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Cooking up a company – Mom’s Kitchen

Company: Mom’s Kitchen
Founded: September 1 2006
Age: 26
Educational background: Vinamra (IT BHU 2005 batch, Infosys from campus placement); Aswini Rathod (NIT Allahabad 2005 batch, Cognizant from campus placement).

Mom’s Kitchen was set up by two young chaps who didn’t know the first thing about cooking.. Rashmi Bansal brings you their amazing story.

Vinamra and I are childhood friends. Initially we were posted in Bangalore, then we moved to Pune.

We had big dreams in our college days. Ki kuch karna hai. That coupled with the frustration of working in a big company (“at the end of the day you know, you do nothing!”) led to the idea of starting a business.

Being bachelors living alone we sensed that there was a big gap in food. And from the beginning we knew ki hamein khana ghar ghar pahunchana hai. We ourselves used to order a local dabba. But we felt there in no ‘brand name’ in this business.

Vinamra left Infy while I continued to work for a while, to provide some support. We both put in Rs 1 lakh each to start it off. Neither of us had experience in the food business, or any business for that matter. We took 1-2 months figuring out how to do and what to do.

The name ‘Mom’s Kitchen’ came to Vinamra at 3 in the morning. The next thing we did was design a logo and then a website.

Next came the cooking part. We decided to bring a couple of workers from my college mess. We didn’t want anyone too experienced. The food we wanted was very simple, the way moms cook at home, with minimum of tel and masala.

We took a flat at Pashan Road on rent to set up the kitchen. The workers were provided accomodation in the same flat.

We started with 11 orders, 1 cook and 1 helper. The first 3 days Vinamra and I personally went to deliver the dabbas. “Badi sharm aa rahi thi ki company mein koi hamein pehchaan na le”. But we got over it. So what if we are educated, ‘IT types’ etc. the important thing is to lead by example.

Actually with our cooks and helpers from the beginning we established a very close relationship. We felt ki yeh log hamare ssath hain. Unke saath baith kar khana chahiye. That’s been the philosophy of Mom’s Kitchen ever since.

Why it clicked
Now Mom’s Kitchen does business differently from other dabbawalas. For example, normally you take 1 month tiffin but with us you can cancel by calling up or logging on to our website (www.momskitchen.in). We have made a program which makes such a customisation possible.

A standard meal costs Rs 35 . 3 schemes – 6 day trial, 15 days (get 1 day free) or 30 days (pay for 27). The scheme works on prepaid basis and the online database tracks how many meals you have availed of.

Our promotion was mainly thru pamphlets and sticking posters at bus stops where IT people gather. We would go at 7 am and stick up the posters. We also used online discussion forums of companies, orkut scrapping and emailing to promote MK. In the second month we had 30-35 dabbas and it steadily grew from there. Yet in January 2007 we were absolutely broke. We would skip breakfast to save money for petrol.

February was the turning point. We hit 200 dabbas and from then on there was no looking back. Word of mouth had spread, we set up a second centre in Karve nagar. 14 months after starting we have 1000 customers. There are IT workers, students, senior citizens and even couples.

Now we have investors willing to put Rs 25-50 lakhs into the business. We plan to expand to 10,000 in Pune by next year. We make 25-30% margin (ed’s note: sales are around Rs 65 lakh p.a. as of now) . Now we earn more than we did when we quit and down the line projections of course make us feel very happy. Earlier our families said ‘tum drunken pagal ho’ for quitting secure IT jobs. NOw they also are happy.

The most amazing thing is the support the people working with us have given. “Inhi ki duaon se ham aagey bade hain”. Initially we promised them Rs 1800 and that too we did not pay for 4 months. And they never complained. They would get up in the morning at 7 am, then make two times ka khana, undertake delivery etc. So much hard work and no complaints.

Today we pay our cooks Rs 6000 and of course provide food, acco and mattresses etc. We feel proud that Mom’s Kitchen is supporting 25 families. “Koi 5th std pass hai, koi 4 th std pass hai.” They may be uneducated but they are not dumb.

Also Sunday sessions where we feast together and even encourage them to discuss their personal/ inter personal problems. There is no ‘sir’ here, no maalik everyone is a bhaiyya. IN return we address them with izzat also eg Dubeji. We show them motivational movies like Boxer, Guru.

My observations
The idea is simple and the case for such a service strong. But to make a success of it operationally the big challenge. And that has been cracked by Mom’s Kitchen.

Key to their success has been the bonding they’ve created with the workers. Something they instinctively embraced because it was the right thing and the smart thing to do. A lesson in that for many would be entrepreneurs! Also good to see techies involved in such a hands-on business!


Read other articles on Entrepreneurship by Rashmi Bansal

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