda.
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The duo aims to expand their food business to Cuttack in the next 2 months and then take it to southern cities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They also want to make it available on a mobile app like Zomato and Swiggy soon.
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