FoodBuddy connects home cooks, most of whom are women, with buyers, thus allowing them to create mini businesses and earn recognition for an often-overlooked skill.

A Bluru food platform is helping women and homemakers share their cooking skills
news Human interest Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - 17:47

When Sandhya Sinha moved to Hyderabad after spending 14 years in Kolkata, she did not know anyone in the city or her apartment complex. A mother to eight-year-old twin girls, she was looking for a flexible job so that she could be at home for her children when they returned from school, without much luck.

A few months back, she found out about FoodyBuddy, a platform that allows people to sell homemade food within their communities and neighbourhoods. The sellers decide the quantity, the menu, prices, as well as delivery – either the neighbours pick it up, or they deliver it within the neighbourhood.

In October 2018, Sandhya became a seller on FoodyBuddy. “I love cooking, and trying out new dishes,” the 35-year-old tells TNM. “And this allowed me the flexibility to work when I wanted and be there for my kids too. I didn’t know anyone in my apartment complex initially. Now, I have friends here, and people who recognise me for my food. I love when my daughters’ friends come home and say they love my noodles.”

Sandhya Sinha. Her homemade besan laddoos and nimkis are favourites among customers.

Launched in Bengaluru in 2015, FoodyBuddy is a platform founded by Anup Gopinathan, Akil Sethuraman and Rachna Rao that connects ‘home chefs’ to those in their vicinity who’d like to have home food. Anup explains that FoodyBuddy is different from restaurants that market themselves with home-style dishes. “This is about people who make amazing food for their families – and can ask others in their neighbourhood if they would be interested in having the same dishes so they will make a larger portion,” he says.

In doing so, Anup says, not only is there a lot of diversity in terms of dishes but authenticity too, as the home chefs are likely well-versed in their native cuisines and prepare homely dishes that you may not get at an eatery. With over 100 communities and over 1,000 sellers in Bengaluru alone, FoodyBuddy recently had its formal launch in Hyderabad, though it's been operating for a few months. The platform has allowed several women, including homemakers, to feel recognised and validated for a skill that is often taken for granted – cooking.

Akil, Anup and Rachna, the cofounders of FoodyBuddy

Take Bengaluru-based Shweta Sharma for instance. The 35-year-old homemaker has always loved cooking. And when she got to know about FoodyBuddy late last year, she decided to join as a seller in October. “Initially, I just listed moong dal halwa and another dish, which did not gain a lot of traction. After that, I listed puran poli, and that was a huge hit,” she says.

Born and brought up in Bengaluru, but with a Maharashtrian heritage and married to a man from Uttar Pradesh, Shweta offers a unique blend of dishes. While puran poli (a thick parantha stuffed with a sweet blend of jaggery and dal), one of her most popular dishes, is Maharashtrian, she also makes south Indian and north Indian food and snacks, along with cakes and bakes.

Shweta Sharma prides herself on the variety of cuisines she can offer. 

“Within four months, I had sold about 250 servings of puran poli. And I had 4.9 on 5 as my rating on the Foodybuddy app!” she says proudly. Her food became so popular that while sellers usually contain themselves within their apartment complexes for customers, FoodyBuddy helped her connect with some other apartment complexes nearby so that she could expand her business.

Like Shweta, Ratna Bindra, another seller on FoodyBuddy, says being a seller is more about the appreciation and love she receives, especially students who stay in PG accommodations. On the platform since March 2017, Ratna, a former lecturer, signed up with a desire to serve her community. Originally from Delhi, but living in Bengaluru since 1991, Ratna specialises in north Indian food including stuffed paranthas, dal tadka and so on. She was also the first 'Chef of the week' declared on FoodyBuddy. 

"Students and people who were not from here kept coming back for my food. Especially the kids, they'd say, 'aunty, we feel like we don't miss home as much when we eat food prepared by you.' That is what motivated me to continue, and increase my menu from stuffed paranthas to 70-80 items," Ratna shares. Ratna, whose husband also helps her with FoodyBuddy work, recently quit her lecturer job to focus on her cooking.

Ratna Bindra's motivation for being on FoodyBuddy is a sense of serving her community.

Most of the sellers on FoodyBuddy are women, and come from all walks of life - some are working professionals who only cook and sell only on weekends, others do it after work, and yet others are stay-at-home moms or housewives, looking for supplemental income.

But when TNM asked some women sellers if they were turning a profit, they said that while they were not making losses, the profit margin was not very high. However, many were not bothered by the lack of major financial gain. “It gives one a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and enhanced self-esteem,” Sandhya says.

Apart from the testimonials that people can write on the app, the platform also has a blog which features outstanding dishes as well as chefs - and this is a huge motivation and acknowledgement for sellers, Anup says, even if cooking and selling becomes chaotic at times. 

Take Bengaluru-based Sakshi Garg for instance. A mother to a two-year-old and a working IT professional, Sakshi initially began with making snacks she would anyway make for her family on weekends and selling them. But after she began receiving glowing testimonials and requests on days she was not serving, she started taking orders for dinner on weekdays as well.

“It does get hectic sometimes,” she admits. “I come back at 6.30-7 pm from work, and then put my menu online. Then I start cooking as per the orders I get. Sometimes, people are willing to wait till 10.30 pm for my food. The appreciation and my own passion for food keep me going,” Sakshi says. 

Sakshi's popular snacks include baked shahi toast with rabdi and gramflower dhokla, among others.