Learn how to start a home tiffin service or Indian food dabba service with Shipra Baranwal, founder of a six-figure home-kitchen business in India.
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted many inspiring cases of women becoming microentrepreneurs by starting a business from home. One of the best home-based business ideas for moms is to start a home tiffin service or dabba service.
In India, we have a long tradition of dabbawala tiffin services – a lunchbox delivery and return system that delivers hot lunches from homes and restaurants to people at work, and the Mumbai dabbawala service has inspired many studies for its accuracy and effectiveness.
During the pandemic and lockdowns, queries as “tiffin service near me”, “tiffin centre near me”, “dabba service near me” and “Ghar ka khana near me” went up as more people chose nearby tiffin services over restaurant food.
This inspired many enterprising and resourceful home cooks to launch a home tiffin startup, supplying safe and healthy homemade tiffin services to neighbours in their housing society and locality.
If you receive glowing compliments on your home cooking, are confident in your cooking abilities, and know you can cook food that makes other people happy, then a dabba service or tiffin box service may be the best home business to start for you.
But, while many home cooks have the desire to start their own home businesses, what they lack is the financial guidance to start a Ghar ka khana tiffin service or home-based kitchen business in India.
How To Start A Home Tiffin Service Or Dabba Service In India
Do you want to use your excellent cooking skills to start a home-based cooking business? If you feel that a home food tiffin service is the easiest home-based business to start, you should definitely consider starting one.
In this article, SHEROES Champion, Shipra Baranwal, founder of a home kitchen business called No Cooking Weekend, answers questions from SHEROES users on starting their own home tiffin service or dabba service.
Shipra started her home-cooked food tiffin service during the pandemic in 2020 and cooks everything from Kebabs and Biryanis to Amritsari Kulche on the weekends.
Her home tiffin business has generated a six-figure revenue in the last year and was featured in Conde Nast Traveller as one of the home kitchens in Mumbai to order from.
If you want to start your own Ghar ka khana tiffin service, you can learn a lot from her tiffin service business model and success story.
How did you start No Cooking Weekend?
The whole project started as a weekend engagement during the lockdown last year. It started as a passion project and a side-hustle. I was working from home and did not have much to do on the weekends.
I used to cook Biryani for my family as a weekend treat. Last year, when the lockdown happened and restaurants were closed, my husband gave me the idea to take orders for Biryani in my housing society.
So the next Sunday, I put out a picture of my Biryani on our society WhatsApp group and took a limited number of orders. The feedback was great and everyone started asking for more.
That’s how No Cooking Weekend was born. Now, apart from Kebabs and Biryanis, I also do weekend meal experiences which is a hit. I still cook only on the weekends though 🙂
What’s the first thing to do when you get a home business idea?
The first thing to do before investing in a home kitchen food business is to test the idea to understand the demand and get some customer feedback.
When feedback for my non-veg tiffin service was great and people started asking for more, slowly it started growing. I also learnt about capacity planning and pricing, and that’s how my weekend kitchen kicked off.
How to get a food license for your home tiffin business
Did you require a license for home kitchen businesses, which is a must for getting a loan? What are the local licenses required to start a home tiffin business?
Anyone operating a home tiffin business needs to apply for the FSSAI license for home-kitchen businesses. It’s an easy online process and a home-based kitchen license costs just 100 rupees.
Having an FSSAI registration for home kitchen services does increase one’s chances of loan approval. My FSSAI home kitchen registration license came by email within 3 months.
How to finance your home tiffin business
What sort of finance and setup do you need to start a home kitchen business serving people in your housing society?
To start a small kitchen business from home, the setup required is quite basic. The gas and stove are already installed in our home kitchens. From my own experience, an initial investment of INR 10,000 is enough to start a tiffin catering service that serves 15 to 20 customers.
My initial investment included buying a food processor mainly for grinding, chopping vegetables and kneading atta (wheat flour). The other things I bought included 2 large size pots and a small kitchen weighing scale.
Keeping safety in mind, I pack the food in disposable boxes instead of asking people to bring their containers, so that’s another cost to add with your tiffin business from home.
What do I need to start a home tiffin service or dabba service in India?
To start a home tiffin business, you need cooking skills. Basic Maths will help with managing expenses and making better profits. I initially tested the idea for my home tiffin service with small orders without investing any money.
The good thing about a home catering business is that you need only gas, ingredients and utensils, all of which are in our houses. After I got good feedback and was sure this will work I invested a small amount of money.
From my own experience, an initial investment of INR 10,000 is enough to start a small home tiffin business that serves 15 to 20 customers per week. You can either invest from your savings or apply for a loan from Mahila Money.
