Escalate

In a competitive environment, you have to be on your toes

- ALISHA SIJAPATI

Jan 7, 2019-

Rohit Tiwari has always been an entrepreneur. After completing his Bachelors from Nepal Engineering College in 2013, he joined the trading business and started supplying solar panels to customers via his company, Active Technology. The solar panel trade was a success during the loadshedding years, but once power cuts became a thing of the past, Tiwari realised he needed to explore something new. He went on to experiment with goat farming and started Shree Farms in 2015. The venture collapsed after a year, but Tiwari was not giving up. A year ago, he started Foodmario, an online food delivery service that brings homemade food from kitchens to your door. Now that the company is a year old, the Post’s Alisha Sijapati spoke to Tiwari about the food delivery business, the competition and his plans for the coming year. Excerpts:

You come from an engineering background, what prompted you to start Foodmario?

When I was in college, I used to sell rice in the college canteen and do many other things to be financially secure. As soon as I finished my graduation, I started a solar energy business, but eventually it had to be shut. I then experimented with goat farming but there too, I couldn’t excel much. However, I realised that we cannot scale with these things. When I joined Udhyami Seed Camp, I met a few of my mentors there who guided me to do better. Starting Foodmario was something that came instantly. There are popular online food delivery services abroad such as Food Panda and Zomato. Unfortunately, this was something that Nepal lacked. We hardly have any online food delivery services here and I thought this would be a good platform to venture into. I had to do something different and I replaced the idea of restaurants with homemade food. Foodmario has given opportunities to various people who stay at home. We don’t have a culture of taking food from home to work and even children these days are used to eating food from the canteen. There are so many women who don’t work outside, not just in Nepal but in many countries in the sub-continent. We wanted such women to come on board. At Foodmario, you don’t need to have minimum orders. Eating home-cooked food is always different and special in comparison to what you eat outside.

Why the name ‘Foodmario’? Doesn’t that seem a bit incongruous for Nepal?

Yes, it does. Initially, we were looking for names such as homechefs.com, homecooks.com because the idea was to connect homemade food to customers. But these names were very expensive. It cost us about Rs 75,000 just for a domain. While experimenting with various ‘food’ domains, there came Foodmario. First, the domain name was affordable and second, we just felt that this was right and it would connect with people.

How does Food Mario stand out from other online food delivery services?

There aren’t any platforms that deliver home-cooked meals. Then, we don’t have any delivery charges on any items. When you have friends coming in, you would like to get restaurant food but with us, it’s different. Our food can be consumed daily by people. Also, Foodmario doesn’t have any minimum orders. You can order a meal worth a Rs 100 and not be charged even a rupee extra. This is what makes us different from other companies. Foodmario is something you can think of everyday.

How do you choose your cooks? And how do you ensure that they are making food that is of a certain standard?

Although anyone can sign up to become a chef at Foodmario, they need to be clean, hygienic and healthy. The process is simple: we have food tasting, inspection of the kitchen and check the quality of the food. They also need to meet packaging standards. Every two weeks, we conduct random inspections.

How is the profit divided among Foodmario and its chefs?

We take up to around 20 percent for bakery and 30 percent for food items.

Foodmario has a delivery time of about two hours. Do you think that’s a fair amount of time to wait for your food? How do you tackle such challenges?

It depends on person to person. I’ll give you an example of Airbnb. Supposedly I go to a hotel, I may think everything is taken care of and start lurking around but going to someone else’s house can be awkward and you need to inform them before-hand. So, the case is similar with us. These home chefs are just learning and it will take time for them because every food item is fresh. With Foodmario, people can order regularly, but they need to know that it’s going to take at least 90 minutes because these chefs are inexperienced too. Currently, we are working on delivering food on time. Everything is new for us and we are getting there.

With so much competition around, how does Foodmario compete? 

We are very innovative with what we do. We just began a co-cooking space—a common kitchen where Foodmario chefs can work at. If you want to bake something and you don’t have the equipment, the chefs can come over to our kitchen. There are times when you get an unreasonable amount of orders such as 60 fried rice or biryani, and it is impossible for home chefs to deliver such orders from home. In a competitive environment, we have to be on our toes.

What are your future plans? How is Foodmario going to expand?

Our primary purpose is to make Foodmario as customer friendly as possible. We have a lot planned for 2019. We are planning to come up with a new website and be more manageable with our chefs and customers. We also want to aggressively promote the company. Although, we just have 45-50 chefs now, at the end of 2019, we hope to have more than 600 chefs. We want to cater to 3,000 customers. I hope Foodmario excels this year.

Published: 07-01-2019 12:55

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