Now, order ‘Maa Ka khaana’ on your smartphone!

If someone told my grandmother in the 1960s’, that she should click an enticing picture of her homemadechicken xacuti, post it on a mobile app alongside her name and photograph, earn some extra cash while she’s at it, and be prepared to be admired by a bunch of strangers for her culinary prowess, she would have thought that person raving mad!

If only my dear Avo had lived till 2015, she would have discovered that that is exactly what’s happening in some Indian metropolises today. At the click of a button you can order a homemade Amritsari Mutton Curry, Lehsuni Palak Paneer or Dal Makhani, whipped up by a homemaker, living probably not too far away from you.MillionKitchen is one such food-tech company that offers homecooked meals on demand through a user-friendly mobile app on your smartphone.

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While MillionKitchen’s journey started out as social experiment designed to help women of low-income backgrounds kickstart a tiffin service, the business model soon evolved into something quite different.

Today, the platform features 100 home chefs from middle class and upper middle class backgrounds offering Bengali, Bihari, North Indian, South Indian, Sindhi, Oriental and continental cuisines (I’m feeling hungry already!). The food is delivered to your doorstep and the company takes the onus of packaging and delivery.

According to Founder Vimlendu Jha (who also happens to be the Founder of NGO Swechha), affordability, health consciousness and nostalgia are the top reasons for people ordering in homecooked meals as opposed to restaurant takeaways. Till date, they have had 5500 app downloads and they sell around 300 dishes a day. Currently, their services only exist in Delhi.

So, what’s on the menu today? Let’s explore!

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Here’s a screenshot from their website featuring three homechefs. Hovering the cursor over the image gives you a brief descriptor of each dish.

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Those with a sweet tooth can order dessert. In this screenshot you’ll also notice the lone gentleman homechef Ashish Negi who has whipped up some Fruit Cream. According to Vimlendu, though they have just one male chef, they are open to more joining their gang of chefs!

Mutterfly, another player in the same segment has taken things up a notch,  lending a “food sharing” spin to the concept. Akshay Bhatia, Founder of Mutterfly tells us how this work. “Since we want to promote physical interaction between neighbours through food, we have not kept a middleman for delivery. The default collection point is the sharer’s address (sharer refers to the home chef),” says Akshay.

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Users of the platform have the liberty of listing their colonies or communities on the app. On downloading the app, they can see active Mutterfly communities in his or her vicinity, and order from homechefs in the their own colony, or ones in the vicinity.

In these times, when people in cities are getting more isolated in their way of living, is this model intrusive or pure genius? Perhaps, a bit of both! According to Mutterfly, it’s a great way to know your neighbours and meet new people in the society.

The platform’s unique approach has led to some fascinating trends.

As homechefs within a colony get popular, they start being referred to affectionately with culinary epithets like “Pav Bhaji Aunty” or “Cake wali Didi”. Sharing food seems to have also helped in nurturing trust between neighbours in current Mutterfly communities. “We have heard stories where neighbours have started sharing more than just food with each other. There is a relationship formed in every transaction,” says Akshay.

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Regional dishes are in demand.

Some favourites include Sindhi Dal Pakwan and Maharashtrian Thalipeeth (savoury multi-grain pancake). A senior citizen got to taste Sindhi Dal Pakwan (a popular breakfast dish) after 10 years through a neighbour who shared her meal on Mutterfly. His day was made! Fusion food is also becoming a hit. Ever heard of a Gulab Jamun cheesecake? Well, that is on the menu (in the pic).

Mutterly which was launched in August 2015, has so far seen 980 downloads and 340 dishes being shared on the platform by 80 unique sharers.They have had 800 “Mutterfliers” do far.

Other players in the homechef segment include Khana (which is based in Delhi) and ZuperMeal (based in Mumbai). In fact, ZuperMeal’s mantra “You Cook. We Deliver. You Earn.” is an apt invitation for talented home chefs! The company also offers a tiffin service, for those who wanted food delivered on a regular basis.

The services have received a mix bag of responses.

Sometimes, meals get rave reviews and sometimes people are not too happy because the food is delivered cold, or late. Despite these hiccups, there’s no doubt that this segment of good is only set to grow and get more professional.

Last but not the least, in case you’re wondering what happened to the social experiment by MillionKitchen, be rest assured that it very much exists. Christened Lunchbox17, the site and app lists the food being whipped up in this common cooking space, quite prominently.

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Today’s menu by LunchBox17 offers a Veg Thali for INR 100. You’ll also notice that the Puffed Rice by Ms Barkha Nehra is priced at INR 1. In case you’re wondering, that’s not a typo, but a way to encourage consumers to try new items on the menu. Happy ordering and eating. Bon appetite!

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