Women’s Day 2023: Meet female entrepreneurs who refused to give up and worked hard to make it big

Women’s Day 2023: When we talk about cloud kitchen, two names that instantly come to our mind are – Manjari Singh, Co-founder of The Chhaunk, and Kalpana Jha, founder of Jhaji Store. For the unversed, Jhaji received funding from Shark Tank India.

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Manjari Singh and Kalpana Jha

The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic had hit the country badly, but that gave a boost to the cloud kitchens. They acted as a strong backup allowing restaurant operators to simplify their operations. The pandemic completely changed the food and beverage (F&B) sector and has pushed it towards cloud kitchens. When we talk about cloud kitchen, two names that instantly come to our mind are – Manjari Singh, Co-founder of The Chhaunk, and Kalpana Jha, founder of Jhaji Store. For the unversed, Jhaji received funding from Shark Tank India.

These two women decided to take things into their hands and worked hard to make a place for themselves in the otherwise male-dominated industry. Manjari Singh tells us that setting up The Chhaunk was not a planned thing for her, “But during the lockdown, my mother-in-law (Mrs. Hiranyami Shivani) couldn’t go to her home and got stuck here in Delhi. We missed the authentic Bihari food, which wasn’t easily available in Delhi. Since my mother-in-law loved cooking, an idea occurred to her, why not supply food to individuals who live outside of their hometown and provide them with a feeling of home in the end.”

She takes pride in serving Bihar food to people. She explains, “We want to connect with non-Bihari foodies who are keen to explore new dishes.”

Kalpana Jha, who has been a successful homemaker all her life decided to start her business in 2020. She tells us, “My children were home due to the pandemic and I mentioned to them that I wanted to start a company. My husband was about to retire from his job, and we had a lot of time at hand.”

She adds, “Uma, my partner, who was working as a teacher in primary school decided to quit her job and we started Jhaji.”

It has not been an easy journey for both entrepreneurs. The pandemic, no doubt gave a push to cloud kitchens, but it also made things difficult for the F&B industry.

Manjari Singh says, “The pandemic brought so much havoc, vanished businesses, and during that time the food industry suffered a lot but it did not fade our dreams. We were also in constant doubt and problems after seeing the conditions of other food businesses but thought to give The Chhaunk a chance. I was pregnant but still, I plucked up the courage and started our startup. So far, we have received positive feedback from Bihari and Non-Bihari customers. We have registered a growth of 40% and are delivering 3000+ orders per month.”

Things were quite similar for Kalpana Jha who started the business in Bihar. “There’s a lack of infrastructure to manufacture and ship products from Bihar. The place has a very limited ecosystem to support a growing business. For example, we source many of our raw materials for packaging from NCR. It’s more affordable due to the scale of manufacturing there.”

The major concern while starting a food business or a cloud kitchen is sourcing the raw material. It has to be fresh. Food is related to health and compromising on the quality of raw materials can land the owners in trouble. “We have the best vendors who provide daily fresh raw materials directly to our outlets. We do quality checks daily, and we keep changing vendors if we find any quality compromised. We do not freeze raw materials so sourcing is daily,” Manjari Singh says.

After the pandemic, the food industry has experienced tremendous growth due to which there is a lot of competition in the market, but the food delivery industry has a lot of room for growth, in India only 1.5% of people use these services and there are 85% smartphone users so there’s still a lot market to capture but to survive in the market one has to be very distinctive. “Peoples are not very used to ordering food online. Most prefer to go outside with their family and friends for dinner and all but as the pandemic hits, people are dependent on ordering meals online. They began experimenting with various cuisines as a result, which allows us to serve them our traditional Bihari dishes. Many of them have become our permanent customers which gave us more confidence to grow our business in this,” Manjari Singh says.

Kalpana Jha adds, “Having been a homemaker all my life, I’ve been responsible for purchasing household items for a long time. From that perspective, I’ve seen myself become more alert and aware of things we eat. There is for sure an urge to look for authentic products, made using the right ingredients.”

After the pandemic, customers depend on ordering food online. Due to this, people have started trying different types of cuisines. “Bihari cuisine, even being one of the most diverse cuisines, is usually not available in every restaurant and it never got good exposure so, we tried to explore this cuisine.”

While talking about the USP of her brand, Kalpana Jha explains, “There are 3 main key differentiators between JhaJi Store, and the other brands in the market, earthy, rustic flavors that come straight from the villages of Bihar, unique, rare pickles from fruits like Oal, Amra, Karonda, Kathal Sun-dried, made without any preservatives or additives.”

Talking about her experience of getting funding from Shark Tank India, Kalpana says, “We’ve raised Rs 1.2 crore, with investments from Sharks Vineeta Singh and Namita Thapar and investors of Jharkhand Angels Network (JAN). This investment will primarily be invested across working capital for inventory (50%), capacity expansion (30%), and marketing (20%).”

She adds, “With the investment, we project to close FY 2022-23 with revenues of Rs 4.5 crore, and be on the path to reach Rs 10 crore or more in FY 2023-24.”

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First published on: 08-03-2023 at 11:00 IST
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