It started with a small expression “oh, my grandma makes the best empanadas”. Or my uncle bakes the best bread. As time flew, more and more people shared similar stories with us. It became obvious, that even while sitting in an expensive restaurant, eating an expensive meal, there were people ready to trade it all for just one more bite of their mom’s curry, or their cousin’s pie or their best friend’s homemade cake.
1. As a startup, where did the journey of OUMK start?
The journey started for OUMK when Sheetal, One of the Co-founders was based in Cayman Islands. The constant refrain from all her friends while eating out in different restaurants was stuff like “You should check out how my mom makes these Empanadas” Or “ My aunt makes this Paella….”. It became very apparent that home cooked food was accorded a different status irrespective of culture or geography. This is where the germ for incubating Once Upon My Kitchen originated
2. What is the critical problem that you’re trying to solve here?
Great food is being cooked in kitchens across the world, but no one has access to it. Additionally this food and their great home cooks are not getting their due place in the sun. Once Upon My Kitchen was conceptualized to provide a platform for home cooks to share the food they are proud of, in their unique homes.
We believe that the tastiest food comes out of home kitchens and people are losing out without an opportunity to experience it. As far as the guest is concerned we seek out people who want to explore beyond the conventional forms of eating out and opt to explore the joys of unique home cooked food with their creators at their homes
3. Can you be called AirBnb for food?
It would be simplistic to called OUMK the Air BnB for food. Structurally similar but ideologically different. OUMK was conceptualized with the ideology for providing a platform for great home cooks to share the food they are proud off with the world and for people who want to explore beyond the conventional forms of eating out.
When you share the food that you have cooked with great passion, a recipe that been handed down the generations or made out of a special memory, you share a personal skill. Almost like you own art.
We also ensure that people meet, share and interact with each other since the food is not just handed over or delivered to you.
On the other hand, AirBnb’s driving factor is affordability by providing travelers affordable, good quality accommodation beyond hotels.
4. I think your startup is a part of the phenomenon called Sharing Economy, which hasn’t clicked well in India. Why do you think your offering will be lucrative to the world?
Yes, we believe the sharing economy is here to grow while this phenomenon is at infancy in India. It is bound to become mainstream over time. That being said Once Upon My Kitchen was conceptualized as a global platform which would extend city by city across the world. With regards to our offering, the core of it is to provide varied experiences beyond the current templates – great food, meeting interesting people, stimulating conversation, forging friendships. If these experiences are valuable to the world then we have a market.
5. Do you think of yourself more as a technological platform which wants to scale globally or a social connector? How does that change how you work?
For us technology is purely an enabler. Once upon my kitchen is about providing a platform for varied and interesting experiences and engagement around food. The technology just helps the social connections happen seamlessly and effortlessly. For Once Upon My Kitchen to be successful, it will depend more on how relevant is, the consumer insight, we have built the product around, for our target customers.
6. What are some innovative marketing strategies that you have applied or are planning to apply?
We believe that customers will gravitate towards unique experiences irrespective of the odds. Our focus is to get a small but potent core of believers on board who resonate with our ideology. They will become the evangelists for the brand and its offering and recruit others and expand our base. This core group is being sourced via referrals, social discovery, PR, one on one engagement using all the traditional & social media vehicles available.
7. What are the major challenges that you think you’ll be facing? How do you plan to overcome them?
The challenge we expect is inertia to create or be a part of something new, however exciting it might be. Once Upon My Kitchen requires initiative from passionate hosts & guests to move beyond their current comfort zones to make it happen and experience this new form of social dining. Generating trials, creating occasions, building a sense of community and commonality of goal & purpose is core to make this a part of their lifestyle.
Once experienced this is a sweet drug you cannot do without as it transcends beyond ordinary experience. Our focus is to build on a culture & ethos and commonality of purpose which will forge the community ahead.
8. Your offering can be a huge boon for college students which are forever distressed by mess food. How do you plan to tap that massive opportunity?
Yes, college students especially those living on their own can use Once Upon My Kitchen quite effectively. Not just by being guests but by creating a community of hosts and guests who can co-exist, develop a flourishing ecosystem for themselves using the platform. These are early days and our focus is to recruit the believers.. The believers who might be readers of your website looking at an opportunity to do something refreshingly different and exciting