For a generation of cooking enthusiasts, grandmothers, mothers, friends, and acquaintances were the biggest influences. Recipe exchanges on telephone calls or sharing notes from their recipe books helped discover traditional and new recipes. With growing internet penetration, recipe books and phone calls were gradually replaced by YouTube, blogs, and websites.
Today, food and recipe discovery platforms have become the go-to choice for people to discover new cuisines, recipes, and food that suits their dietary, health or lifestyle preferences. In this journey for millions of Indians, Archana’s Kitchen – a blog-turned-food and recipe discovery platform founded by engineer-turned-entrepreneur Archana Doshi – helped discover the joy of cooking.
Today, Archana’s Kitchen is one of India’s leading food and recipe platforms which actively promotes healthy cooking and mindful eating. The platform also offers advanced features like weekly meal plans, catering to special dietary needs like diabetic meal ideas, dinner ideas, lunch box ideas, and much more. What started out as a blog for discovering simple and easy recipes has grown to become a sought-after platform for accessing the recipes and videos for good health for 10 million+ users and followers every month. In 2021, Archana’s Kitchen expanded the business’ scope with the launch of its own range of healthy baking mixes.
Built on the “love for food”
A food-loving family and a mother who collected hundreds of recipes and tried them all saw Archana falling in love with cooking at a very young age. “Even though I was formally trained in software engineering, my heart remained in food,” she says. When motherhood took over and she found herself enjoying some free time, Archana was bitten by an idea to write a recipe book. The idea for a recipe book evolved and gave way to a cookery blog. In 2007, she started Archana’s Kitchen. The big break came in 2011 when Archana’s Kitchen was featured on Google’s first-ever National Television Ad. “The ad gave a huge boost and I have not looked back ever since,” she shares. Archana’s Kitchen grew to become one of the most popular recipe discovery platforms. “In 2011, we had 1,000 users coming to the platform every month. That number saw steady growth. By 2020, we had over a million+ users hitting the platform,” adds Archana. By then Archana had also begun hosting live cooking classes to share her culinary knowledge.
A pandemic and a new direction
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 translated into one of the busiest times for Archana’s Kitchen. “Since everyone was working from home and in lockdown mode, everyone cooked a lot more. I became extra busy, churning out more videos, responding to customer queries and requests to keep up with the demand,” she shares.
The number of live cooking sessions on Zoom on baking cakes, bread, and other cuisines saw a dramatic increase. “This also made me think about what the next leg of the journey would look like for Archana’s Kitchen,” says Archana. Interacting with online users, and participants in live cooking sessions and building on the insights from those conversations saw Archana working towards the launch of the brand’s in-house food products.
The D2C journey
Archana’s Kitchen’s D2C journey began with the launch of zero maida baking mixes in April 2021. “I wanted to make baking easy and healthy for people at home using whole grain and millets and not using maida. The pandemic helped me give that extra time; from ideating, formulating, and manufacturing the products and finally launching it on my website shop.archanaskitchen.com, followed by e-commerce platforms,” she shares. The brand expanded its product portfolio in the coming months to include healthy brownies, cookie mixes and more.
“I truly believe to sell a product, you must first understand the needs of the market, build trust, and deliver quality. And we saw that people are increasingly looking to make the switch to healthy eating by including whole grains and millets even in their snacking. And the USP of Archana’s Kitchen cake and cookie mixes is that it has no maida, no eggs, and no preservatives. They are made from whole grains like ragi, jowar, bajra, rajgira, oats, and whole wheat flour,” she explains.
A critical aspect that was important for the success of Archana’s Kitchen’s D2C journey was to ensure a seamless payment process. “It is a critical yet often overlooked aspect when it comes to a D2C brand,” shares Archana. “So, as I was working on launching shop.archanaskitchen.com, I was keen to also ensure I have a trusted payment gateway where customers can have a good experience with the least amount of payment failures. If a brand is able to handle the complexity around payments, there is increased trust,” she says. Given that Archana’s Kitchen already had a substantial size of audience with whom they had engaged at various levels, it was even more important for them to deliver on the trust they had built so far at every leg of this new journey as a D2C brand, with payments being a critical part.
“After a lot of due diligence and careful research of the different payment gateway solution providers in India, I decided to go with,” she says. “Razorpay was among the most secure payments platforms for businesses with high website traffic and catering to a pan-India customer base,” she adds.
Adding to the confidence in Razorpay’s payment gateway was Archana’s own experience as a customer while shopping online and the fact that some of the most successful companies were using the platform. The promise of a highly secure payments gateway with a success rate was extremely important for Archana’s Kitchen to offer seamless and secure customer experiences as a D2C brand. This saw Archana’s Kitchen partnering with Razorpay.
“Once we signed up for Razorpay, the integration and deployment was simple, seamless, and fast. It took less than a day,” says Archana. Onboarding Razorpay, Archana also observed another advantage.“As a Razorpay customer, what also has really stood out for me was the extensive suite of payment modes offered by the platform - netbanking, credit/debit cards, UPI, digital wallets, This gives customers a lot of flexibility to opt for a payment option of their choice,” she adds.
The decision to opt for Razorpay paid off. “We have consistently had high orders, with absolutely no customer complaints of payment failures. I am really glad I chose Razorpay,” she says. Archana believes that using automated payment mechanisms like Razorpay helps scale a brand’s D2C journey as they are able to focus on the core business of selling and innovating products without having to worry about collecting payments from customers. And the fact that the payment fees are nominal and they get deposited into your account on time eliminates one key hassle for business owners.
It’s still Day 1 as a D2C brand
A year into the launch of Archana’s Kitchen as a D2C brand, the founder says, every day feels like a Day 1. “Every day, I learn something - sometimes it's about what a customer is looking for, sometimes it is about ad marketing, manufacturing forecast, packaging and so on. And, all of these learnings help me add value to the customers,” says Archana.
As a D2C brand today, Archana's Kitchen’s success is governed by customer happiness, says the founder. “If I can have one happy customer and get one more customer through word of mouth and that our products have made a difference in their lives, that is success for me,” she says.
Establishing the brand’s D2C business, Archana is now working on expanding the brand’s online business even as she continues to work on listening to the customers, incorporating improvements based on the feedback, and building new products. “Starting the D2C business has been a big milestone in the brand’s journey. We are excited about the possibilities that this journey has opened up for us - as a brand that wants to make healthy cooking effortless,” she says.