For women, by women: Daalchini provides food for thought for working professionals

By Milan George|18th Jan 2018
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Prerna Kalra's Delhi-NCR based startup Daalchini offers home-cooked food through its mobile app, IoT vending machines, and technology-driven supply chain.

Prerna Kalra

Women may be problem solving and headlining projects in the workplace, but most of them face a common question when they return home: “Aaj khaane mei kya hai?” And most mornings, before heading to work, they must also figure out the dabba situation for the family.

After coming face to face with this problem, Prerna Kalra saw an opportunity. And boom, Daalchini was born!

The Delhi-NCR based startup not only relieves women from the stress of day-to-day cooking but ensures them healthy home-cooked meals.

The Daalchini service

Daalchini is a physical marketplace for “traditional Indian home-cooked food” provided by a network of chefs-at-home running tiffin services, through IoT-based vending machines called DaalchiniHut.

Prerna,33, says, “Daalchini started with the mission of making home-cooked Indian dishes, breads, snacks and condiments accessible anywhere and anytime.”

Daalchini aims to bring scale, predictability and consistency to home-based tiffin services through technology and innovation

The Daalchini team has four core team members at present.

Prerna, who won a silver medal in the post-graduate diploma course at IMT in 2009, has over eight years of corporate experience. She started her career as product manager in financial inclusion pioneer FINOPaytech.

Prerna later joined Paytm and was among the first five employees of the company. She went on to become the former Head of Products, Paytm-Wallet. During her 5.5-year stint at the company, she wore different hats – managing day-to-day operations, acting as relationship manager for banking partners, and liaising with regulators. She also filed a patent for offline payment using QRcode (within Paytm).

The varied roles helped her learn and hone her leadership and managerial skills.

The business opportunity

As a working professional and a doting mother to a three-year-old girl, Prerna found managing timely delivery of food as per her working hours to be a hassle. She saw this pain point as an opportunity worth pursuing. Soon after, she left her corporate career and began her entrepreneurial journey.

Prerna shares an interesting observation made in the Euromonitor International Study on Home-cooked Food: “Over 69 percent of the urban adult working population does not get home-cooked food when out for work.”

“People look forward to more predictability, reliability and accessibility in home-tiffin services,” she says.

“Daalchini aims to provide that through its mobile app, IoT vending machine and technology-driven supply chain of home-cooked food,” she adds.

At present, Daalchini is a bootstrapped company and makes money from sales of products sold from vending machines and franchise sales.

The modus operandi

Daalchini runs on three pillars –the Daalchini App, DaalchiniHuts (IoT vending machines) and a technology-driven unique supply chain. Their USP is the seamless supply chain that ensures quality and instant delivery of home-style food.

How does it work? The customer has to go to the nearest DaalchiniHut and pay for items on the menu via wallet, UPI or card. Then, s/he must scan the QRcode to initiate vending.

The specially designed vending machine with inbuilt heating zone will serve fresh and warm food on scanning the QR code.

Establishing a strong foothold

Though there are existing vending machine players in the market, the food choices offered are unhealthy. Candies, chips, cold drinks, canned drinks, energy bars, and packaged food are a far cry from the nutritious and home-cooked food Daalchini claims to offer.

Daalchini is presently targeting the urban working adult in Delhi/NCR. They have deployed vending machines in Paytm and 91Springboard, a co-working space in Noida.

The idea of healthy and homemade food from a vending machine seems to have struck a chord with customers. The Daalchini App not only lets customers locate the nearest vending machine, but also allows them to browse through the menu.

The items on the menu include Soya masala crackers, Maharashtrian Chivda, Mom’s style Ajwaini paratha, wholesome daal paratha, Parsi cake rusk, green peas mini samosa, gobi manchurian, vegetable biryani, homemade multigrain cookies, vada pav with sauce are some of the many delicacies that customers can choose from Daalchini’s menu.

Once they have made their choice, all that needs to be done is pay and collect the food item. And, of course, eat.

The Kiosk app is simple and intuitive; it allows digital payment and also helps customer avail offers.

This hassle-free approach seems to be delivering results.

“Thirty percent of our orders are received from 10pm to 8am in morning from a co-working space,” Prerna says

By women, for women

In the Indian household, it is commonly the responsibility of the woman of the house to provide healthy food for the family. This becomes a challenge, especially for working women professionals.

Daalchini provides an opportunity to home cooks running tiffin services from their home to share the responsibility of cooking for women in other professions.

At Daalchini, all partners are women entrepreneurs; all working towards one goal of providing home-cooked food to customers.

Prerna says "It's a boon to be a woman entrepreneur, especially in the business we are in.” She adds: “Daalchini aims to become a catalyst in improving the overall health of the society by providing home-style food. But at the core, it is an initiative ‘by women, for women'.”

The road ahead

While the road to success is never a straight path, Prerna and her team are up to the challenge. The focus now is on scaling the business from 5 to 150 vending machines across Delhi-NCR.

Prerna feels the time is right for Daalchini to grow and let the world know about the support the startup is extending to women chefs at home so they can get the revenue, recognition and reach they deserve.

I am passionate about Daalchini and wish to shoulder the responsibility of fellow women by making home-style comfort food accessible to them and their families,” Prerna signs off.