A growing number of health conscious Keralites are opting for the convenience of delivery platforms combined with the joy of home-cooked food.

From their homes to yours Ernakulams online delivery platforms that specialise in home-cooked food Image Courtesy: Tastejet
news Food Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 15:57

You look out your office window and see a heavy downpour, and are suddenly hit by a craving for hot crispy parippuvada (one of Kerala’s most popular evening snacks). But you don’t want the oil-soaked, unhealthy vadas from around the corner, you want the tasty, healthy version made at home. In Ernakulam, there’s a growing range of online delivery platforms that can come to your rescue.

With platforms like Masala Box, Tastejet and Wow! Homemade, you can get home-cooked food prepared in kitchens just like yours across Ernakulam. 

For 36-year-old Harsha Thachery, founding Masala Box in 2014 was putting a long-pending thought into action. 

“Nearly six years ago, when I was pregnant with my daughter, ditching restaurant food and opting for home-cooked healthy meals was only a natural choice. However, I realized that apart from caterers who supply food in large quantities, there was just no option for someone in Ernakulam to order small portions of home-cooked food,” Harsha tells The News Minute. 

After studying the market and back-end preparations for a few months, Harsha – a chartered accountant – launched Masala Box in August 2014 with two dishes delivered for dinner. 

Two years down the line, Masala Box has carved out a niche for itself, with breakfast, lunch and dinner options, delivering nearly 200 orders per day in Ernakulam and Bengaluru. 

“With Masala Box, the outcome is two-fold. One, I realized that many people have begun to consciously chose home-cooked food over restaurant food, but what is lacking is the supply. Then there are women whose cooking skills get limited to their own kitchen. There was nothing to tie these two together,” Harsha says. 

After making detailed enquiries and short-listing close to 50 home-chefs, the platform finally went live with a team of 11. With around 100 registered chefs now, Masala Box is completely home-chef driven. Much like aggregators of other services, Masala Box too works around a flexible model for individual chefs. What to cook, when to cook and how much to price the item are completely left to the discretion of the home-chefs, says Harsha.

“Though we have had a couple of male home-chefs who worked with us occasionally, most of our home-chefs continue to be women, who benefit from such a platform in more ways than one. They now get the kind of visibility they have never got in their lives, not to mention the financial independence they now enjoy,” Harsha says. 

At Masala Box, not only the online menu but also every package of food carries the name of the home-chef who prepared it. 

While her personal experiences led Harsha to set up her platform, for 27-year-old Parvathy B Nair, getting into the food industry was a natural extension of her parent’s catering experience in Ernakulam’s Tripunithura. 

"I grew up seeing my parents do small-scale catering work. So when I, an engineer by profession, chose to set up Tastejet, nobody was particularly surprised," Parvathy said. 

Parvathy, along with her 31-year-old husband Rakesh founded Tastejet in January this year. 

"Every kitchen is a money-making machine. Most of the women just don't realize that. I realized there was a market in home-cooked food when I myself was fed up of restaurant food," Parvathy says. 

With close to 25 home-chefs across Ernakulam, Parvathy believes that the weekly payments that home-chefs (mostly women) now receive has helped them overcome the insecurity of not being financially stable. 

With a range of choices not restricted only to Kerala cuisine, Tastejet has found many takers among working professionals as well as retirees in Ernakulam. 

"We regularly deliver to Technopark in Kakkanad and to many senior citizens in the district. My own parents are now part-time home-chefs at Tastejet," Parvathy says. 

Then there’s Wow! Homemade, in the market since April this year, which its founder Joseph Jacob says is more of a social enterprise than a business. The 38-year-old who relocated to his native Edappally in Kochi nearly three years ago, says his 18 years of experience in marketing and brand management gave him the encouragement to set up Wow! Homemade. 

The idea for his enterprise, says Joseph, came from his childhood experience of seeing his mother Maria cook and distribute delicacies to friends and relatives. 

“I decided to contribute my experience in marketing to introduce many home-chefs like my mother to a larger customer group so that they can monetize it. The common issues many women face is with regard to packaging, marketing and attaining necessary licences to sell food items," Joseph says. 

Joseph says that it’s the quality of products made in home kitchens in small batches, that makes Wow! Homemade relevant to the market.

"Say, we are preparing pickle. Will we get the same taste that we get in small batches, just like we prepare for daily use at home, when it is produced on a large scale? Never," he says. 

Unlike Tastejet and Masala Box, Wow! Homemade relies on around 20 home chefs to prepare the food but packages the food itself. 

 

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