When restaurants were forced to close during the lockdown, several homecooks launched businesses across the city only to close down eventually due to the operational difficulties and lack of demand.
“When I first started to sell Sindhi food through Instagram during the pandemic, I got many orders. But getting the order, coordinating with the customer and delivery executive, apart from cooking and packing made it very inconvenient in the long run,” says Kavitha Khatri, a home cook running KK’s Kitchen.
However, she is back to making her signature dal pakwan and koki rotis for customers across the city. This time she is trying afresh with Bhookle.
The recently launched food delivery app uses a data-driven approach to help homecooks prepare for an increase in demand. The platform aims to connect skilled home cooks like Kavitha with customers across the city with an aim to build a community that preserves the flavours and dishes we grew up eating.
“We are not in the business of selling food, but in the business of selling memories.” says Arvind Ravichandran, founder. He adds, “Walking down the road one day, I was taken in by the aroma of someone making vathal kuzhambu which reminded me of what my mother used to make. But I couldn’t ask them if I could have some and that’s when I got the idea for Bhookle.”
He started off by reaching out to the homecooks he knew and then turned to social media to amplify his search.
Bhookle currently operates with 50+ homecooks across Chennai.“We have handpicked each chef and have helped in curating their menus by choosing the best and most authentic dishes they can prepare. Unlike restaurants, we take time because each dish is made for you. Realistically, a paneer masala gravy cannot be made in 10 minutes unless the gravy is pre-made,” says Shamala Raghu, co-founder and head of food.
The app is easy to use and food needs to be ordered in advance.
We order ragda pattice and koki roti from Kavitha Khatri. The order arrives the next day with a personalised note, home made curd, chutneys and pickle. The potato patties are soft on the inside and crisp on the outside while the peas masala that comes with it is spicy and tangy. The koki roti is hearty, laced with onions and mildly spiced.
All the homecooks are licensed and are given full control of the price of their dishes keeping in mind the effort and cost of sourcing the ingredients and preparing the meal. They are advised against using MSG, preservatives or food colouring and are encouraged to only use food-grade plastic.
Soon, Arvind and his team are hoping to integrate AI and machine learning into the app for personalised recommendations. While the app currently is only operational in Chennai, the team is eyeing Bengaluru as their next destination to carry the “Amma in a dabba” philosophy forward.