Gayatri Iyer was in a lavish corporate position surrounded by the fancies that a company has to offer. She has left all the comforts behind and has the idea of being creative with food. One lazy Sunday, she was scrolling through her Twitter feed and came across the concept of an American platform called Homechef.com that sells recipe kits. Their product offering, process and website really impressed me and that’s when she thought to herself why can’t this be done in India? This is where the creativity was born, a twist in this idea of not having your own kitchen but relying on the cuisine and the know-how of the Chef and the restaurant. And so the birth of Chef In A Box took place.
Why did you start an online-only food ordering startup when there are many other hot segments that are also attracting VC money?
It’s not strictly a food ordering startup. Chef In A Box is dedicated to helping people recreate Chef-style dishes at home with the help of the professional chefs themselves. People receive recipe kits that include all measured ingredients and clear instructions. The best part is that it comes straight from a chef/restaurant’s kitchen to ensure authenticity. This is a new concept in Delhi/NCR and we want to change the way people look at food and break the monotony of eating cooked food. People love to cook and we want to give them a smooth experience by giving them everything they need. It’s a fun concept and I’m sure it will catch on and people will notice, not just VCs.
What got you into the Homechefs segments and how many chefs are there today?
As I said, this is not a Home Chef segment that we entered. This is a niche sub-segment of the food and beverage segment that we have entered. Currently we have 10 chefs, bakers and restaurants on board giving over 30 recipes across Delhi/NCR.
You don’t have an app to take orders yet? Is it a calculated risk or just a bold move to differentiate yourself from other gamers who are probably mobile only or mobile first? When are you going to launch an app? If so when?
Yes, we don’t have an app and that’s intentional because we want to get our concept out there and people trying it out, giving us feedback and backing our product before investing in an app. Our online ordering process on our website is very simple for this purpose. But our future plans also involve creating an app, but that’s after a few months, since we are only 2 months away from our operations.
Is there a funding cycle. Who is the investor?
We’re completely out of boots and putting hard-earned money and effort into this business.
What is your expansion plan?
Future plans are always exciting and it’s something that keeps you going even on the toughest days. For Chef In A Box, we definitely want to keep growing our chef/restaurant base, which in turn would increase our recipe offerings, by adding more exotic cuisines, dishes and categories. Expanding this concept covering all of Delhi/NCR and even other cities has always been a long term goal for Chef In A Box from day one. dishes.
Which model offers better margin, faster scalability at lower cost – ordering food online through restaurants or a marketplace of online chefs like you?
Each model has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it all depends on the vision and product idea you have. As we all know, a restaurant is a capital intensive industry and profitability is a challenge. Therefore, to supplement the income, you also need an online ordering service, to sell as much as possible. The online chef market has the advantages of less capital intensity like real estate, labor, utilities, etc., but the back-end technology and operations must be very strong to support the product. So in a case like my Chef In A Box, our main investment is technology and back-end operations like delivery etc. This model is definitely scalable depending on the response and needs of the client.
There are similar start-ups in the segment. Does your startup have a significant and substantial advantage over them?
This is a niche segment that we are entering and it is not an everyday food or cooking concept. The benefit and USP is that all of our recipe kits and ingredients come straight from the chef’s kitchen, meaning the chef does the shopping for you (literally!) and gives you the best ingredients with which to work. We are the pioneers in this field. So we’re like a food panda/little owl for recipe kits. There is huge potential in this concept and we are very interested to see where this wave will take us.