THE Covid-19 pandemic has created so much pain and challenges. But amid all that, there are lots of hidden opportunities.
Many have lost their jobs, have had to take pay cuts or reduced allowances. The last count on job losses in the country was nearly 100,000. There could be more if the pandemic prolongs.
Those who lost their incomes are looking for new jobs. Others are finding new ways to earn income.
Some have opted to re-skill themselves. Getting new skills could help broaden their horizon. Many were taking online classes during the movement control order (MCO).
One skill that some have taken is cooking. That explains why so many chefs are now willing to conduct online classes, from traditional cooking to exotic dishes.
Food is something everyone needs no matter where and when. During the MCO, most families turn to their kitchens to dish out sumptuous meals to feed their families. Of course some grew bored of three home-cooked meals daily.
There were others who were ordering food from restaurants and stalls.
The pandemic had forced big and small businesses to quickly shift their business models and services into survival mode. Restaurants were using different social media platforms to reach out to customers.
Fortunately, there was a ready delivery support system in place. Many online food delivery companies such as Grab, FoodPanda, Bungkusit and AirAsiafood took advantage of the situation to deliver food.
Rain or shine, these delivery boys will be at your doorstep with your orders.
Some restaurants have their own delivery channels instead of using the services of these delivery companies.
The pandemic has also given rise to home kitchens turning into small businesses. Those who could cook were recreating to cater to this growing demand for home cooking. All the mom’s, granny’s and auntie’s recipes were dusted and created.
As restaurants and stalls saw online orders growing, so did some of these home kitchens. They were mostly using Instagram and other social media platforms to showcase their creations and take orders.
Take Aisya and Akmal. They got married in November. By June, they started cooking mushroom rendang (branded as @mushroom.lah) from their home kitchen in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur.
In the first week, they had to borrow cooking equipment and use their savings to buy ingredients. Fast forward to today, their mushroom rendang is delivered to as far as Penang. To expand their product range, they teamed up with a lemang supplier to offer the mushroom rendang combo.
For more visibility, they created a website. Now their rendang, which comes with a meaty texture, is part of Sala KL Vegan Restaurant nasi lemak offering on Sundays.
They still cook their rendang from their home as they try out new possibilities to expand their product range.
Then there is Asim, who, being in the aviation industry, which is one of the worst hit sectors of the economy due to the pandemic, had to settle for a pay cut.
To supplement his income, he took to cooking from his tiny kitchen. Cooking was always his passion. As a young boy, he used to watch granny dishing out authentic Pakistani dishes.
Trial and error got him to re-create some of his granny’s best. He began taking orders using Instagram via @asims.kitchen. He offers different kinds of dishes including biryani and gulab jamun (a sweet dish).
He started with a few boxes of gulabs that his friends bought to support him. Today, he makes more than 200 pieces of jamun a day.
These are just the two of many new startups that have emerged since the MCO from home kitchens. There are plenty out there.
Some have created homemade cottage cheese (paneer), giving it a new twist in flavours from spices, curry leaves to even beetroot garlic. Others have created different types of spreads, dips, cakes, cookies, breads, meat, vegetables and rice dishes to sell online.
These may be small innovations made locally by people. But they can also make a huge difference to people’s lives.
Each and every of these new startups are trying to offer something unique from the mainstream so they can co-exist with the bigger chains of restaurants and stalls.
Of course, all these home kitchens have to be extremely careful in choosing the best and fresh ingredients for their creation.
The pandemic has also seen many physical shops and stalls closing and turning online. Some brave ones are willing to take the risk to create new physical outlets during the pandemic. One such joint is Big Brooklyn Pizza. It uses the wood-fired concept to make its pizzas.
Even Eat for Good emerged in September despite the pandemic.
Ida Ghazali and her friends teamed up with three UiTM graduates (Baizura, Athirah and Fatin) to create healthy snack bars. The testing was done from their home kitchen. But as they go into production, they begin to rent a kitchen space.
These new and old joints are using online tools to reach out to customers. Some even use social influencers to promote their products.
Asim was quick to send boxes of jamuns to several influencers and celebrities to promote his product. Others worked with renowned chefs or established joints for visibility.
Eat for Good went a step further. For every purchase, it will give back some to society. This is part of its CSR (corporate social responsibility) efforts. It wants to work with NGOs to feed the under-priviledged. It is also quick to get angel investors and advisers to invest in its venture.
That is why this tiny home kitchens’ evolution cannot be underestimated.
Years ago, Just Heavenly, the cake specialist, was set up from a home kitchen in Bangsar. Today, there are several Just Heavenly cafes around.
Pop meals, formerly known as dahmakan, on the other hand, used the “cloud’’ kitchen concept to create meals when they started in 2015. Now they have expanded into Thailand.
They have managed to get a series of funding. Their investors include Rakuten Capital, White Star Capital, Jafco Asia, GEC-KIP Fund, South Korean-Woowa Brothers and Partech Partners.
Home cooked food will always find a way to our stomachs. It is also a known fact that some of the biggest companies in the world today were created during or after the 2008 global financial crisis. But some will surely fade away.
However, given the right kind of investment, innovation and creativity, even these home kitchen creations can evolve and flourish.
There has been several proven cases. Though it requires hard work, determination, courage and lots of luck.
Views expressed here are the writer’s own.
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