BENGALURU: Ankit Vengurlekar’s phone has been buzzing non-stop these days, with callers enquiring about his food delivery service. However, it’s not Vengurlekar’s project. The venture belongs to his househelp, who he calls Saroj didi, although he played an important role in kick-starting it. In a bid to help Saroj deal with the financial crunch she was facing during this pandemic, Vengurlekar suggested she start a catering service right from his kitchen.
Just days after it was launched, the initiative became so popular and the little journey touched so many hearts that it got featured in Twitter Moments India, and has also been shared by celebrity chef Vikas Khanna. Saroj started facing monetary troubles during the lockdown, and was willing to take up more jobs to earn some extra salary. However, things didn’t look up because many apartments banned entry of maids due to Covid-19 safety measures.
“Many people didn’t pay her salary because she could not come to work, while many others did not want to hire a new help during this pandemic,” says Vengurlekar, adding that things began getting tougher for Saroj with the mounting debts. The idea of starting the business struck Vengurlekar since Saroj used to recall the days when she and her husband ran a food stall around 17 years ago. “I know that her food tastes fantastic, and so I thought of giving it a shot, and seeing how it goes. The first dish she prepared was crab curry, and put it up on Instagram.
We got five orders on the first day, which was July 24,” says Vengurlekar. The story reached so many people in a single day that he had 15 pre-orders for the next day. One of the primary reasons for the success of this food service, Vengurlekar says, was people’s trust that the food is being made with all precautions in place. As the number of orders started increasing, it got difficult for the 37-year-old public relations professional, who lives alone in HSR Layout, to manage things. “I also have a day job at Xiaomi. And on the days of food delivery, I had to take enquiries.
That’s when a friend suggested I get in touch with Conosh, a food experience curating website, who are now taking orders for her. They have let go of the profit in this partnership,” he says. Now Saroj, 48, is planning to expand her business and is looking for a new place to set up a kitchen. “My kitchen is equipped for a single person. We have started getting requests from people to offer something more than crab and fish. So we have created a new menu, with Reddy’s Chicken Curry, Gajar Ka Halwa, etc. We will need a bigger kitchen for that,” says Vengurlekar.