Work, Re‑cultured: The Marketing Exec Who Started a Food Business During Lockdown
In Work, Re-cultured, The Swaddle brings you a snapshot of what work-from-home culture looks like for Indian professionals across industries. In this installment, a 38-year-old home chef, A.K.
I worked as a marketing professional in a start-up and saw the company grow in front of my eyes. I was desperately looking for a change from a corporate set-up to a small company closer to my house because the commute and long working hours weren’t working out for me. When I landed this job, it was a dream come true. It was all going well until lockdown happened; we lost a couple of clients. Over a Zoom call, we all lost our jobs. My husband’s garment business also wasn’t doing as well as it used to before the nationwide shutdown.
While everything on the jobs front was changing, the expenditures weren’t. Our daughter’s school fees were the same, so was our house rent. Nobody was ready to waive these off.
Our savings have gotten us so far, but there’s a limit to that as well. We had to think of newer ways to sustain ourselves and one of the easiest things to do was to turn my hobby into a profession. I decided to sell parathas, dal, and a few rice preparations. With my background in marketing, and my husband’s in setting up a business, we started selling food. It’s been over a month, and this has been one of the toughest jobs to do. And I’ve managed teams of 40 people before, conducted sessions overseas and worked 14 to 15 hours a day, all while managing a family and a home.
This job is demanding. Supplies are limited because markets are not open all the time. Second, vegetables have become so expensive. And you can never predict how many orders you’ll end up getting in a day. In the first two weeks, I had just three to four people calling for my food but soon the word spread in my own building, which has about 100 apartments. Since everyone is working from home, that leaves them very little time to cook; now I have at least 25 orders a day. That’s a good thing, but I didn’t anticipate this. Our kitchen is really small, and I don’t have big utensils. So I have to cook in batches, which is very exhausting. A majority of the orders are from the building itself because they know it’s safe to order from within the premises, and from a known person, than from restaurants.
My day starts at 5 a.m. when I enter the kitchen and don’t leave until 10 a.m. when I have to set up my daughters’ classes over Zoom. Then it’s back to packing and delivery. Sometimes, I call our security guard to give away the boxes and when he’s busy, I go and deliver them myself. That ends up taking a big chunk of time from the day because going to someone’s house means I have to sit with them and talk a little also. I don’t have time anymore to talk to my parents, who live in Delhi, or take my daughter to play. Right now, all I can see is that this is helping me make money. There are no weekends, or downtime for me. Each day is the same, but at least it’s something I enjoy doing, so there are no regrets as of now, but I don’t know how sustainable this is. Right now, it’s just me doing everything, from going to buy raw materials to delivering. Eventually, I will get tired and there’s no money to hire new people. So I don’t know how long I can keep doing this but if it becomes a business I can do all my life, it’ll be the only good thing the pandemic has done.