Meet the modernised ‘dabbawalas’ in town!

Sit home and dream of a perfect meal from Roo’s Food Concepts!

We have people thanking us with heartfelt gratitude.

Gayathri Nandakumar

In conversation with Gayathri Nandakumar and Rahul Ravi, who are in form to shape the future of Sustainability. Curating different varieties of diets and menus, there is nothing holding them back. From a home setup to a full-fledged storage, they have a whole range to offer.

Tell us about the evolution of Roo’s Food Concepts, from a home-based meal service to a reliable brand.

We, Rahul Ravi and Gayathri Nandakumar have been through a revelatory change in our lifestyle and health. This was when we had to prepare for our own meal to deal with our ‘body goals.’ Over time, despite all the fad and crash diets, we realised that there is nothing good that will happen to your body and mental health by pumping it with too much or too less of anything. That is when we started experimenting and coming up with new ideas.

Gradually, a compilation of recipes begun and different sorts of combinations were striking upon us. Back then, it was a struggle which two individuals were facing. But when thought about it and realised, there could be so many more who might just not have the time or the exposure to prepare a healthy meal for themselves. Our life experiments turned out to become ‘Roo’s Food Concepts’ and hence the subscription meal plan service.

We started off from our home kitchen at Kilpauk with 2 subscribers. And, just by word of mouth, we began growing with numbers as time passed by. We moved from a two-burner stove to a kitchen with an industrial cooking range, full-fledged storage and a packing dispatch area.

Who came up with the name and conceptology of ‘Roo’s Food Concepts?’

‘Roo’ means soul. But this wasn’t until someone told us about it. Roo is Rahul’s Nickname that was used when we were friends. While brainstorming the names for the brand, we zeroed in on this, which was short and back then did not quite mean anything. But as it turned out to be, our food was touching souls and lives in many different ways.

What were some of the revelatory changes that you had discovered, with regards to your lifestyle and health?

Well, happiness in not having to deprive our body and mind of things, just to look or feel in a certain type of way. Contentment in never having to worry about the results, since we are travelling on the right path. And, the results have been gradual, progressive and long-lasting.

Being beginners in the field, what were some of the major challenges that the two of you had to face while coming up with a subscription-based meal service?

When we started in 2019, there were other players on the field. But, we were confident about the uniqueness of our menus and recipes. What continues to stay our USP is the mere fact that we do not repeat our menus and have similar templates. As challenging as it sounds, this is ultimate hard work and brain wrecking beyond explanation. We were freshers in the subscription-based service market, but to us, lifestyle and wellness does not lie in eating a healthy meal once in a week. It is about being consistent and sincere with meal prepping. Fast pacing work lives pushes one away from focusing on oneself. That’s when our promise of providing sustainable meals at the doorsteps started gathering response and attention. With time and learning, we now stand as a brand that is synonymous with Health, Wellness, Quality and Beyond par service.

What are the components that define your ‘power food?’

Nativity, freshness, quality, homely warmth, variety and nourishment would be some of them.

The harmful consequences associated with fad and crash diets are similar in nature. How would you lay a contrast between the two, since many people aren’t aware?

A fad is when you follow a diet of a celebrity or friend, knowing that they have benefited out of it. What you don’t realize is that everybody is made a different way with different body needs. Assess, Experiment, Observe and then follow. On the contrary, a crash diet is something which you expect instant results out of. This is followed for a shorter period of time. Liquid, zero-grain, zero-carb and only-fat diets just means crashing your own body.

Your realisation was based upon people running short on time for preparing healthy meals, giving rise to your venture. Do you link yourself to being ‘local dabbawalas,’ along with subscription-based meal service providers?

Dabbawalas are someone we truly look up to as an inspiration. We could probably call ourselves a healthier and modernized dabbawalla.

During the pandemic, how did you manage to convince your customers by following sanitation protocols and by what margin did your company sustain?

The pandemic was not an easy time to tide through it all. From serving frequent meals, we went down to single digits. Not out of mistrust, but out of fear and paranoia. And so did our revenue, gradually sloping down. Then, we started operating with the limited clients in hand. Even if it was just one subscriber, we continued to operate. Because that one person trusted his meals with us. We also came up with a COVID friendly meal plan to boost immunity and help people recover.

During the same period, we started delivering to hospitals and families, whose children stayed abroad. Although we were able to operate, our delivery boys were stopped by cops, sometimes. So, we decided to perform self-deliveries. Even then, we continued to pay our staff during the lockdown. Rahul and I cooked meals and did pot washing, if required. Thankfully, things did change and we were able to get our staff to work.

How do you wish to inculcate the habit of eating clean to the public, to solve problems owing to obesity?

Following fads and trends is not the way to sustainability. There is so much more to the native elements and produce, that we tend to overlook. Of course, we are all running against time. But, there is nothing without good health and nutrition. Clean eating has been followed by our ancestors until commercialization and adulteration corrupted the system. In that way, we are deprived of first-quality produce. But, the least we could do, is not let it overtake us further. Moreover, our subscription meals run with the motive of providing food that feels homely, with necessary essentials.

Where do you see your company’s growth in the next five years?

We are working hard to ensure that we are accessible to people as much as possible. Five years would mean that we will be present in at least 5 locations within the city of Chennai and five locations out of Chennai. We have seen the demand rising and the attention that we have been receiving. Presence and accessibility is our ultimatum. Customising meals is not easy, but we have taken a vow to never stop for any reason. We have people thanking us with heartfelt gratitude. Customised meals are based on dietary requirements and those are some of the toughest to work with, as we have to make 50 different meals for 50 different customers on an average per session. But hey, that’s what we love doing!