Startup Mantra: Homemade, tasty food at your doorstep
According to a recent survey, a nuclear family spends an average of ₹7,000 per month on online food ordering and delivery platforms
According to a recent survey, a nuclear family spends an average of ₹7,000 per month on online food ordering and delivery platforms. Knowing that the food ordered online from restaurants is unhealthy and to some extent prepared in unhygienic conditions, consumers have no other choice but to satisfy their taste buds. They still long for a home-cooked quality meal which is reasonably priced. Identifying this market potential, three entrepreneurs Rupesh K, Pratap Haldar and Nikhil Jain, founded food-tech startup ‘Climbing Seeds Private Limited’ with the brand name ‘Mealawe’ which is empowering home kitchens to serve food that nourishes the body and feeds the soul too. Mealawe is redefining online food delivery and bringing fresh, tasty homemade food to consumers’ doorstep.
In the beginning…
With almost two decades of experience in process and industrial automation, business strategy and operations, Rupesh K, a 2005 batch B. Tech from Manipal Institute of Technology, started his first venture in 2017. He was into blogging with a special focus on the healthcare sector. Just before the Covid-19 outbreak started in India, Rupesh’s blog and social media handles were hacked. Lockdown and restrictions on movement rendered Rupesh helpless and by the time his accounts were restored, he had lost his followers and revenue too.
Remembering those tough times, Rupesh said, “After having a harrowing experience, I decided to do something else. Since I have travelled across India, I realised that people feel homesick because they do not get good home-cooked food and regional cuisine. Outside food quality has also deteriorated over the years. With these thoughts, in August-September 2020, I started working on the concept of online ordering and delivery of home-cooked food. While the blueprint was ready, I met Pratap at Dapoli in February 2021. Since Pratap had 14 years of experience in app development, I discussed the business proposition with him and he agreed to join.”
“Meanwhile, the second wave of coronavirus struck and our families were also affected. In June 2021, we started working on the idea with a proper setup. We hired some interns and started doing a survey to understand the pain points of consumers, especially corporate and IT professionals from Pune, Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, and Mumbai while ordering food online,” he added.
Further adding, Rupesh said, “We knew we had to develop a perfect app, which could match the user experience of other food ordering platforms. Also, the home-cooked food business, in its local form, existed for several decades. Women from lower, middle, and higher classes cater to small orders from their locality. We deliberated on the business model which could provide a platform such small businesses and deliver high standard user experience as well.”
Climbing Seeds was formally registered in October 2011 and the mobile app was launched in April 2022 under the ‘Mealawe’ brand. During this launch, Rupesh and Pratap managed to onboard about five kitchens and had two employees in their team.
Rupesh said, “During the Jain International Trade Organisation (JITO) event in Pune, we got an opportunity to display our services. We met Nikhil there, who was building his own social media app. He was impressed with our idea and after discussions, agreed to join us as a co-founder. Nikhil has been actively engaging with several startup communities and was a perfect fit for marketing and sales activities in our venture.”
Maa ka pyaar
While finalising the business proposition and exploring revenue streams, Rupesh and his team took a conscious decision of not onboarding commercial cloud kitchens and restaurants on the Mealawe platform.
Says Nikhil, “There are several needy and passionate women out there who have been cooking all through their life. They want to do something on their own and in the comfort of their home. Besides getting appreciated for their cooking skills, these women would also become financially independent and empowered once they get business through our platform. So, we decided that Mealawe will only be for home kitchens. We also realised that there are male cooks too, so we onboard their kitchens too.”
Mealawe ensures that the home kitchens that are onboarded follow certain guidelines. Says Rupesh, “Most of the women running these home kitchens are not aware of licenses such as FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India). Neither are they aware of good packaging solutions. We make them aware of the licensing process and fees and insist on cutting down on plastic containers. We are providing paper bags and leak-proof paper containers which are microwavable. At present, we have done a tie-up with a factory and provide these packaging solutions on a no profit no loss basis.”
“On the delivery front, Mealawe has integrated APIs with certain delivery service partners. Once the home kitchen accepts order, the chef app rings a bell and the delivery partner is assigned once the order is marked as ready. The delivery partner is assigned automatically without any human intervention,” Rupesh added.
Onboarding home kitchens
Explaining how home kitchens are onboarded, Rupesh said, “We are reaching out to home kitchens through various mediums. Our representative visits the kitchen and during this visit, the society premises is also checked. We expect that the home kitchen used to prepare food for delivery should be separate from their regular personal kitchen. We also do the food tasting and it is a mandatory check. A relationship manager is assigned to every kitchen onboarded.”
“Once a kitchen is onboarded, we have a 5-star rating and review system in place. In case, a home kitchen rating goes below 3.5 stars, we connect with the kitchen operators and check what is going wrong. Despite this, if the home kitchen rating goes below 3 stars, then the kitchen is removed from the platform listing. Home kitchen owners are trained to use the chef app which has a medium of instruction in English, Hindi, and Marathi at present. In future we would add other regional languages too,” Rupesh explained.
Adding on the pricing strategy, Rupesh said, “What we had observed during our survey was that consumers had the option of ordering single or multiple ‘rotis’ but there was no choice or customisation for the ‘sabzi’ portion. As a result, the customer had to either throw away the vegetables or store them in a refrigerator. Hence, we introduced the 1-person portion concept and priced our offerings accordingly.”
“Besides, every family running the home kitchen is tagged on the menu list. For example, if a Punjabi or Maharashtrian woman or family is making the food, then that cuisine is tagged with a bracket on the menu list. This helps users identify the authenticity of the cuisines offered by the home kitchens. Since we care about the food quality, we are confident that such tasty home-made food will help companies improve the employee-retention rates and improve their focus and productivity,” Rupesh claimed.
Sharing their next big moves, Rupesh said, “We are planning to launch our services in Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi NCR by end of 2023. We want to operate pan-India and wish to clock at least 500 to 600 orders per day. With a strong student population, IT professionals, senior citizens, attendants with patients in hospitals, teachers, etc., we expect the Pune region as a market to be big with more than 500 orders being placed every minute through various food ordering platforms. Hence, we are targeting a monthly recurring revenue of ₹1 crore from Pune city alone while Bengaluru city addition would give us 5x revenues.”