With a fresh twist in the food delivery business, one startup’s idea to offer real home cooked meals has been lining the tables of the capitals’ busy office workers.
Rohit Tiwari, Founder
Like in many other areas of the retail sector in Nepal, the food delivery business is also witnessing an e-commerce boom at present. Nowadays, many websites and their mobile apps have been trying to bridge the gap between restaurants and customers to deliver food to the doorstep. Nevertheless, there are many working people who wonder how hygienic the restaurants that make the food are. For such individuals, homemade food is the healthiest but they lack the time to cook. Now, a seven month old startup called Foodmario has been striving to capitalise on the fact that people love homemade food, even more when it is economical and home delivered.
Inspiration Behind Foodmario
“The idea is to provide a healthy option for working people, save time for lunch during their office hours and create opportunities for homemakers who love cooking food,” says Rohit Tiwari, founder of Foodmario which was established in 2017.
For Tiwari, the selfless and tireless work carried out by mothers across the world to take care of their families and prepare delicious food has been the main source of inspiration for starting Foodmario. “By observing these passionate souls, I developed the idea of creating economic value through home cooked food,” he mentions. “Our business is quite social-centric as well. On the one hand it provides income generating opportunities to homemakers who love cooking, and on the other hand, it offers a healthy diet option for daily luncheons,” he adds.
How does Foodmario Work?
Foodmario has 15 home-based chefs who prepare the food. After the orders are received, the management team calls the respective chefs who specialise in the particular dishes. The chefs cook the food at their homes and customers will have the meals delivered within an hour and a half after placing an order. Fooodmario does no levy extra charges for delivery.
The customers can order anything from chiura pulau (a dish of beaten rice and other ingredients), gajar ko haluwa (carrot porridge), kodo ko haluwa (kodo millet porridge), fapar ko roti (bread of buckwheat), chhola bhatoora (a dish of Punjabi origin which is combination of spicy gravy of white chickpeas, deep fried maida flour bread, pickles, etc), chatamari (an authentic Newari bread made from rice flour, egg and minced meat), masheura choila to bread rolls, cheese potato, vegetarian food set, cakes and other fast food that come at a price range of Rs 75 to Rs 900.
Currently, Foodmario takes orders through its website and phone calls while it plans to launch mobile apps in Android and Apple platforms within a month. According to Tiwari, his team has been studying the behaviour of customers for the last six months and its mobile apps will be based on the findings of the research. The apps will have easy order placement features and will also display a food feed just like the news feed on Facebook.
“The app contents will be somewhat filtered for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian customers showing the food menus according to their preferences,” informs Tiwari. “Our work is not only to sell dishes, but to connect people with the right kind of food. It will also help us to garner both vegetarian and non-vegetarian customers,” says Tiwari.
A Persistent Man
Devoted in his passion for business, Tiwari has spent the last six years trying to get a breakthrough in business. Tiwari embarked on his entrepreneurial journey by establishing a solar company followed by selling LED lights and induction gas stoves, then running a goat farm and carrying out other trading activities. After trying his hand at a number of business ideas, Tiwari feels that the experience has been life changing teaching him many tricks of the trade. Tiwari also describes himself as fortunate for having a supportive family throughout his journey who encouraged his desire to be an entrepreneur, although they didn’t come from a business background.
Learning with Experience
Tiwari, who faced many setbacks in his business journey, says that he was never demotivated by the failures. Instead, the experience molded him into a person with a broadened horizon and a clearer vision to become an entrepreneur. “I’ve learnt that it is not wise to try to engage in two businesses at once particularly during the formative years. There were times when I was overconfident and went on to undertake two to three businesses at once. It left me with a vague path and led to setbacks,” confides Tiwari.
Through Foodmario, he has also been gaining business insights through several other learning opportunities. In its initial days, Foodmario received mentoring from the Udhyami Seed Camp. Later, it represented Nepal in the Youth Co-lab 2018 as the Asia-Pacific region’s top 10 startups. Youth Co-lab is a United Nations Development Programme’s Asia-Pacific youth entrepreneurship initiative. The exposure provided Tiwari with insight on various global startups, their problem-solving ways and the amount of vigorous research they carry out to make their work impactful.
The venture started with the seed fund that it received from Kantipur Digital Corp after completing its mentorship from Udhyami Seed Camp. The revenue stream, so far, has helped Foodmario cover 70 percent of the working capital requirements. The rest is covered by the seed fund,” states Tiwari.
The company which started with a few daily orders has now been receiving up to 125 orders per day with its monthly turnover reaching Rs 500,000. “We aim to bag up to 1,000 daily orders in the near future and break even in the next three months. But our focus remains on obtaining good customer feedback and garnering new clientele than on returns,” explains Tiwari.
Motivation for the Team
The startup comprises 15 chefs, eight delivery persons and seven administrative staff. Talking about his revenue sharing model with home-based chefs, Tiwari says that they receive 70 percent of every food item prepared by them while the company keeps the remaining 30 percent.
“The team members are self-motivated and strive to bring innovation in whatever they do,” says Tiwari. When asked about the essence of team work, Tiwari says that in a startup, the founder and team has equal responsibility and has to put in equal effort. “A leader shouldn’t move forward with an attitude of doing everything by oneself, rather he should be good at managing people and delegating tasks the right way.”
Tiwari says that he carefully observes team members so that the company can evaluate them based on their performance. It applies to even the chefs who cook independently at their home. “We continuously update them with the feedback that we receive from our customers. At times, we visit their kitchen and talk about what can be done to make the platform better.”
One of the key challenges for e-commerce businesses in Nepal is that the market is relatively at a nascent stage and people are still initially reluctant to use the platform. “What is most difficult is getting them to try the digital platform for a consequent number of times. Once that it done and people like the concept, they continue using the service,” observes Tiwari. Currently, 80 percent of orders at Foodmario come from regular customers.
Like any other food startup, Foodmario faces challenges in maintaining the right combination of food as customer taste buds and preferences change frequently. Maintaining hygiene is another challenge for Foodmario. Tiwari makes sure that there is no room for negligence even at home kitchens and visits them every 15 days.
“The startup community of Nepal has been very supportive and has helped Foodmario in not only acquiring mentoring and seed capital but visibility and customers too,” shares Tiwari. “Most of our clients are from the startup community. What is exciting about the community is that they not only provide a platform for exchanging ideas but share resources as well,” he says. According to him, a number of startups are supporting Foodmario by promoting their work through word of mouth and their own social media pages.
Expansion and future plans
Tiwari understands that limiting Foodmario to Kathmandu wouldn’t be the right approach to expand his business. Therefore, the company is researching market prospects in Chitwan and Pokhara and consulting with a few online food platforms there.
With an increasing working population, more people are entering the professional arena. Tiwari sees the home food delivery business as an opportunity where passionate entrepreneurs can create new market opportunities. It will also allow Foodmario to engage with more passionate home-based chefs.
Tiwari has some ambitious plans for the future. He plans to expand his idea that allows working people to enjoy home-cooked food to other parts of South Asia, including Bangladesh, India and also to Europe. He also has another ambitious future strategy up his sleeves and that is to convert Foodmario into a public company.