Do I need any documentation to get a loan for my home tiffin business? Should I take a government loan or go to a private bank?
You don’t need any documents to start a home tiffin service, but you should apply for an FSSAI registration if you plan to run the business for the long term. It is very easy and the license only costs 100 rupees a year.
Nowadays, it’s quite easy to get a loan for your home tiffin service. Mahila Money offers personal micro-loans exclusively for ambitious women in the SHEROES community.
You can make use of their easy loan facility to start your home tiffin or dabba service. You’ll require a scanned passport-size picture, your Aadhaar card, Pan Card and Bank account details to complete the form successfully.
See how Yasmin from Haqdarshak in Nashik, availed of a collateral-free, co-guarantor-free Rs 1 lakh Mahila Money loan to invest in her tiffin service business with the aim of expanding the business, renting a space and hiring 3 to 4 cooks to supply food to clients.
Is it possible to do this type of business alone? How can I estimate how much I will earn through this?
I run my home kitchen business all by myself. Depending upon how many people you can cook for and the number of days you cook one can earn anywhere from 10,000 a month to 50,000 per month.
How to price your food for your home tiffin menu
How do I price my food? Should I follow the restaurant prices?
This is something that I believe most home chefs struggle with because operating from a home environment means you don’t have economies of scale. So the ingredient costs will always be higher because you’re buying smaller quantities.
Competing with restaurants on pricing will either result in poor profits or you may have to reduce the quality of ingredients – both of which I do not recommend.
What I do suggest is to compare your tiffin service prices with other home chefs in your city. That should give you a fair idea of how to price your food.
Here is how I fix the cost of my dishes. I calculate all the expenses involved for cooking that dish and packing it for delivery then I add my profit margin. As a quick example:
If you compare this with the pricing of Biryani by Kilo on Swiggy, 1 kg of Chicken Biryani sells for INR 760. But they do have the power of bulk purchase and the ability to cater to high volume orders. As a home chef, you may not be able to do this.
Apart from tiffin centre prices and profits, what I do focus a lot on is customer loyalty and I measure it every week. Currently, 60% of my customers order at least twice per month from No Cooking Weekend.
Should you partner with food delivery services for tiffin delivery service?
What is your advice on partnering with Swiggy and Zomato for tiffin delivery?
The pros of partnering with Zomato and Swiggy online tiffin service apps is that you become more discoverable and have a wider reach. You also don’t have to worry about tiffin delivery which helps expand your customer reach.
However, the cons are that your profit margin reduces as the commissions charged by these platforms are quite high, and secondly, when selling through their app you will be competing for the same segment of customers on price.
Swiggy and Zomato also offer a lot of discounts, which ultimately eats into your profit. If you look at the current trend, a lot of restaurants now offer higher discounts when you order directly through them than via a tiffin delivery service.
One thing to bear in mind is that as a home chef you don’t have economies of scale so the ingredient costs will always be higher for you. Competing on price and making a good profit margin can be challenging.
Also, running a home tiffin service or home kitchen means you’ll have a limited capacity to take orders.
How to make money with food videos
How can we earn money making food videos?
YouTube is a great place to make money from food videos. One example I can think of is Kabita’s Kitchen. She makes a few lakh rupees every year by running her recipe channel and it’s very good.
- Learn how to start an Indian food blog
- Learn how to start a YouTube recipe channel
- Top 10 women YouTubers in India show how to earn from YouTube
How to promote your home tiffin service
As far as home-based business ideas for moms go, starting a Ghar ka khana tiffin service may just be one of the most successful home-based businesses available today since food is an essential service and people cannot do without it.
Here are some ways you can promote your home tiffin as the best tiffin service from home:
- Share your home tiffin menu in the WhatsApp group of your housing society.
- Start a Facebook Page for your home tiffin service and add Local Business details to it.
- Start a local Facebook Group for your area and Pin your menu to the top of the group.
- Create a Local Google Business Listing for your home tiffin business.
- Use Facebook’s Local Business features created to help local businesses promote themselves.
- Ask your warm contacts – your friends and neighbours – to share your home tiffin service menu.
If you want to differentiate yourself from other online tiffin service providers, you can start offering a premium tiffin service or special tiffin meal plans for specific dietary requirements, such as keto, diabetic, gluten-free, vegan, weight loss tiffin service or a diet food tiffin service.
If you’re starting a business from home and need a source of business finance for your tiffin service startup, learn how Mahila Money supports Indian women in starting their own tiffin business from home.
You can make use of their easy personal micro-loans exclusively for enterprising SHEROES community users who want to start a business from home.
Here’s wishing you great success with starting your home tiffin service startup – one of the best home-based businesses for women in India.
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