This woman entrepreneur's foodtech platform is helping home chefs in Mumbai

By Rekha Balakrishnan
November 05, 2021, Updated on : Mon Nov 08 2021 09:35:06 GMT+0000
This woman entrepreneur's foodtech platform is helping home chefs in Mumbai
Neeji, founded by Apeksha Ghia, is a mobile application that aims to provide home chefs in Mumbai with opportunities and tools to scale their businesses.
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The COVID-19 pandemic saw the rise of home chefs like never before. From setting up new businesses to specialising in different cuisines, these home chefs found growth avenues.


Several foodtech platforms are also helping these women micro-entrepreneurs move from the unorganised to organised sector and scale as they whip up delicacies from the comfort of their homes.


Capitalising on this is growth is also Mumbai-based Neeji, founded by Apeksha Ghia, which aims to bridge the gap between home chefs and their potential customers.


After completing her master’s in business administration from Mumbai University, Apeksha got married into a family of entrepreneurs.


“I’d been contemplating venturing into the food and beverage industry for quite a few years and was on the lookout for a business within a growing neighbourhood. But nothing ever seemed like the right fit. Once the ongoing pandemic began, I witnessed an increase in talented chefs who were operating from their homes and serving customers within their geographical constraints of three-five kilometres,” she says.

Making it organised

Apeksha points out that there is ambiguity in classifying home entrepreneurs under organised or unorganised sectors.


“Most of our home chefs fall under the unorganised sector, and Neeji is an attempt to bring them under a unified platform. We foresee a huge potential in this sector, and any individual concerned about their well-being and appreciates delicious food falls under our target audience. As the markets and offices open up, post-pandemic, our clientele base would increase as by now people have come to realise the importance of healthy and hygienic meals, unlike the ones that are made in bulk at some restaurants that cut corners when it comes to health and hygiene,” she adds.


The focus of Neeji is building a solid community of home chefs using a user-friendly UI and easy-to-use app.


“This naturally creates a brigade of loyal customers who keep coming back to us. Our chefs do not have to worry about any geographical constraints across the city once they are associated with us. From order placement to pick-up and delivery, it’s all taken care of,” says Apeksha.


So far, it has listed over 100 chefs offering over 25 cuisines in less than three months. Besides supporting the cost of getting some of the chefs FSSAI-certified, Neeji currently does not charge any commission or onboarding fees from its members. The consumers are charged a nominal delivery fee, depending on their distance from the chef they’ve ordered from.


The core team of Neeji comprises women, barring the delivery partners. All functions, from marketing to operations, is managed by an all-women team.

Standing out in the market

While Neeji has often been compared to Swiggy and Zomato, Apeksha says its business model and offerings help it stand out in a cluttered market.


“We offer over 25 cuisines on our application, and each home chef is onboarded after multiple stages of quality and taste checks, and we are trying to create a unique experience for consumers across the city. We have grown from receiving 2-3 orders per week to 3-4 orders per day. This steady growth is an indication that Mumbaikars are accepting this concept with an open heart and have felt the difference in ordering from a platform like ours,” she says.


Neeji is currently bootstrapped and is looking to associate with investors as it expands to more cities in India.


Apeksha admits that juggling between being a homemaker and an entrepreneur sometimes feels like burning the candle at both ends.


However bumpy the ride has been, Apeksha admits it has also been thrilling and exciting, one that she hopes never ends. There are days when the going gets tough, but during these times, she reminds herself of the collective goal and banks upon the support of her family and team.


“We hope to see more people willing to change their eating habits and opting for healthier and tastier options available on our app and support our endeavour of providing a sustainable business to professional home chefs,” Apeksha says.


Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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