This Nagpur start-up will deliver traditional home-cooked meals to your doorstep. Here's how

For Nativ Chefs, the focus is to bring back the native and the lost recipes back to the market while ensuring that you get access to meals that are home-cooked and extremely tasty
One of their dishes called Dal Bati (Pic: Nativ Chefs)
One of their dishes called Dal Bati (Pic: Nativ Chefs)

This 38-year-old from Nagpur proves the statement that it's never too late to chase your dreams. While some don't want to take a risk before they have a back up plan, Leena Dixit's story is all about jumping into action. Lina started Nativ Chefs in 2018, a food delivery start-up based in Nagpur, which not only delivers home-cooked meals but also ensures that the food is prepared using traditional recipes to keep our culture alive.

Leena, who was an IT professional for the past seven years, has always been passionate about cooking and wished she could study hotel management. "My parents wanted me to become an engineer and I didn't have the power to say no then. However, that did not stop me from learning more about food. I used to attend cooking classes after office as well. Being a mother of two it was very hectic and suddenly to leave a stable career and do something like this didn't then seen like a viable option. But then I decided to pursue my longtime dream when I got selected at IIM Bangalore’s NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) women startup programme in May 2018," says Leena, adding,"That's when I thought this was the right time. It was now or never."

Leena with some of her team members

IIM Bangalore's programme is an online and classroom initiative aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs. Leena is one of the 100 women selected who received instructions in developing a good business plan, understanding how to manage costs and pricing for their products, marketing and sales among several other skills. "After I got selected for this, I quit my job. I had my own savings from what I had earned after working so many years to set this up," she adds. Following her selection, she got incubated at IIM Nagpur for further support in terms of mentoring, infrastructure and networking opportunities.

For Nativ Chefs, the focus is to bring the native and lost recipes back to the market and while doing so they also empower women and provide employment opportunities to people who have expert culinary skills. "In a world of fusion and innovation, we are losing our native charm by forgetting our own recipes, so we aim to bring those back that have been in the families for generations — traditional and authentic recipes. At first, we didn't think it would be a women-dominated platform but now we are seeing that a large number of people enrolled with us are women. They have been experts in cooking these recipes for decades now, so we are able to tap that market, and that becomes our USP. A lot of delivery apps provide home-cooked meals, but we are not just doing that, we are delivering an experience," explains Leena.

Dungadi nu shak (Gujarati)

Authentic 'Ghar ka Khana' (home-cooked food) is never a bad idea for a segment of people who are staying away from their homes. Leena spotted a gap in that segment and used it to her advantage. Nativ Chefs has a food consultant who is in charge of overseeing the menu, taste and quality of the food. The chefs who cook for them also have to go through a rigorous selection process before they are taken on board to ensure quality. Several food tasting rounds, interview and feedback rounds with the chefs, the hygiene factor while cooking the food — all these aacumulate to the chef's ratings and are kept in mind while taking them on board. "What's special about Nativ Chefs is that our cooking experts can weave their magic to create the authentic dishes at the comfort of thie own homes," says Leena. Nativ Chefs has outsourced their delivery to a company called Doorstep, whose delivery personnel pick up and drop the food at the customers' houses.

Currently, they have an active website where you can place orders. An app is under development but it is in the beta stage. Nativ Chefs has around 150 dishes listed on their menu today, the availability of which depends on if the chef who cooks the dish is working on that particular day.

Besan tikka masala (Sindhi)

Speaking of the pricing, Leena confesses that it is slightly above the regular market rates, but she quickly explains that it's decent because the chefs put in a lot of effort to make them. "The raw materials are not always easily available in the market, chefs have to procure the items fresh on every day. We accept lunch orders untill 1 pm in the afternoon and dinner orders untill 6 pm. That's how they prepare it fresh," says Leena. An authentic Bengali dish like Maacher Jhol (fish curry) is priced at Rs 475 and it contains fresh and carefully cut four pieces of fish with the gravy.

The team consists of seven members and they have chefs close to 50 now. "We want to focus on Nagpur for another year, keeping in mind all the factors, then we are planning to expand to five more cities. We are at the stage of shortlisting those," she concludes.

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