Engineer Turned Foodpreneur Anisha Dhar's 'Eatonomist' Delivers Gourmet Food To Cubicles
In July 2014, Anisha and her friend Nupur Khanna started their own venture called Eatonomist. Their only motive was to provide lip-smacking gourmet meal options for customers who hope to maintain a healthy lifestyle in their busy schedules.
Hailing from Jammu, Anisha Dhar got her degree in Computer Science engineering in the year 2006. Later she went on to work with Ernst & Young Pvt. Ltd as a senior associate and later with PwC Consulting and KPMG as an Assistant Manager. With over 7 years of work experience, Anisha realized that it is 'food' that she is really passionate about.
We got Anisha to feature in an exclusive interview with us to talk about her experience in founding a food startup and the challenges associated with it. When asked about competition, Anisha says, "There are many good players doing a lot of good work in their respective niches. We are only glad to have found our own."
Read on to know the story of Anisha and The Eatonomist as they attempt to make gourmet style food for lunch popular in corporate offices.
Anisha Dhar, Co-Founder - Eatonomist
Anisha is a Kashmiri and comes from a community where it is ingrained from childhood that you can either choose to be a doctor or an engineer and there can be no second thoughts. So, engineering was an obvious choice for her.
She says, "I went on to become a computer science engineer. However, my underlying passion for food was slowly and steadily roasting. My mother tells me that my love for food is almost as old as me. I did the major part of my schooling in Jammu and later on moved to Delhi and finished my high school from DPS RK Puram."
After graduation, Anisha landed a job with a consultancy firm (aka EY). She adds, "And, that is where I met Nupur – my partner at Eatonomist and above all a fierce friend. Here is where it all began. One fine day 6 years later, worn down and tired by the mundane daily rigmarole, both Nupur and I met for lunch. And, six months of research, feasibility analyses, planning, risk-taking, execution, tasting, toil later Eatonomist was born."
CE: How did the idea for your business come about?
While at our jobs, we would look around us. Day in and day out, people were following strict diet regimes to live up to corporate and peer pressure to stay fit.
We too, like many others, were stuck between celery and yogurt. Then, one day we started to wonder if there was more to healthy food than the 2 or 3 options that most restaurants have. We started our research, spoke to a few consultant chefs and landed up with more than 80 recipes that walked the thin line between health and taste. We conducted tasting rounds with a limited audience and we got an encouraging response.
Once, we achieved the taste we were looking for, we approached Tripti to get our health quotient in place. She obliged by expressing her willingness to get on board and helped us to achieve the target calorie counts on our dishes.
Each step of planning and execution presented its set of challenges. However, the most difficult step of them all was the first one.
Giving up the comfort of a decent career and a stable income and going to an unknown void was the most difficult thing to do.
CE: What was the research work you had to do for food-health connection?
Anisha: The only experience that both Nupur and I had with the food industry was solely the love of food. So, every step of Eatonomist has involved a lot of research. Right from Consultant chefs to kitchen equipment to recipes to packaging materials to ingredients to logistics.
CE: What important measures do you take for hospitality and maintaining food quality to keep customers coming back to your service?
Anisha: Anyone and everyone in this world will tell you that customer is the single most important core of any business. I remember we got our first order from a customer at cyber city. We were sure of our product, but still we took extra care to see that everything was in place. He called back to appreciate the food, the packaging, the neatness etc. It is really amazing to hear someone praise your work. Since then we treat each order like it was our first. Our customers like that and keep coming back to us.
The Eatonomist Founders: Nupur Khanna (L) and Anisha Dhar (R)
CE: What part of service do you find the most challenging?
Anisha: Since, I come from a non-food background, almost everything was a huge challenge in the beginning.
Thank god for the internet. It dilutes almost all obstacles by providing access to a lot of knowledge and good experts.
But still, if I were to name one challenge it would be reaching out to the new customers. We have a great repeat rate amongst our customers. We are extremely grateful to them for showing us so much love. But, as a start up, liquidity is always a concern. Even though word is spreading and quite quickly at that, our communication channels are restricted by availability of funds.
CE: What are your company's goals over the next 3-5 years?
Anisha: At this point, there are a lot of options - from adding width to the product line to expanding coverage areas. We are in the process of figuring out what to do first.
CE: Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
Anisha: On a broad enough perspective, all players in the food industry are competing with one another as well as complementing one another. To say that one player is better or worse than the other is a bit unfair. Everyone has his or her skill sets and relevant niches. We are good at ours and we believe that our competitors are good at theirs.
CE: How did you acquire the skills necessary to run this type of business?
Anisha: I just took a leap. I jumped into the ocean. And, the ocean itself teaches you the necessary skills to combat the deep. It’s a little tough to break through at first. But, then you start meeting the right kind of people who have the right kind of advice to give. And, of course, the Internet is a huge knowledge base. Also, the third and the most important teacher is experience. I am no culinary genius, but, however limited my knowledge on the subject might be, it is thanks to the people I met and the experiences.
CE: How do you go about managing personal and professional commitments?
The support from my family has been phenomenal. But, you do have to stretch yourself from time to time.
All I would say is that the world is out there. Go and get it! But, before that, have a plan in place. It might be a good plan or a bad plan, a plausible plan or an impractical one, but, have a plan in place. Plan to achieve a goal, reach there, and consolidate. Then, plan again.
CE: Any message for your readers at CrazyEngineers?
Anisha: Stay Healthy. Try our stuff. Spread the word.
Professionally, I believe that you can either fulfill your own dreams or work to fulfill someone else’s. I chose the former and it was one of the reasons I decided to come back to India leaving an awesome job in...Nistha TripathiScholar Strategy