Mumbai’s dabbawallas started it, but many enterprising people have taken it further. Priya Chaphekar catches up with some dabbawallas with a difference
Owner: Nimit Shah
When did you start with Green Veggies and what made you get into this business?
I started off with Green Veggies in 2006, when I was in college. My idea was to start a restaurant. However, I didn’t have enough capital then. My aim was to deal with customers on a personal basis and understand the food industry. Most of my food is delivered to hard-working professionals who deserve good food. For most caterers, price is the catch, and they compromise on quality. I believe in a B2C (business to consumer) market more than a B2B(business to business).
How did you start off?
I started off with 1,000 bucks! That was all that was left out of my call-centre job. I bought tiffins and told a nearby aunty to cook. Earlier, we had 4 kitchens, which we have centralised now. I also resorted to Internet marketing Initially, I used to get 8-10 calls a day, but now we get 15-20 calls a day.
What kind of obstacles did you face while venturing into this career?
My biggest obstacle was my father. Since he and my grandfather were into textiles, my desire to establish a tiffin service was resented. They thought that hospitality was not our cup of tea.
What motivated you to go on?
Gujaratis are the most hospitable people on the earth. Giving good food to people is an honourable service. I was moved to tears when a client called up to say,”I’m happy to eat your food.” We also have our own catering service that delivers ready food packets to various events and seminars. I relate business to my personal life.
Does one needs to possess a certain level of aptitude to flourish in this industry?
The only quality you need is self-belief. I always wanted to serve people, and we now deliver tiffins from Borivali to Churchgate
Contact:- www.greenveggies.in or 9833252423
Arsh Meal Services
Owner: Deepak Mathur
When and how did you establish Arsh Meal Services?
I started my meal service 13 years back with my wife, Tamanna. We started off with 1 tiffin, but we never imagined it could become our business, as back then, I still had a regular job. Later, I quit my job to expand our meal service.
What is your USP?
We believe in quality and not quantity. We deliver a fixed number of tiffins every day (25). Our food is not like homemade food. It is homemade food. We eat what we serve and I want my food to talk more than me.
What obstacles do you think a person might encounter in this industry?
No business comes easy. For me, if a delivery person is absent, I deliver the food myself. It is extremely important that the tiffin reaches our customer on time.
Owner: Cyrus Driver
What made you get into tiffin services?
Calorie Care is as much a fitness company as a food company. Urban Indians are leading an increasingly unhealthy, stressful life and they don’t have the time to take care of themselves. Helping health-conscious individuals stick to a regular diet was the reason we started Calorie Care.
Did you face any obstacles?
The list of obstacles we faced will not fit in one issue of any magazine! The main were marketing and pricing. For the first three years we could not afford advertising, so our growth relied on word-of-mouth publicity. The company is now profitable and we have invested in sales and marketing, yet the prohibitive cost of advertising makes spreading awareness a key challenge.
As for the latter, we use only high-quality ingredients, hire trained staff, maintain dieticians on our payroll, maintain hygiene and do not cheat on our taxes. Consequently, our cost structure is higher than that of unorganised tiffin suppliers. Convincing prospective customers not to compare prices has always been a challenge. Fortunately, we have many quality-conscious and health-conscious customers.
How is this as a career option?
Food services is a growing industry. As India’s economy grows, people will spend more on recreation, leisure and eating out, and look for unique services, which will allow new ideas to flourish. All in the food services sector will benefit from this growth.
However, entrepreneurs need to be careful that their company provides a truly differentiated service. If their company ends up being a “me too” service, then they will need to cut prices to survive and eventually have to compromise on quality. If they compromise on quality, they will not be able to scale. So, rest assured both sectors will keep growing for a long time. For the first 2-5 years of your career focus more on the quality of work experience rather than the salary. With time, you will start getting paid well.
What are your future plans?
In 2010, Calorie Care will expand to Bangalore and Delhi, and then to other large cities. Within Mumbai, we will continue expanding our areas of service and introduce further innovations.
Contact:- www.caloriecare.com or 24122100
Owner: Sushma Bhonsale
How did Healthy Tiffin start?
I started off in 2001 with preparing tiffins for my husband and a few of his friends. The idea was to introduce a proper meal for health-conscious people. We have about 40-50 clients per day.
What is special about the ‘Healthy Tiffin’?
We have meals for diabetics, pregnant women, athletes and people who work out. Even the wheat flour that I use is rich in soybean. The food is served is high in fibre and protein, and low on fat.
Is a tiffin service a good career option?
Yes, definitely. Anyone who is health-conscious can start a tiffin service. I take help from other doctors to enhance the quality of my product.
Does one need a certain level of aptitude before venturing into this industry?
I am a nutritionist, so I’d say a good amount of knowledge about the food industry is important. I take help from doctors and nutritionists to enhance our food.
What are your future plans?
I want to extend my services and open more branches.
Owner: Azima Sheikh
When did you start with Balanced Meal?
In August 2008, we started off with 5-6 dabbas a day and today we deliver about 50 dabbas per day.
How did the idea of Balanced Meal come to you?
I was working as a dietician in Lilavati Hospital and also at K11 gym, and that motivated me. People are advised to go on high-protein diets. But the question is how? I wanted to come up with a nutrient-balanced meal. We use yogurt prepared from low-fat milk and paneer made from cow milk. I believe in serving healthy meals more than diet meals.
Any obstacles you had to face?
Inflation is the biggest problem I’ve had to face in the food industry.
Does one need a certain level of aptitude to venture into this industry?
A background in the food industry is important. I have a Master’s degree in Diabetics in Food Service and Management.
What is the USP of Balanced Meal?
We serve optimum quality food without preservatives, freshly cooked and served in disposable containers.
Contact :- 61630003