Are you a good cook who would like to make some extra money? Many people have found that selling homemade food online can be a good way to earn money — especially right now.
With people stuck at home and deprived of fine dining experiences due to the lockdown, why not cater to the high demand for good food?
Selling homemade food online comes with many benefits. It:
- Has low startup cost
- Lets you be your own boss
- Allows you to set your own schedule
Plus, since you’re selling online, you can reach more customers than you could reach in your local neighborhood.
We’ll start by listing tips to help get you started, then review some of the key benefits of selling online and close with the types of food that are popular within the Indian market.
10 crucial steps to selling homemade food online
The first step is to narrow down what foods to make, based on your expertise and market demand (jump to “Types of food that are most popular” for help with this). Once that’s done, just follow these 10 steps to start your own online food business.
1. Find local suppliers
You’ll want to look for suppliers who provide you with the ingredients you need at a low price.
The best way to find suppliers in your area is by speaking with your local kirana store owner.
If you plan on placing bulk orders, they most likely will give you a discount — as well as additional services such as free home delivery.
You can also check out discount supermarkets such as Dmart and Big Bazaar for deals.
2. Come up with a catchy brand name
Going with something traditional or nostalgic will remind people of their mum’s cooking. It’s a great tactic for anyone who plans on selling homemade food online. Plus, it has a higher chance of working out in your favor by playing on customers’ emotions.
Related: How to find a unique business name
3. Create a small menu
Practice your dishes and get them pat down with the precise recipe. This will ensure your dish tastes the same every time. You’ll also want to do some research to come up with competitive pricing for your menu. Check other similar businesses in our area to see what they are charging for the items you plan to sell.
4. Design and purchase your packaging material
Ideally, you’ll want to look for something that is environmentally-friendly and recyclable. Some examples of eco-friendly materials include:
- Biodegradable plant-based plastics made from bamboo, wheat and bagasse
- Palm and banana leaf packaging
- Paper bags
Not only will you be doing the earth a favor, but you’ll also be creating a positive brand image that eco-conscious customers can appreciate.
5. Register your food business
A very important requirement is that you will have to get your homemade food business registered with the Foods Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
Ignoring this step could lead to fines up to Rs 5 lakh, as well as imprisonment.
Luckily, this can be done online. All you have to do is fill in the registration form and provide basic identification documents, such as your:
- PAN card
- Aadhaar card
- Passport-size photos
- Intended list of food items and a declaration form
Overall, the process is very simple and can be done in a short amount of time.
6. Contact your local municipality
You will also have to check if there are any more legal requirements for selling homemade food online, such as:
- Shop and Establishment Act License
- Trade License
- Fire and Safety License
- NOC from society in which you live
- Signage license
- Environment clearance
- Trademark registration
The best way to check is to contact your local municipality and see if there are additional requirements your business may need — especially if you plan on creating brand exclusivity and advertising for your business.
7. Sign up with food delivery apps
Next, you have to decide if you want to sign up with any food delivery apps (you can read more about three of the most popular apps below). If yes, you will have to register on their websites.
8. Create your own food website and establish your brand
You can do this with the help of a platform like GoDaddy’s Online Store, where you can list your menu and take orders directly.
Just choose a template you like — this is basically a pre-built website — then add your own menu, photos and product descriptions. Literally all of the technical aspects are done for you, including:
- An order checkout process that’s quick and easy to use on any smartphone
- Built-in payment processing for all major credit cards, PayPal and Apple Pay
- The back-end magic that helps your website appear more often when people search for homemade food online
- Reliable hosting that keeps your store available to customers
If you sell non-perishable food such as, say, chutneys or spices, Online Store has shipping built right in — choose flat-rate or weight-based shipping when you set up your shop.
Remember, a nice-looking website that’s easy to use will help set you apart from all the others who are selling homemade food online.
9. Be creative in your marketing
One of the best ways to reach new customers is through social media. You can start out by:
- Offering discounts to get people to try your food
- Enlisting the help of friends and family to spread the word
- Engaging with friend online to generate buzz
Showing great customer service on and offline is a great way to market your business in an authentic fashion.
A good strategy is to give customers more than they expect.
Sometimes all it takes is a free dessert with every meal. People take comfort knowing a business will do all they can to take care of their needs — and will share their happiness online via good reviews.
10. Register your goods and service tax
As your business grows and you cross the taxation threshold for exclusion, it’s important to obtain your goods and service tax (GST) registration.
The simplest way to do this is by getting in touch with your chartered accountant. They will do it for a nominal fee of Rs 1000-2000. If you wish to do it yourself, you can visit the official GST portal hosted by the Indian government.
Helpful apps that can support your business
The food delivery market in India is growing, with many players jostling to grab market share. Let’s look at the three most popular ones that customers swear by.
