Startups fight COVID-19: This Mumbai-based food delivery platform is helping people get home-made meals in the pandemic

Lokal Kitchen is a bootstrapped food delivery startup specialising in home cooked food. Its aim is to provide affordable and hygienic food to everyone around the city amidst the pandemic.
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When the pandemic hit, food delivery was the only option to tuck into something different. However, anxiety regarding hygiene and safety has always been there with restaurant food. Home chefs, on the other hand, are regarded as more reliable.

Twenty-nine-year-old Rohit Gawli, who has worked with Tripadvisor and Boston HQ, and his childhood friend 28-year-old Rohit Mhatre, who was earlier with Radisson Blu, noticed a rise in demand for home-cooked food, and decided to launch Lokal Kitchen out of Mumbai in January this year. The platform caters to delivery of home cooked meals by home chefs. As their logo says, ghar se ghar tak.

“We started by calling a few home chefs and marketing their food to friends and family, and they loved it. Besides, due to the economic crisis, people needed an additional source of income, and food is something they cook daily, so why not monetise it,” explains Rohit Gawli.

Win-win situation

“I also wanted to tap into the potential of talented home chefs, particularly housewives, by providing them with a platform to not only showcase their talents but also by giving them the opportunity to grow their ‘home-based business’,” says Rohit.

He adds that the venture is most timely, considering the second wave of the pandemic has led to many people being cooped inside homes either due to sickness or due to lockdown, and thereby yearning for a change in taste. The team has noticed a 30 percent growth week-over-week.

In doing their part for the society, Lokal Kitchen has also taken the initiative to donate meals to people lined outside hospitals every Sunday. A portion of their revenue goes to free meals to the needy.

“We are seeing an overwhelming response from home chefs willing to partner, the only difficulty is finding delivery partners within these areas. We're trying to solve this issue by partnering up with small sized local businesses and give them a boost as well,” says Rohit.

Unsurprisingly, Lokal Kitchen wants to tap into home chefs around the country, embracing the ‘Vocal for Local’ culture. But, they have their task cut out.

Challenges

First of the two major challenges was and still is, finding reliable home chefs in a specific area to provide a variety of options. The other roadblock is market product adoption - what with home cooked food delivery itself being fairly a new option, an app catering exclusively to that is even more of a novelty.

“We initially tested the market with some experimental orders within friends and family, and they loved the food, which compelled us to create a business model out of it. We have already partnered with over 100 home chefs serving more than 30 local cuisines, and our family is only growing. Lokal Kitchen is also focused on providing entrepreneurial opportunities to home chefs who are passionate about cooking authentic and traditional food, but do not have capital investment to start a restaurant/cloud kitchen,” says Rohit.

Helping home chefs

"Our focus is on providing a nurturing environment for our home chefs by taking care of delivery and raw material, so they can focus only on cooking great food. We have started a new service called Fresh Fleet, that provides fresh groceries and meat supplies from local vendors, thereby holding true to the vision of supporting our local businesses,” says Rohit. 

 

The startup's young customer success team is very particular about creating curated experiences for the customers, especially the Lokal Kitchen App, more so than the website. They also have a subscription service, where people can subscribe to 10, 15, or 30 meals a month, and can pre-order from a wide variety of home chefs, instead of sticking to a single tiffin service. The average order value is around Rs 250.

How it works

At Lokal Kitchen, once a home chef has been identified, the team evaluates samples of their best dishes, check their kitchens for hygiene standards, and only then facilitate their registration.

Households and offices can choose between on-demand or pre-order as delivery options. Its technology platform optimises food ordering and delivery by integrating web and mobile consumers with home chefs' phone-based application. Order management and optimising the logistics partner is done via its delivery rider phone software.

Similar to the likes of Swiggy and others, the Lokal Kitchen App provides a wide array of options to customers for on-demand and pre-order. The mobile app provides a selection of cuisines that serve freshly cooked home made food which is within the delivery radius of the customer. The food suggestions are specially curated based on the search and order history of the user with additional coupons provided for better conversions.

As for home chefs, once they register on the website, the chef-support team reaches out to help with compliant documents, and then onboards the chefs on the platform free of cost. The company also trains home chefs on food productivity, hygiene, packaging, fast dispatch, etc.

The market and future

The estimated value of the food delivery market is $36 billion according to a RedSeer report. And with the pandemic, there has been a 21 percent increase in takeaways and food deliveries. Some of the players include - Swiggy, Zomato, Dunzo, Julie’s Kitchen, Buy Home Made etc.

“On average, we managed 10-15 orders a day in the first few weeks. We are expecting to grow very soon. Planning for the future might sometimes sound like sci-fi given the current circumstances, but it’s very real. Businesses that stay on the bleeding edge of what’s happening are far more likely to survive and thrive as time goes on. I want to make the most of 2021, and this means staying ahead of the curve. We are mentally prepared for this,” says Rohit.

On future plans, Rohit says, “Lokal Kitchen is going to be a household brand that promotes homemade food, and also a platform to provide an opportunity if you love cooking but don’t have enough capital to set up a restaurant. We also are looking at selling homemade snacks and sweets, and also utilitarian products in the near future.”

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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