How this housewife set up Marwadi Khana using Facebook and WhatsApp, and now earns revenue of over Rs 4 lakh per month
Technology has enabled many home-based entrepreneurs, especially women, to give wings to their dreams and also earn an income.
People with a passion or interest can easily sell their products/services via social media or WhatsApp, which have now emerged as extremely efficient communication channels for business.
Abhilasha Jain was content with being a housewife, mother, a wonderful cook, and a foodie till she was bitten by the business bug. For many years, she was content to enjoy cooking for her family, focusing on traditional Marwadi recipes handed down over generations, and not commonly found in restaurants or eateries.
It all started from a Facebook post
In 2014, on a lark, Abhilasha posted on a Facebook page for moms in Gurugram that she would be preparing a traditional Rajasthani dish, Dal-Baati and Churma, the coming Sunday and was looking for orders. Much to her surprise, she received 40 orders from that single post.
That spurred the till-then-homemaker to think of taking this forward. And so, with a single post on Facebook and the complete support of her family, Marwadi Khana was born.
“Hailing from a traditional Rajasthani family, I was always interested in food. Though I did my schooling and college in Ajmer, I would come back home to Bhilwara during my holidays and help out in the kitchen, painstakingly recreating the recipes of my grandmothers. My family’s appreciation spurred me on,” she recalls.
After marriage, she moved to Scotland for a year, which was when she honed her culinary skills to the fullest. “There was no help. We were living in a cold climate, and I started enjoying making varieties of dishes for family and friends. I began making traditional Rajasthani dishes from scratch,” she says.
With the advent of WhatsApp, things started getting easier for Abhilasha. She started sending broadcasts to people, who then referred others, and the ball started rolling. Currently, she has more than five lists as WhatsApp allows only 250 people on a broadcast list.
“Though I don’t broadcast every day and do it only once a week or in a fortnight, 90 percent of my orders come through WhatsApp. It has helped me keep in touch with my customers, inform them of what’s new in my kitchen, and also take bulk orders.”
Moving to her own space
Until July 2019, Abhilasha used her home kitchen to make the food with a few help, and a couple of others for delivery. She realised that her daughter, a Class 9 student, was getting disturbed by all the activity at home, and that the smell of food permeated through the house continuously. Soon, she decided to rent a small space nearby as her base kitchen.
She invested around Rs 20 lakh and set up a kitchen from scratch on a 1,000 sq ft area. Weekends are her busiest times, and she has to cater to more than 40-50 orders, apart from bulk orders whenever they come in. She earns revenue of Rs 4-5 lakh per month.
Abhilasha’s menu comprises traditional Marwadi food such as Dal Baati and Churma, Lapsey, Makki ka Dhokla, Bajre ki Khichdi, Gondh Ladoos, ladoos for post-pregnancy, etc.
“My aim is to showcase Rajasthani cuisine, and its variety and richness through ingredients of high quality. My ladoos are a big hit and I deliver them all over India.”
While the business may have started with a Facebook post and brought in instant recognition and response, the journey has not been without its fair share of challenges.
“The major problem I faced was getting people to deliver the food. Also, retaining staff, especially unskilled labour was another challenge. Since some of them were retained on a daily wage, things were thrown out of gear if they didn’t turn up for a day,” Abhilasha says.
Scaling the business is on the entrepreneur’s mind but she likes to “go slow and steady”. She says the day she moved outside her home, numbers started bothering her.
“I have more overheads now, and there is rent to pay. Also, the food I make is niche; one that cannot be had daily. I do not want to compromise on the quality of food in any way, especially the quality of ghee, which is a major ingredient in the cuisine.”
She would like to participate in more food festivals and, over time, take this “rich, soul-satisfying” cuisine to the world.
“Marwadi Khana is an offshoot of my passion for food. I don’t want to dilute this passion by being too commercial,” Abhilasha says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)