How a Bengaluru-based techie launched a meal subscription service in Chennai to help out an old friend and assist others rendered jobless by the pandemic
While working at a software firm in Chennai between 2015 and 2017, Pranav Revankar had access to good food thanks to his office canteen. During the weekend, however, the scene was different. That is when he learnt of J Meghala — who was employed as a peon in an office in Taramani.
“[Meghala] was the only earning member in her family of seven; her husband is handicapped. I was just glad to get tasty, home-cooked meals, and help her meet ends,” says Pranav, 28, who is now based in Bengaluru.
But when the Chennai floods happened in late 2015, Meghala lost her home; she and her family were left to fend for themselves on the streets. Pranav decided to lend a helping hand by taking a bank loan to help rebuild their home.
“The arrangement was that she would repay the loan to me, and she sincerely did. In 2017, I had to leave Chennai as I switched jobs. Last year, after the pandemic broke, Meghala akka called me to inform that she could not pay the EMI as she had lost her job. She then broke down. Out of respect I had for this hard working woman, I re-paid the loan on her behalf,” says Pranav, who then started to work out ways to find her employment that could utilise her culinary skills.”
Though he initially wanted to start a cloud kitchen that Meghala could manage and which he then intended to tie up with food delivery apps, Pranav dropped the idea in favour of launching a service that offered home style food at pocket-friendly prices.
He named this service YoYo Lunch Box, rented a place in Velachery to set up the kitchen and left it under the supervision of ‘head cook’ Meghala akka; he also recruited three cooks, two helpers and four delivery boys to assist her.
“All of the staff I recruited had been rendered jobless during the pandemic. I was confident of succeeding in the venture as akka was an excellent cook. On my suggestion, she also learnt to make roti and North Indian-style subzi as well,” he says.
Launched on November 1 last year, YoYo Lunch Box today has over 95 customers. Subscription works by logging on the website and entering contact details to receive the lunch/dinner menu. “It is also a flexible service for customers; they only need to buy on the days they need to,” adds Pranav.
“Customers can recharge money in the app and once their billed amount reaches Rs 5000, they will get a refund of the initial deposit. Such a system makes transaction transparent and easy to track orders,” he says.
In the last few weeks, more customers are ordering vegetarian food, Pranav observes, putting it down to an “awareness on healthy eating” as a result of the pandemic.
At present, YoYo Lunch Box supplies 95 meals per day in and around Velachery. “I manage the accounts and oversee operations from Bengaluru. We have recently hired a marketing executive to handle customers calls. I am glad that I had the opportunity to provide employment for my staff who are the sole breadwinners to their families,” says Pranav, adding that COVID-19 patients quarantining at home too have made use of their services.
YoYo Lunch Box plans to expand to all parts of Chennai by end of 2021 and to branch out to other cities by 2022. Next stop, Pranav says, is Bengaluru.
YoYo Lunch Box provides South and North Indian food, both veg and meat-based, for lunch and dinner only. To subscribe, log on to yoyolunchbox.com, or contact 9916699113