Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
It wasn’t as if, she had some burning desire to become an entrepreneur, but Adetee Agarwaal sure dreamt of doing something of her own one day. Come pandemic, and saw increasing number of men being laid off. That was when the thought of “doing something” hit her. She noticed that there were many women who wanted to monitize their culinary skills to earn money. Hence was launched PinkAprons – a community which connects home chefs with people who love home cooked food. In August 2020, she launched the website and android mobile app and in JUne this year its app on iOS. As of today, it has over 2000 downloads, over 600 home chefs on board the platform. The total customer base is more than 18,000 and the revenue in the last six months has been over one million.
Life & More spoke to Agarwaal for more:
Tell us about the birth of PinkAprons.
Food was always my option to explore and invest in as this is one thing people are most concerned about. Getting daily food while living away from home for studies or work is one of the most challenging tasks. Food being an indispensable part of everyday life, deserves special attention. With the motive to introduce a platform that not only helps in providing affordable food to people who are in need but also helps others to become entrepreneurs and start earning on their own, especially women, we launched PinkAprons, a community that connects Home chefs with foodies who love home-cooked food at affordable prices.
When did the idea strike you? And how did you go about it. What all challenges did you face?
When the corona pandemic hit the whole world and went under national lockdown last year, many families struggled to meet ends. The sole reason for this was that men, the sole earning members, started losing their job. In most of the cases, we noticed that homemakers (wives) had exemplary culinary skills and wanted to sell their food to make money but had no resources or business platform to look up to.
It was that moment that ignited a flame within me for launching PinkAprons. The primary objective was to create a platform that empowers women home chefs to become entrepreneurs in five minutes and sell their home-cooked food to a larger set of audience.
Initially, I started connecting with home chefs to understand their pain points. The major reasons were delivery, reaching out to new customers, raw material, packaging supply. Also, initially the woman home chefs were very skeptical as they had never done anything like this ever before, and about how a woman can run a business all on her own but with We faced a significant challenges creating awareness and attracting more customers to our platform. Onboarding new home chefs, training them about online business, and building that trust was also a big challenge initially.
In September 2020, when we started accepting online orders we had to face many cancellations; home chefs would panic at times, sometimes customers didn’t want to wait for more than 30 mins, timely deliveries, almost everything appeared to be challenging when people tend to compare you with services of other home delivery platform. However, eventually we found solutions to these problems and I think we are doing pretty well currently.
Considering it’s a bootstrapped startup, we are still facing challenges with marketing, creating awareness among people, spreading the word and acquiring new customers. Our biggest challenge is to generate more awareness, and more traction for our platform. In a world where food app biggies like Zomato, Swiggy have literally unlimited budgets to market their services, we are hugging along, trying to balance expenses with our aspirations!
What’s the USP of the product and its services? And how is the competition, how do you tackle that?
Our primary product is home-cooked food delivered directly to our customers’ doorstep. One of our startup’s most grounded USPs is that we offer meals that can be booked for a future date and tailored meals (customised as per customer needs, authentic regional food made on order only with fresh ingredients) to our customers as well.
Talking about the variety of food, I would say we have nearly everything – be it any type of particular regional food, any intriguing bakery item, a healthy plate of mixed greens, or everyday meals (tiffin membership). We have Master Chef Competitors, delivery boys, housewives (with no past business exposure), Cruise Chefs (with 10-15+ long stretches of industry experience), who all have joined PinkAprons.
We are considered as one of the biggest platforms for home cooked food with 20,000+ customers and around 1,000 home chefs. We witnessed few local platforms that emerged during pandemic, but none of them could survive the market once lockdowns ended. As of now, only Zomato and Swiggy are our main competitors in the online food delivery space. Our strategy is pretty simple: create a platform for home chefs, help them become entrepreneurs from the comfort of their home, especially women home chefs to sell their home cooked food, and from where foodies can place instant or scheduled food orders.
What kind of growth has the online food delivery industry achieved since the pandemic hit. How was it during the pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been brutal on most of us, mainly when the country-wide lockdown shut down every economic activity. Before the pandemic, many liked to eat outside and partake in the entire dining experience. When the lockdown started, there was a ton of disarray, and individuals did not know what to do in this sort of circumstance. In the beginning phases of the lockdown, the food delivery platforms faced significant losses as they couldn’t deliver. Later, when the lockdown was lifted, people were skeptical about ordering food from outside because of many restrictions. Yet, with time, the food delivery market acquired speed, and from that point forward, the business has seen fast development.
Be that as it may, the lockdown prompted more mindfulness and deals for our business. The vast majority was stuck at places far from their homes and required home-prepared meals, and PinkAprons stepped in and provided many with hot and delectable home-prepared food. We also volunteered to provide quarantined patients at the hospitals with good home-prepared food and deliver a piece of their home when they were all alone.
What challenges are still facing being a women entrepreneur?
The Indian society is still coming to terms with working women in corporate roles but accepting and taking a women entrepreneur seriously is still a faraway dream. Many feel that a woman would not be able to take care of business and her house and would eventually give up on her business, which is why it is tough to get people on board. It is hard to persuade the general public that an intense deal like a business can be overseen and run by women. But, I am exceptionally hopeful about the role of women entrepreneurs.
What are your future plans?
We intend to raise seed money for the business between Rs 2 – 4 crore by tracking down an appropriate Venture Capitalist and use funding amount to expand, grow, hire, market ourselves. Our mission is to create a community of one million women home chefs and make them accessible, monetarily steady, and give wings to their culinary dreams. We also plan to start operations in more Indian metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Gurugram and Bangalore.
Any message for the budding women entrepreneurs.
Everyone has a right to dream and convert it into a reality. We all should understand the power we all are carrying within ourselves. I am a Woman and I am Fearless, this should be the success mantra for all of us. You have the courage and power to change everything, so be passionate, be curious, and never shy away from stepping out and making your dreams come true.