Meet 4 women entrepreneurs who are empowering home chefs across India

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to limit social gatherings, these women-led foodtech platforms are connecting home chefs with customers.

Home chefs became all the rage during the pandemic, giving many women homemakers a taste of entrepreneurship.  The food service market in India is expected to reach $95.75 billion by 2025 growing at 10.3 percent CAGR. As social distancing continues to limit people from dining out, home chefs are tapping the growing online food services. 

Noting that most home-based entrepreneurs and chefs are managing their orders manually over platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram, a new crop of foodtech services tailored for home chefs has also emerged. 

Meet four women entrepreneurs who have launched startups dedicated to India’s home chefs.

Savithri Swaminathan, Authentic Food Stories 

A self-proclaimed foodie, Savithri Swaminathan struggled to find authentic Andhra food in Mumbai as most restaurants stuck to a few favourites of the customers. However, it occurred to her that in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, there were Telegites in her own building dishing out authentic Andhra food to their family members. 

This idea led her to quit her job at Hindustan Unilever and pursue entrepreneurship. She launched Authentic Food Stories, a tech platform that connects home chefs who are experts in different regional cuisines (and are willing to cook at home) with customers. 

Registered in March 2019, it offers 20 cuisines including Punjabi, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Rajasthani, Marwari, Maharashtrian, Sindhi, Delhi, Eastern UP, Bihari, Bengali, Oriya, Indo Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and East Indian, among others.

Started with an initial investment of Rs 20 lakh, the startup claims its revenue has been doubling every year.

Apeksha Ghia, Neeji

An MBA graduate from Mumbai University, Apeksha had been looking to start in the food and beverage industry for several years. It was during the pandemic that she decided to tap into the market when home chefs were becoming popular. 

She founded Neeji to bring home chefs onto a unified platform to build a community with a user-friendly UI and easy-to-use app.

Within three months of inception, the platform gathered 100 chefs offering over 25 cuisines without charging commission and onboarding fees except for the cost of getting FSSAI certification. 

On the other hand, consumers are charged a nominal delivery fee based on their location. Apeksha assures each home chef is onboarded after multiple stages of quality and taste checks. Bootstrapped and operating only in Mumbai so far, the entrepreneur hopes to raise fund after 

Rachna Rao, FoodyBuddy

Homemakers cook for their family almost everyday. Long before the pandemic brought home chefs into the spotlight, Rachna Rao and her husband had founded FoodyBuddy, a foodtech platform connecting food lovers and home chefs, in 2016. The idea was to help homemakers step into entrepreneurship with minimum resources and investment and while fulfilling customer’s longing for healthy,home-cooked meals. The startup earns by charging a commission of 5-10 percent for their service.

In December 2018, FoodyBuddy raised Rs 6 crore in its Pre-Series A funding round led by Prime Venture Partners. Prior to starting up, Rachana, an IIM Bangalore graduate, had worked with Zynga and was the Head of Product for FarmVille 1 and 2.

Adetee Agarwal, PinkAprons

An engineering graduate and good entrepreneur, Adetee Agarwal had been running foodtech platform FoodGinie, a platform to book pure vegetarian North Indian food, since 2016. The nationwide lockdown in 2020 prompted her to launch a second foodtech venture PinkAprons. 

Primary earning members of families, mostly men, were facing job losses and Adetee noted their homemaker wife's culinary skills had the potential to support their livelihood. It has since onboarded 500 home chefs from Pune and served over 20,000 customers.

PinkAprons thus began its journey by encouraging the home chefs to showcase their skills and raising awareness around its home-cooked, healthy food services among customers. The platform now offers specific regional food, exotic bakery items, healthy salad, or daily meals (tiffin subscription).

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta