Hungry Kya? WhatsApp Kar…

15th May, 2018

| by Aditi Chavan , aditi_chavan

Food retail in the times of a social media messenger service

Typically, a WhatsApp inquiry for Renu Sukheja’s lip-smacking food starts like this – “Do you have any chicken today?”

And, except for exceptional cases and regular clients, she types out her fixed menu for the day – Goan fish curry, boiled rice, cucumber salad…”

“Damages?”

“Rs 250, a serve,” and she signs off with a smiley.

“Send up one serving for me please,” confirms the resident of C-405, Omkar Alta Monte, Malad (East), Mumbai, and the order is booked.

Half-an-hour later, Renu’s Woman-Friday, her apprentice-cook-cum-delivery-girl, Rose (26) takes the food out, wrapped indispensable, aluminum foil boxes to the waiting customer, who resides in the same building complex, as Renu.

Renu Sukheja, a 50-something New Age food entrepreneur has a very simple win-win formula for her home-cooked, food retail business, which is anchored solely on Facebook-acquired messenger, WhatsApp.
She announces the day’s pre-fixed menu for breakfast, lunch, evening snacks and dinner to her group members, a day in advance and armed with all the pre-bookings is able to wield total control on her limited inventory. No sweat, no waste. If she’s left with a couple of servings, which is rare, she announces that on her lead-generation, social media platform, and ends up finding a couple of late night revelers, who are a tad too tired to cook at home.
Because she happens to be an extremely good cook, on average she gets 15-20 orders in a day. Shy of divulging cost-benefit details for a home venture, she says she follows it more as a hobby than a business enterprise.

Renu tells this correspondent that cooking has been her passion, ever since she can remember. And her inspiration was no marks for guessing this right, her mom. She started pottering around in the kitchen since she turned 11, offering to help her mom, but since that wasn’t allowed, little Renu would send up a prayer for the maid’s absence, when willy-nilly mom had to bank on her to run errands in the kitchen.

Born and brought up in Calcutta, besides cooking, she also loved to keep a squeaky-clean house, and beg the maid to delegate her ironing job to her! Even in those days, she was quite a busy-body with all the household chores.
After marriage, the young couple shifted to Hyderabad in 2003, where her husband ran a call center, and she helped him out.

“Those were the days when we used to order meals from outside. Filled with soda, the food always tasted bland. The idea struck that I should start my own catering service,” she recounts.

Not knowing Telugu posed a huge language barrier. So she decided to stick to one item — steaming, melt-in-your-mouth Momos — delivered to a mall in and two bakeries in the proximity.

In 2014, when the couple shifted to Mumbai, she persuaded Rosy to trundle along with her and switched to the WhatsApp business model. “I would cook a little extra and post the items on WhatsApp. Till date, I get all my business through WhatsApp. I wonder how I would have managed if there was no WhatsApp?” she jibes.

For a Limca Book record holder in Elliptical Marathon, staying in shape must be a challenge, when she is always surrounded by good food, but then she happens to be a fitness freak too. Renu is a World Record Holder for working out continually on the elliptical cross trainer (cardiovascular fitness equipment) for 15 hours non-stop at the Helios Fitness Center, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh in 2010.

That said food remains her first passion.

“My kitchen is open 24/7. I love to serve my food hot. There were times when I used to prepare full meals. But now I stick to snacks on popular demand. Dahi Vadas and Koki’s are among the hot favorites,” she recounts.

Lest you wonder, how she manages to find time to all this, you’d be surprised to know that there are days when she holds grooming sessions for aspiring models. Those are the days when she avoids rustling full meals and sticks to evening snacks instead.

With all this and more, under her belt, early to bed and early to rise is just not her cup of tea or coffee either.
“That’s the reason I don’t prefer making breakfast. It’s only during snacks time that I come alive to the day,” she quips.

A Day in the Life of Renu Sukheja
7:30 AM – Wake up and start the day with a strong cup of tea.
8:30 AM – Get started with the food to be served during the day (I generally plan it up the previous night). Also, attend to other household issues that demand my attention (Multitasking is in my DNA).
12 Noon: Hit the gym and work out for an hour (A bit of cardio, weights, and stretches have kept me going for years now)
1 PM: Supervise food deliveries.
2 PM: Make preparations to cook snacks (if any) for the evening
4 PM: Chill out and spend time with family (sometimes I meet my friends and play table tennis too)
5-5:30 PM: Start serving evening snacks
8 PM to 11 PM: Serve dinner and call it a day.

Ask her why does she keep serving food until the wee hours, and pat comes the reply, “Well, people around me get back home from work late and are generally too tired to cook. Most of them don’t prefer ordering food from restaurants. Instead, they call me as they know I will always have something for them. When it comes to serving food, I just can’t say ‘No’ to anyone, however late it might be.

That’s Renu for you!

Aditi Chavan

Aditi Chavan

Content Developer

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