I’m not who you would call a typical foodie”, says JOSEPH JACOB in a manner that is refreshingly honest.
Joseph might not refer to himself as being a typical foodie but he has taken food entrepreneurship to a whole new level with his brainchild WOW! HOMEMADE.
When I first met Joseph, I could hardly see him over the huge carton of sample goodies he had brought along for me to review. From avalose undas and pickle to wafer thin banana chips and preserve, each product was aesthetically appealing and packed with utmost care.
The popular saying “Kochi pazhe Kochi alla” is so true; especially in the case of food and cuisine. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to variety and amidst the junk food joints, the star hotels and lux cafes, people still ache to go back in time and visit the tastes of yester year. Take me for instance; I love a good pizza but a plate of chor and meen curry trumps pizza any day. This love for our roots is what Joseph has tapped into. In today’s day and age where time is a most precious commodity, people tend to cut back on the same for cooking and prefer buying delicious and readily available food items from known sources. This is where the online portal of WOW! Homemade does the weary traveller in search of the elusive chirotta or idi irachi a world of good!
WOW! Homemade offers consumers a blast back to the past with a delectable range of ethnic foods handmade with love by home cooks across Kerala. Kochi being the diverse market that it is, acted as the perfect facilitator for this project. And what a hit it was! Launched in April 2016, Joseph says that his major hurdle has been keeping up with the increasing demand for the products on offer. The struggles of a home based entrepreneur are numerous. From finding customers beyond friends and family to scaling up production, packaging constraints and lack in time and expertise to tap the online market. Watching his mother, a home based entrepreneur herself, tussle with the same issues, made Joseph realize that there were several others out there who were stuck in the same painful cycle. And thus the idea of bringing speciality home cooks under one umbrella and creating a presence on an online platform took root. “WOW! Homemade is a curated online market place that offers customers authentic homemade speciality foods prepared by homemakers and home based chefs” says Joseph.
With a solid idea set in mind, Joseph set off on a year of intense market research, understanding his potential customers, their tastes, requirements and buying patterns. Alongside, he also spoke with sellers and home chefs, dealing with their queries and concerns. He also discussed food safety and regulations with food safety authorities and finally arrived at the conclusion that there was a huge demand for authentic home cooked foods with no proper platform that the customer could access with ease.
The post launch success has been extremely encouraging. Apart from frequenting customers, there have been quite a few seller enquiries cropping up. But Joseph is quite selective about the type of sellers who are signed up. “Much importance is placed upon the quality of food, taste and the hygiene of the kitchen it originates from. We have a stringent compliance system.
This covers everything from the quality of the ingredients, production process and hygiene and also meeting the FSSAI regulations. Sellers are brought on board after food tasting, thorough kitchen inspection and procurement of necessary food safety registration.”
So far it has been relatively smooth sailing. Orders have been fulfilled, a diversified product range with a mix of cuisines and tastes is en route and demand seems to be at a high. We plough through the mountain of goodies Joseph had brought along when I notice the branding on each packet was different. Other than providing a larger sales platform for home based chefs, WOW! Homemade had another agenda. “We wanted the sellers to be able to brand themselves. The idea is to empower home makers and home based entrepreneurs in the long run; to bring out their talents” shares Joseph.
So he and his team worked on unique branding for each of the sellers they had on board. Each seller has a special labelling all their own, which I thought was the best part about Joseph’s venture. The very idea that he has been magnanimous enough to have his endeavour walk side by side with the growth of the seller just shows that WOW! Homemade is on its way to newer heights! But what about buyers going directly to the seller I ask. “Of course buyers have that option but we are providing them a risk free and comfortable process wherein they get their order delivered where they like, when they like. Not many people would say no to that. But above all, we trust our sellers. We give them a platform through which they can have their brand grow and monetize on the same”.
I give the website a whirl and boy is it simple to browse through! My eyes are hooked on their latest product portfolio: Frozen foods and made to order products. Launched a week back, and during the perfect time (imagine a rainy evening, a cup of hot chai and a crispy cultlet!) I might add, the meatballs, cutlets and croquets and quickly gathering momentum. I loved being treated to the tiny stories given below each selected item. Being a part of the journey right from recipe creation to raw material hunting and process, makes eating the final product so much more enjoyable! There is truly a lot more appreciation for the home based chef behind each masterpiece of a dish.
Joseph tells me that the sellers play a vital role in raw material selection and sourcing. He tells me about a seller who frequents the harbour for the freshest Tuna for her Tuna pickle, how the bananas for their best selling extra thin banana chips are all home grown and fruits and vegetables for pickles and preserves are all farm sourced.
He tells me about the 4 gruelling hours of stirring it takes for 8 litres of palm tree toddy to turn into 1 litre of the most delicious paani (Palm Honey) This effort makes an unbelievable difference to the taste and quality of the final product. The ever increasing demand stands proof.
I must begin my review with the fantabulous extra thin banana chips! So they are extra thin, what’s the big deal you think. Ha! Pop one into your mouth and you’ll be singing the “Once you pop, you can’t stop” all day long! Wafer thin and so very light, these chips are crunch central! I finished half the packet in one go! Like I said, pop one in and you’ll get what I’m saying. I also try the tapioca chips which were lightly spiced and equally addictive. To sweeten things a little, I tried the chirotta (maida, rolled and fried with a hum of cardamom and a sweep of sugar)
I expected it to be totally thick and hard on my teeth but no! These were deliciously thin and crumbled in my mouth without the slightest effort! To top things off, they were not choking on a rather thick coating of sugar, but a light layer of sugar dust that certainly did its job! The idi irachi (a pounded and shredded meat delicacy that is sautéed with shallots. A big favourite in Christian households) was spicy and delicious without being overly chewy like most meat tends to be when overcooked! And oh! I have to rave about the Tuna fish pickle! You know how the pickles we get in the market are so salty and spicy that we can’t have more than one spoon? (And don’t even get me started on the number and size of the fish pieces!) Well, this one was beautifully packaged and packed to the brim with sizeable chunks of tuna, succulent pieces of garlic, delightful bites of ginger and a satisfyingly spicy gravy that would have any finish the bottle in say, a day!
I heard the avalose unda (roasted sweet rice balls) calling out to me! They were so soft and moist that they feel apart in the box itself. Made of sugar paani (rather than the sharkara (jaggery) paani that many of us are familiar with) these little balls of sugary joy were an absolute delight! I try the chukkapam with beef fry (a super crunchy snack with morsels of rice flour and beef fry) which was as crunchy as it said it would be. The beef was the perfect accompaniment but oh the dry masala mix at the bottom of the pack is what you need to be aiming for! Absolute bliss!
|Chukkapam with Beef|
I decide to hand over the farm fresh nutmeg and Instant moru masala to my mum while I give the pineapple preserve a final go. One spoon is all I takes to bring to my mind the makings of a yummy pineapple pudding layered with preserve! Simple flavours with a bold lashing!
“Cochin is working out well for us. Our next step is Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad” says Joseph as he shares his future plans for WOW! Homemade “We’ve already had several sellers calling in with references and customer enquiries for specialized products. We have been giving the market exactly what it has asked for…and we will continue to do to the same”.
visit: http://www.wowhomemade.com/ for a peep into yesterday, today!