Zomato is one of the most popular food delivery apps in India. Almost all restaurants and cloud kitchens that offer delivery services are signed up on Zomato.
Zomato is available in 500 cities with an order volume of over 200 million during the first half of financial year 2020.
One of the top benefits of getting your food business on Zomato is the exposure to thousands of potential customers in your locality. It also makes it very convenient to get your delivery at the doorstep of your customer safely.
On the flip side, Zomato does take a heavy cut from your profit margins. Additionally, the multiple deals it runs, such as buy one get one, can reduce your profit.
Swiggy is proving to be a tough competitor to Zomato. It, too, offers service in about 500 cities and also processes about 1.45 million orders a day.
The unique selling proposition (USP) of Swiggy is that there is no minimum order value that you need to fulfil.
A popular Swiggy advertisement famously shows a customer ordering a single piece of gulab jamun and eating it at his doorstep to hide his actions from his wife. Albeit its comedic tone, this ad exemplifies how you can get many orders — even if the value of your offering is small.
However, if you use Swiggy you have to strictly adhere to its guidelines in terms of marketing. You cannot introduce weekly specials or introduce fun campaigns. Like Zomato, Swiggy also charges a heavy commission for food businesses to use its platform.
Dunzo is purely a delivery app and is a good choice if you don’t want to tie up with Zomato or Swiggy. Simply book a Dunzo to get your food delivered.
The big advantage here is that you do not have to share your profits.
However, you will have to bear delivery charges and do your own marketing to find customers by yourself.
Besides that, you’re not limited to a certain locality like Zomato and Swiggy. Instead of having to stick to an approximate radius of 10 kms, you can send food to any part of the city.
Benefits of selling homemade food online
Selling homemade food online has many advantages. As long as you have a great recipe you’re willing to share with customers, there is really no stopping you!
Here are some of the reasons why you should start an online food business.
Low startup cost
The biggest barrier to any new business is the startup costs. Selling food online requires paying for things like:
- Fresh and packaged ingredients (vegetables, spices, etc)
- Packaging material
- Online marketing
- Setting up a brand website
On the plus side, working from home completely removes the challenge of having to spend on a building or rent.
Be your own boss
Selling homemade food online means you have freedom to make your own choices. Try your hand at traditional foods if Indian cooking is your strength, or whip up some sweet treats and desserts if you feel that baking is your calling.
You can decide how big or small you want your venture to be.
Whether you’re starting a side gig on weekends or turning it into a full-time operation, you get to create a schedule that works best for you. Explore, experiment and create your very own blueprint for success.
The end goal of any business venture is primarily to make money. And, if you can gain financial independence doing what you love, selling homemade food online is a lucrative business.
While it is difficult to put a number to it, profit margins can easily exceed 100%, especially in metro cities such as:
This is why more and more people are establishing their home kitchens as online food businesses.
A digital platform instantaneously increases your reach, allowing you to sell your food to people you would otherwise not be able to. Creating your own website lets you establish a brand and brings legitimacy to your business.
There are plenty of mediums to help you connect with thousands of people in your locality and city. Some of the following platforms can help you gain popularity online, such as:
Using WhatsApp also helps you spread the word and become more easily accessible to customers.
Editor’s note: Prefer to have help creating a website where you can sell your homemade food? Find a GoDaddy-certified web professional here by scrolling down to “Companies looking for certified GoDaddy professionals” and clicking Get listed.
Work from home
As we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we have no option but to stay at home.
Why not use the time you have to start your own business online?
Make the most of it by selling homemade food online from the comfort of your own home.
As a bonus, working from home saves you from travelling in these uncertain times. It also ensures the safety for you and your loved ones.
Types of food that are most popular
Indians are big-time foodies and they especially love their biryanis. But with exposure to international cuisines, there are a lot of options you can explore.
Indians love their biryani. If you have a lip-smacking family recipe, it will definitely find a big audience. You can also add the following sides to go with it:
Not only are these immensely popular, they are also lucrative and you can make a neat profit selling them.
Urban Indians are also opening up to a lot of international cuisines such as:
Specialty foods like these are great for business and you can easily create a set menu around these international fares. Just make sure to make it authentic. You can always add an Indian kick to them, but try to not wander too far from the original.
Another trend that is catching on is vegan food. You can create an elaborate menu that caters to vegans, by including:
India has a large population of vegetarians, which means your vegan menu is bound to find takers.
Lastly, you can also look into providing healthy foods. You can create a menu of healthy foods like:
- Salads and more
With the pandemic, people have become even more health-conscious and are looking for nutritious foods that help boost immunity.
Get started today
Selling homemade food online is something any good cook should consider. If it seems overwhelming in the beginning, you can always start small and grow organically.
You should also speak to other food business owners to further understand the pain-points and tricks of the trade. Once you have all the knowledge in your armoury, take the plunge. If feeding people makes you happy, this is the business for you!