For most women whose lives are ruled by domestic duties, starting up is the last thing on mind. For Mumbai-based Pratibha Kanoi, 67, having been a homemaker for all her life, entrepreneurship was not even a remote plan. Although she had wished for a source of income for herself, she rarely had a chance to look at employment opportunities after taking care of her husband and her three children.
Yet, in the most unlikely of times – when the world is battling the Coronavirus pandemic and the country was going through a nation-wide lockdown – entrepreneurship came calling for this grandmother of four. And it was a surprise in itself – a part of her daily routine that turned into a business opportunity.
Due to the Coronavirus-related lockdown that started in March, and panic about the potential spread of COVID-19, Pratibha was particular about her family –both her sons, their wives and their children who live with her–not having food from outside. To make up for the lifestyle change, she started making their favourite foods at home – including Pizza.
“I am very particular about hygiene; my staff are not even allowed to bring mobile phones into the kitchen. And all vegetables are washed and dried in the Sun for an hour before being used,” says Pratibha, who has never had professional training in cooking.
Impressed by the taste and quality of the Pizza, her sons – Visshaal S Kanoi and Vikaas S Kanoi – encouraged her to put her culinary skills to build a small business. For Pratibha, who had always dreamt of having her own income, this was a golden opportunity. Thus, on May 2, Mommy’s Kitchen was launched, serving vegetarian Pizzas to a clientele that has grown to more than 200 in just three months.
Talking to MAKERS India on a Zoom call recently, Pratibha says, “I have always loved cooking for my family; but I have never dreamt of the such response to my Pizzas. We started with just 10 boxes on day one, with orders mostly from my sons’ friends. In 10 days, we needed more than 100 boxes! In fact, we started serving Pasta also after customers’ demand.”
Currently getting 30-50 orders per weekday, Mommy’s Kitchen menu includes Pizza varieties like Margherita, Fungi, Primavera, and Diet Pizza, along with Mommy’s Special, as well as Pasta varieties in Aglio E Olio, Spaghetti Arrabbiata, and Cheesy Spaghetti – all priced between Rs.425 and Rs.555. Pratibha makes all ingredients – including the dough for the Pizza base, the gravy, and even the paneer used in Pizzas – herself.
Pratibha is assisted by her in-house team, including stay-at-home cooks. The delivery (only across Mumbai city) is done via services like Dunzo as well as two dedicated chauffeurs and bikers. Initially, orders had to be placed a day in advance; with larger scale of operations, on-demand service has started too. Pratibha’s daughter – who lives in Bangalore – is the one who is in charge of getting orders online.
Pratibha’s son Visshaal, who – along with his brother Vikaas – handles the logistics of the business, tells MAKERS India that most orders are for more than one pizza. “Many orders come as our customers’ gifts to their loved ones too; we provide those orders gift-wrapped. We often get orders for small gatherings at home as well. There have been weekends when we have got more than 100 orders in a day,” he adds.
Today, Mommy’s Kitchen’s clientele includes politicians like Devendra Fadnavis and Praful Patel; bureaucrats, industrialists like Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, renowned surgeon Muffazal Lakdawala, and Bollywood celebrities like Sonali Bendre, the Bachchan family, and filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, among others.
For Pratibha, this is the kind of success she had never imagined. Encouraging all women to be part of workforce, Pratibha says, “If your health permits, you should take the plunge (into entrepreneurship). Even if you fail, you know you have tried something you wanted.”
She adds that her children have been extremely supportive of her venture. “But I keep my recipes secretive, and don’t even share it with my children for fear of it leaking,” she signs off with a laugh.