“I think women entrepreneurs do a fantastic job of creating revenue, and mostly pursuing some things which they enjoy.”
Cooking has always been an inspiration for Ms. Sandhya Chaturvedi. She recalled her early childhood spent at the tea estate in Darjeeling, when she got the best training from her mother and later after marriage, foreign postings further refined her talent. Talking to Shree Lahiri, she shares how the Big Idea struck, the inspiration behind her start-up, the tough edges, the support of family, friends and more….
“Mummy’s Kitchen” by Ms. Sandhya Chaturvedi
Q1. How did you get the Big Idea to start your venture?
The big idea came from a lack of viable eating options when we shifted here in Sector 104, NOIDA. I realized that a lot of the people who were working depended on domestic helps for food, but were literally unable to amange if they were not there. Besides, at that point, there were not too many eating options, and eventually one does tire eating outside food and misses home food.
Q2. Where did the inspiration for setting up a business come from?
Cooking and making people eat has always been something that I have enjoyed, and something which I have grown to become very adept at managing. I have been born and brought up in Darjeeling where my father was among the first Indians to manage a tea estate. there, it being an isolated place in those times, my mother, with her domestic helps, used to make everything on her own; right from pickles, preserves, and so on. At the same time, she also had many guests, a lot of them foreign ones, to entertain. This helped her refine her cooking skills and she made sure that at least I learnt some of them. Later, I was also married to an officer in Air India who has had numerous postings abroad which have also presented us opportunities to entertain guests in different parts of the world, and I am proud that people have always enjoyed the food we have served, to the extent that they have volunteered to learn, or ask me to make them a dish or two. Hence the inspiration to take this forward has always been there; it was only a question of an opportunity or need presenting itself.
Q3. How easy or tough has it been for you, as a woman entrepreneur, to set up and promote your business?
Luckily for me, setting up this home food venture has not been very difficult. These days, with the advent of social media, it has become very easy for small businesses to get noticed. I began by putting up a few dishes for order on our society Whatsapp groups, then progressed to creating my own Whatsapp group, and then subsequently my daughter created a FB and Instagram page which helps get more visibility. Today, we have become more structured in terms of the food types, the packaging, the promotion, and standardization without compromising on the quality. At the end of the day, we are still the ones actually cooking, and I guess that is the unique selling point. Through word of mouth, we have had the opportunity to serve customers beyond our society for party orders every once in a while. Fortunately, now, we have got a platform to help us reach out to the audience beyond our own society with logistical support as well, with the recently launched homefood app called Homefoodi (available for download now on Android and iOS), in NOIDA.
Q4. Do you think women entrepreneurs support other women across the value chain of business? How have you impacted/ supported/ mentored the careers of other women?
I think women entrepreneurs do a fantastic job of creating revenue, and mostly pursuing some things which they enjoy. In our locality, it is a wonderful stimulation seeing such a dynamic role that so many women play as entrepreneurs. We have, right from bakers, to food ventures, to outdoors, event managers, teachers and home tutors, hobby training teachers, to those who sell clothes, home made cosmetics, soaps, and so on. It is wonderful to support and appreciate each other, thereby helping each other grow. I can very proudly state that I helped a lady, one of my immediate neighbours, to begin her own food venture, which is essentially non-veg food (specializing in Awadhi cuisine) and today she is doing very well here.
Q5. How has the support of friends and family played a role in your being a successful entrepreneur? How do you balance your professional and personal life?
I have enjoyed tremendous support from everyone, especially my family. To begin your entrepreneurial venture finally at the age of 55 was something that I never expected, but I seized the opportunity when I got it, and since then, it has been no turning back. Luckily, my home is my office at the moment, and so I am able to manage looking after both together; hosting guests while packing an order for someone, keeping an eye on the chores at home while preparing for snacks for the evening 🙂
Q6. Were you trained for this line? Would you like any training now? If so, what kind of training?
The only training that I have had for this has been from my mother. After that, it has been years of practice and refinement, and also continuously adding to our repertoire by trying out new dishes and introducing them to everyone. With my daughter now playing an active role in Mummy’s Kitchen, there has been a certain amount of professionalism in terms of the branding, packaging, and a widening of the types of things we make. Our tag team works very well for us together.
Q7. What is the road ahead in 2020?
The road ahead is now very promising. While I have already established a base in our society, now we have the opportunity to reach out to a large audience with our app now being live. We have also, by virtue of this platform, served food at a couple of events, and we definitely look forward to many more such opportunities. All of these combined can help us not only look at structuring our set-up a little more, but also refining even more; perhaps experimenting more as well! But we are very clear about maintaining the same quality and taste. After all, there is nothing like home food!