At 23, what do most of us want in life? A high-paying job and an enjoyable life, and maybe a bit of travel? But Hironmoy Gogoi of Assam’s Sivasagar town, 380km from Guwahati, wants much more than that. Gogoi wants to create at least 3,000 jobs for rural youth in the next five years through his Facebook food portal.
In early 2016, Gogoi started thinking of a business model that would require minimum investment, be profitable and connect rural people. “In my village, farmers sell their produce at very nominal prices. Every family in the village has a kitchen garden. Demand for vegetables is never high except during functions or festivals. I decided to give a wider platform to the farmers and thus Gaon Ka Khana was born.”
“In my village, farmers sell their produce at very nominal prices… I decided to give a wider platform to the farmers and thus Gaon Ka Khana was born” — Hironmoy Gogoi
A student of Delhi Public School, Nazira, Gogoi was selected for a Merchant Navy job in 2011 and was posted in Jaipur. But he quit his job after a while and flew to Malaysia to work with a private firm. He returned to India in six months to start working on his dream project.
Along with four friends, he met vegetable growers, did a market survey and worked on product innovation. Finally, they decided to sell authentic Assamese hot meals online.
In May 2016 Gogoi started his Facebook page Gaon Ka Khana and reached out to people in Sivasagar and in the towns around, popularising healthy food habits, organic and ethnic Assamese food. “I wanted the food to be low on spices and have a rural flavour… something people can have every day, not like restaurant food.”
Gogoi understood the reach of social media and felt people were getting used to ordering stuff online. He and his friends started buying vegetables from farmers. They went door to door to collect the produce, and paid for it on the spot at 30% higher prices than what was offered in the local market. Then, they sat down to cook the hot meals in his kitchen.
He and his friends started buying vegetables from farmers. They went door to door to collect the produce, and paid for it on the spot at 30% higher prices than what was offered in the local market. Then, they sat down to cook the hot meals in his kitchen
Initially, his home kitchen turned into his place of business. “We started with just one stove and delivered food from there for almost three months. Later we shifted to our present office and kitchen in Rangghar Chariali, in the middle of town,” says Gogoi.
While food delivery startups like Zomato and FoodPanda have services in Guwahati, they delivered in limited locations. Gogoi started the service in a smaller towns like Sivasagar, which has a population of around 1.5 million people.
At present Gaon ka Khana takes 100-150 home delivery orders a day along with bulk orders from employees of ONGC, LIC and other companies operating in Sivasagar and Jorhat. With a profit margin of 30%, Hironmoy expects a turnover of Rs 10 lakh in the next financial year. There is no direct competitor at this stage for him.
Apart from hot meals, Gaon Ka khana has a unit called GKK Naturals, which sells fresh organically produced vegetables online. It also has a snacks counter called GKK Mondita Snacks. And, soon, there will be a Gaon Ka Khana restaurant in the heart of Sivasagar.
Government reports say Assam has over 15 lakhs educated unemployed youth. Of these, over 8 lakh reside in villages. Gogoi’s enterprise has in the last nine months provided employment to 300 youth, directly or indirectly. Over 150 vegetable growers, nearly 70% women, have tied up with Gaon Ka Khana. The team collects over 500 kg of vegetables per week, Gogoi says.
Gogoi’s enterprise has in the last nine months provided employment to 300 youth, directly or indirectly. Over 150 vegetable growers, nearly 70% women, have tied up with Gaon Ka Khana
The cooks are mainly poorer women from surrounding villages who get paid between Rs 5000-Rs 10,000 a month.
“We trained some of the women farmers on what to grow, how to grow organically and how to package the produce. I am trying to rope in as many women as I can,” says Gogoi, who is planning to take up corporate orders in the near future. “We have a tie-up with the Royal Enfield office and its showroom in Sivasagar town. Our major clienteles are from LIC, Agriculture Department, KPM English school among others. We do not have a tie-up with the companies, but for the past six months, employees have been ordering from us every day,” says Gogoi.
Sabir Islam, a medical officer at ONGC who is a regular customer, says, “I want hot meals I can have every day without having to worry about calories and hygiene issues. The meal reaches me in an hour.”
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Lead visual: Angela Anthony Pereira Inside photos: 101Reporters Pictures