After a successful run of three years, popular start-up Cookups abruptly shut down in August last year through a message on its Facebook page that has more than 300,000 followers. The country's first on-demand home-made food delivery company was struggling with funding.
In a month, however, the company was back, and this time with a new Chief Operating Officer – Nahita Nishmin – after the founder COO Misha Ali moved on.
Today, Cookups is back to its best as it bagged the 5th position in the regional round of the recent start-up World Cup.
When asked about the one-month break, Namira Hossain, CEO, shied away from getting into details. She however admitted there was financial mismanagement during the early years which have now eased through Nahita's organisational skills.
Namira says when they shut down they realised Cook-ups was not just their personal venture anymore. So many lives had become entangled with it, especially the ones who were homemakers.
Namira said, "We wanted it to be a platform for homemakers. This became an earning source for them. When we decided to stop, other than our customers, it was a blow to our chefs'. This is when we realised we must get back to the market."
How it all started
It all started in 2016 with Namira Hossain's husband, Misha Ali's passion for cooking. They used to throw parties regularly at their place. Her husband experimented with dishes for each party and of course, shared pictures on social media.
Pictures of their food got a massive reaction. Everyone wanted a bit of the food. But inviting everyone to their party was not possible. So they came up with the idea of opening a food business.
They created a Facebook group where they posted pictures of their food items to sell. The feedback they received was beyond imagination. To cope with the orders, they decided to hire cooks. They got 10 cooks in the first week.
Selection of cooks
With the expansion of business, Cookups founders realised they need more cooks. But how will they select them? They came up with a two-step selection procedure.
The first step is a kitchen test where Cookups authority goes to inspect the kitchen of the cook. If a cook passes the kitchen test, they go to the second round. In the second round, they are asked to prepare their best dishes. If the food quality is up to Cookups' standard, they get selected.
Currently, Cookups has around 1600 cooks. Around 250 cooks remain active each month.
Most of the cooks prepare the food at home. However, a few of them have a commercial kitchen of their own. This does not concern the authorities of Cookups as long as they serve the best quality.
Other than usual orders, they receive catering offers and even custom-made offers. In case of price, Cookups keeps a 20 percent commission from each cook. They help the cooks set the price of their products appropriately.
Size of business
Other than the 1600 cooks, Cookups has eight riders who collect the food from cooks' homes and deliver them to the customers all around Dhaka. They have 16 employees now.
Shirin Akhter, a cook in Cookups said she has been a part of it for the last eight months. She was already in the catering business and being with Cookups has given her exposure.
According to her, "We are dependent on the customers. If they do not love our food, then we cannot sell the food items here. So there is always a competition among the cooks to do better."
Namira spoke about the the pressure they sometimes feel regarding quality. "In case of other food delivery business, people ask restaurants if there is a problem with the food," she said. "But in the case of Cookups they come directly to us."