Happiness is homemade. And Thane-based Lalita Patil concurs. The 35-year-old, who knew she was “meant to become an entrepreneur”, did just that with her food venture, Gharachi Aathvan, a restaurant that offers home-style food.
And while businesses may be suffering amid the coronavirus-led lockdown, a smart pivot has helped Lalita and her venture stay afloat.
“The name, Gharachi Aathvan, means ‘remembering home’. We specialise in cooking traditional, simple home-cooked delicacies that just not suit your bellies but also pockets,” says Lalita, Founder of Gharachi Aathvan.
Be your own boss
Born and brought up in Thane, Lalita majored in physics for her graduation. At college she fell in love; she got married soon after at the age of 20.
“I always wanted to be financially independent and used to do tuitions to earn a living. After that, I joined a full-time job a few years ago but quit it,” she says.
The desire to be her own boss led her to think about starting her own business. When Lalita started zeroing in on ideas, she realised that she was often appreciated for her cooking. “So, I started a small tiffin service in Thane in 2016. I ran it for more than a year,” she recalls.
What disappointed her was the fact that she ran her business from home and did not get the same respect accorded to other working women by society.
“When a woman works from home, she is considered a housewife only,” Lalita says. She decided that she would work, but from outside her home, and faced her biggest stumbling block: zero capital.
One day, she came across a startup contest ad in the newspaper. The Britannia Marie Gold My Start Up was launched in 2019 as an advocacy initiative that aims to fulfil Indian women’s aspirations of embarking on an entrepreneurial journey and gaining financial independence with a seed capital of Rs 10 lakh each to 10 winners.
“I knew I wanted it,” Lalita says. She contested and won in early 2019, and says she already knew how to use the “capital to give shape to a food startup.”
Lalita used the funding for her business’ “rebirth”.
Homing in on a location
Lalita already had a food licence from her tiffin service days. She needed a physical setup to start her own restaurant, and it took her three months to pull everything together.
“I wanted to do everything in Rs 6 lakh to keep a lakh or a little more as a cash reserve. That has proved to be useful during this lockdown,” she says.
Finding a shop in her budget seemed difficult initially, as Lalita was keen on a good location to fulfil her mission: to provide homemade food to people who stay away from their homes for work, study, and more.
“I want to provide simple, home-cooked food at very affordable prices,” Lalita says.
The small restaurant was opened on July 9, 2019, and Lalita earned Rs 1,200 that day. Since then, revenue has been increasing – despite the coronavirus-led lockdown since March end.
Lalita says she clocks monthly revenue of Rs 3-3.5 lakh, and has registered revenue of Rs 25 lakh in the last eight months, including the lockdown period.
Dealing with the lockdown
Gharachi Aathvan had to pause operations after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24 to curb the spread of COVID-19. But Lalita, who has seen hardships in life – especially when her husband had to ride an autorickshaw to make ends meet- did not fear the impact. She already had a plan.
Lalita decided to shift focus, and cater to people working in essential sectors such as medical staff and chemists along with students and working professionals in hostels and PGs. These people were facing problems as they were either unable to cook or source meals with restaurants closed.
The founder decided to resume her tiffin service in these unprecedented times. “It started with a few lunch parcels to medical distributors I knew, but word spread, and now close to 50-100 people are eating from my kitchen,” Lalita says.
The shift is also keeping her business alive. Lalita says she is clocking Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000 per day with this service. “It is a parcel and takeaway model. My husband and I deliver some parcels, while some people come and take from our restaurant’s kitchen,” she says.
Lalita has even given utensils to her clients. “Where will they get plates and spoons at this time? I have given them a bowl, plates, spoons etc…they can return them once the lockdown is over.”
The entrepreneur, who had eight people working for her before the lockdown, is now working alone. Her husband is pitching in at this difficult time as she continues to pay a part of salary to all her employees.
Into the future
Lalita, who is mother to a 13-year-old, is now looking for a round of external funding to the tune of Rs 60 lakh to open more restaurants in Mumbai and its suburbs.
“I want to open at least five Gharachi Aathvan outlets in industrial areas, railway stations etc. And, I am aiming for 14 outlets in the next five years,” she adds.
Gharachi Aathvan is not just a restaurant; it is Lalita’s dream. She says she wants to be known as a business leader one day, and not a housewife. “Like Bisleri is synonymous with mineral water, I want to become synonymous with home-cooked meals,” Lalita says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)
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Source: Thanks https://yourstory.com/herstory/2020/05/woman-entrepreneur-food-business-gharachi-aathvan