CHENNAI: Time and again, surveys conducted across cultural backgrounds and ethnicities have pointed out how women have been disproportionately bearing the burden of unpaid labour.
If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic and the work-from-home norm has only exacerbated the existing gender inequalities.
For working women, it implies the collapse of demarcation of their professional and domestic spaces. But, what about homemakers who’ve always been subjected to unpaid domestic drudgery daily?
Besides dusting, doing laundry and washing dishes, it’s cooking that constitutes a major chunk of their never-ending list of chores.
This is precisely the area where entrepreneur Jayashree Thilak has attempted to bring a change with Shero Home Food. Launched in August 2020, the platform harnesses the culinary skills of homemakers, hones and enables them to earn a livelihood out of their kitchens.
“With some groundwork, we found that the number of hours a woman spends in cooking has only doubled after the lockdown. So why not turn it into a career option and take their talent beyond four walls? This way, they can make good money without going out of their way and also support their family financially,” says Thilak, co-founder.
Nurturing culinary dreams
So far, Shero Home Food has 50 registered home chefs catering to different locations in the city through Swiggy, Zomato and Dunzo. “We have a simple form on our website.
Once the home chef registers, we do a quick background check on them and their kitchen through a video call. If they adhere to the hygiene protocols, we get them the FSSAI licence.
Then they will be given training sessions at our demo kitchen in Anna Nagar or virtually depending on the lockdown restrictions. They will be taught the basics of stocking up the pantry, quick recipes, packing techniques, social media skills and order management.
This will prepare them to run their kitchen single-handedly,” assures Thilak. Shero offers food under three categories — Sambar, poriyal & rasam; Roti, dal & sabji; and My Bowl. Keeping adequate quantity and affordable pricing at the core, their menu has 100 varieties of comfort food.
“Some of the popular food items include poriyal, a simple dal or mixed rice. This is what sets us apart from commercial restaurants because ours is just homecooked food prepared to the liking of patrons. Sprouts and soup have also been doing well. We even offer cut vegetables, ginger-garlic paste and idli-dosa batter to make things easy for working women. Quality is a priority so we ensure everything is prepared fresh and there’s no food wastage. We will be introducing non-vegetarian and north Indian items soon,” shares Thilak.
Shero is more a women’s empowerment movement than a business, she stresses. “We’ve been able to include women from all age groups and even conservative families after earning their trust. Each brings their specialisation to the table. They are clever, calculative, know their kitchen inside-out, and are great with damage control. We only had to handhold them through the business aspect. We’ve heard many women share how their lives have transformed drastically within a few months of enrolling. That’s what a job can do to you — small or big — it lifts your spirits and boosts your confidence,” notes Thilak.
Empowerment begins in the kitchen
Among the many home chefs the platform has employed is Ayisha Mariyam, a resident of Purasaiwalkam. A mother of three, the homemaker has been effortlessly juggling her personal life and cooking for Shero, she says. It’s been six months since she became a member of Shero while scouting online for jobs to do from home.
“It came in handy because I already knew cooking and I did not need an investment to enrol on the platform. I plan and finish my household chores, and then begin cooking for Shero. You have 30 minutes to prepare an order so until I finish preparing for one I will not accept other orders. At times, I may not have the necessary ingredients since this is a small-scale kitchen. The consumer is kept informed on other options through Swiggy and alternate arrangements are made. It’s quite a flexible model,” narrates Mariyam. And it’s not just cooking and dispatching.
They are given feedback and are also supported in any way possible. “We have weekly meetings with fellow home chefs where the feedback is discussed so you know where to improve. The backend team is always supportive in dire situations during lockdown and restrictions. I’m happy that I’ve been able to support my family. I feel empowered.
By engaging full-fledged with a maid and slightly better infrastructure, we can make good profits in this business,” Mariyam points out. It’s been Thilak’s dream to create more entrepreneurs like Mariyam. “Shero Home Food will have 300 home chefs on board by the end of this year. I want women to be emotionally and economically independent. We’ve had mother-daughter, mother-son, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and husband-wife duos register and run the kitchen. It’s nice to see family members support their endeavours,” sums up Thilak. Order on Swiggy, Zomato or Dunzo. For details, visit: sherohomefood.com