For the past seven years, Kripa Dharmaraj has been serving more than 1,000 nutritious lunchboxes every day as part of her start-up — MC’s lunchbox. Over the years, Kripa and her husband, Mayilvahanam, have brought together a team of 50+ members that consist of an operations team, a tech team, chefs and dieticians in order to deliver well-balanced, nutritious food to schools and workplaces.
Over the years, Kripa expanded her business and also set up ‘green canteens’ at several schools in Chennai to serve balanced meals to the kids.
From being an IT professional to a homemaker to a CEO, Kripa shares the ups and downs of her start-up journey that now earns her upto Rs.45 lakhs/month!
Becoming A CEO
“I always wanted to start my own business, but after completing my engineering, I joined an IT company in Chennai but as fate had it I got married into a business family and I started helping my husband with his real estate business. This was definitely a turning point for me because I had the chance to have a hands-on experience. It motivated me to start something on my own,” shares the 35-year-old.
After the birth of her son, Maghi, in 2010, she faced the same challenges that new parents do including how to provide nutritious food to your child.
“Parents struggle with what is the right kind of nutrition for the growth and development of their child. That’s when I thought, why not create a business that fixes this problem,” says Kripa.
The idea evolved into Maghi Cookery’s Lunchbox (MC’s Lunchbox) which Kripa launched in 2013.
“I spoke to several parents and asked them about the kind of lunch boxes they would send their kids and they all seemed to be trying too hard to fill their children’s tummy rather than focussing on the nutritional value of the food and how it would benefit their child. So we decided to fill that gap,” says Kripa.
MC’s Lunchbox — Everything You Need
In the first 2-3 months of the initiative, as part of their marketing strategy, Kripa and her husband decided to distribute upto 2,000 nutrition-packed lunch boxes to several schools across Chennai, free of cost.
Soon after, the company started getting bulk orders for monthly and daily subscriptions from schools and parents.
MC’s Lunchbox offers different types of lunch boxes to choose from, some of which are the Mumbai Express which comprises three rotis. a vegetable, dal, steamed basmati rice, sweet curd in a small individual cup, pickle and papads; the North Indian Mini which consists of three medium-sized wraps, stuffed with a filling and the Indian Lunch which includes one roti, two varieties of mixed rice, curd rice, two vegetable dishes, pickle and a sweet dish. The variety of vegetables, rice and sweet dishes change regularly.
Parents have the option of selecting in advance for the entire month and the lunch is sent to the school, with the student’s name written on a label. Each lunchbox is priced at Rs.150-200 depending on the selection.
The company also started a ‘green canteen’ initiative with organic food alternatives in several schools in Chennai to promote healthy eating among students.
Jayalakshmi Ramachandran, Principal of Anna Adarsh School, Chennai, says, “The green canteen initiative has created a lot of impact on both the teachers and the students equally. Students have become more aware of what they are eating and now that they have these organic alternatives to look forward to.”
Nithya Vaidhyanathan, a homemaker based in Chennai, who has been using the services of the company since 2017 shares a similar sentiment.
“My kids have grown up eating lunch from MC’s lunchbox and honestly it’s a huge relief for me to know that I don’t have to worry every morning about what to cook for them. The wraps especially are a big hit among my kids,” she says.
Creating Customised Meals
“Apart from the regular orders, we receive retail orders too. The time we set aside to take such orders is till 6 p.m. for breakfast and lunch, and 12 noon for dinner in order to ensure zero wastage,” Kripa explains.
“In one year, we were flooded with requests to take on breakfasts and snacks and dinners too. With the help of our consultant chef, Ramanan and Dr Dharini Krishnan, a well-known nutritionist in Chennai, we also came up with a diabetic meal, which became a big hit with several senior citizens,” Kripas’s husband and business partner, Mayil adds.
The company started receiving orders for 1000+ boxes every day even with several other food delivery apps as competitors.
Anita Thomas, a Chennai-based homemaker, says, “From the leak-proof packaging to the perfectly measured nutritious food, MC’s lunchbox has been delivering good food to all age groups. Many of us still can’t opt for food from a restaurant or through a delivery app because they’ve earned a good place in our tummies.”
“What we realised was that we had created a solid customer base that completely trusted our product and was satisfied with it. Our team also functioned like a well-oiled machine and since we were a close-knit group, there was no room for error,” Kripa explains.
Since the beginning of 2020, Kripa had been thinking of creating a new venture that can help people manage their diets by understanding their individual nutritional requirements.
“Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of experience and better knowledge about what people are looking for in their food. Using this knowledge, I decided to create a learning program of sorts to enable people to make healthy food choices that are suitable for their body. I named this venture ‘KD vs KG’, that is Kripa Dharmaraj vs. Kilograms, because the idea was inspired by my own fitness journey,” Kripa explains.
The program began in January and has already a community of 100 people. The program starts out by collecting the input of the customers which includes details of their weight, height, BMI and present eating habits. After this, a framework of their ideal food intake is created.
“I also take several workshops for the community to create awareness about nutrition, through my own experience,” she adds.
With the lockdown in place, this new virtual venture has helped Kripa manage her business and has also been beneficial to several people who have been struggling with their health.
“After seven years of having my own business, the one thing that I’ve learnt is to have a strong passion for what you’re doing. If you’ve started a business solely for money, that’s not going to get you anywhere. But if you truly have a purpose behind your venture, then people are surely going to put their trust in you,” she says.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)