Empower 100 women as food entrepreneurs in India

by YRGaitonde Medical Educational&Research Foundation

It is already 3 months in to 2015, and the year so far has held a number of promises. There has been a significant increase in the uptake of applications for entrpreneur opportunities. We are in the process of dedicating our second kitchen at Padappai, a south western village adjacent to the booming industrial township of Oragadam.

We expect this proximity will assist us to expand our reach and include a number of KATHIR entrepreneurs in that area, and allow us to experiment with the campus model that we has been under development.

The campus model is a collective of entrepreneurs coming together under a common roof and offer menu selections from our Padappai kitchen as well as those made onsite. The cost of this model will be approximately the same - 3000$ supporting six entrepreneurs. 

A new training module is in now in place, one that increases hands on experiences for the aspiring enterepreneurs, mentored by those who have matured with passage of time. The training comprises of the new regulations imposed by the Food Services Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and a bi annual regulatory health check. Previously these health exams were given by the Foundation through its own laboratory (NABL certified), while presently this role has been taken over the regulatory authority.

The project is pleased to have been able to support through the generosity of its donors, a food donation for 3000 children residing in Chennai's orphanages. The event was held by another non profit on Feb 22, 2015. 

The focus for 2015 is to complete the 100 entrepreneurs and we would like to place our most sincere gratitude and appreciation for all the Global Giving donors who have supported us thus far. It is just a short journey from here. We hope to achieve this landmark goal by end of 2015.

An entrepreneurial couple and owner of a cart
An entrepreneurial couple and owner of a cart

The following is a postcard from Neeharika Tummala, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in India and Bangladesh, about her recent visit to YRGaitonde Medical Educational&Research Foundation.

Ever heard of an NGO that creates entrepreneurs and is environmentally friendly? The Eco-Kitchen model really blew my mind as it is one of the most different models I have seen throughout my travels. It’s a model that all about enablement, where the NGO takes the work out of the cooking and enables entrepreneurs to sell and earn extra income in a really short period of time. 

I visited two cart owners, who proudly showed off thier cart as well as the food. Their customers seemed to love the simple, healthy, home style cooked meals at a very competitive pricepoint. The couple in the first photo, spoke about how the extra revenue really helped to make ends meet and the work is not so strenuous so its something they can easily do for a few hours at lunch everyday. From the second entrepreneur, I got her opinion on the food business, where her customers come from and if she thinks that the price is competitive. She was really impressive, as she was able to give an overview of her customer base and what they look for when they come down for lunch. After all, it is up to her to bring in customers and sell at least 30 plates a day. She definitely looked like she knew what she was doing. 

Finally, the tour of the actual kitchen where the food is produced was equally impressive. All of the fuel for cooking is made with bricks which was made with organic matter. Large drums for food preparation, a staff dedicated to taking orders, inventory management, and delivery was working throughout the day as part of a well oiled machine.  I even got to taste some of the food from the kitchen and it was yum yum yum! 

Customers enjoying a filling meal
Customers enjoying a filling meal
I get a lesson on the food business
I get a lesson on the food business
Biodegradable fuel for a burner
Biodegradable fuel for a burner
Inside the Eco Kitchen: Managing grains
Inside the Eco Kitchen: Managing grains
Inside the Eco Kitchen: Cookers for meals
Inside the Eco Kitchen: Cookers for meals

We are progressing, albeit slowly, towards resources to support 100 entrepreneurs.  We are delighted to acknowledge our donors who have continued to pledge support and committed to monthly giving. The journey however is far from over and we hope to reach our goals in the next six months.

The entrepreneurship program had surprise visitors in the last three months. Visitors from Copenhagen School of Business, Denmark and the Business School of the National University of Singpore, who expressed their interest in writing a case study about the project. 

Also, the ECO Kitchen is now part of a collaboration established by the Anna University, Chennai, to explore needs of children in Chennai city and to develop suitable strategies and products that would boost their health status.

The project plans to establish a training centre in Chennai for entrepreneurship development with special focus on KATHIR and for building supply chain for the production. 

We will be featuring in the America Tamil Medical Association conference (August 2014) at Washington, DC as a project of note from Tamil Nadu.

It has been very fulfilling few months and indeed a celebration for the spirit of entrepreneurship :)


Kathir's core philiosophy is to provide resources and skills; create markets; and strengthen product range on sale. We could not as hoped significantly increase the number of entrepreneurs in this half year (July to December 2014), however we made significant strides supporting the existing entrepreneurs and improving the product range.

The readers will recall that the project set a fundraising goal of 100 carts (40000$) and has until date raised a little less than 22000$. By augmenting community donations we have as on date supported over seventy entrepreneurs,and the project is still hopeful of reaching its desired target by end 2014.

In October 2013, a series of workshops conducted in partnership with several non profits in Chennai city allowed us to address 4270 individuals of whom over 200 were identified for second level entrepreneurship training. 49 individuals have been selected for the KATHIR opportunity and they await required resources to establish the franchise. In the meanwhile we have enhanced the product range, introducing a delicious and nutritious vegetable rice, which has not only increaed the total sale volume for the entrepreneurs but has also created a new market: take away.

During the year 2014, we are proposing to establish a new opportunity - KATHIR CAMPUS - that allows individual entrepreneurs to set up a food service business within small offices and pantries, on exclusive basis. 

Your support is more critical than ever for the entrepreneurs in waiting. Please view our updated page on details of how this project works at http://www.ecokitchen.org/eco/kathir.html

Women's Day event promoting KATHIR

We are pleased to report that the geographical area of the KATHIR project is now extended to suburban Chennai following augmentation of the delivery fleet and demand therefrom. ECO Kitchen conducted several community outreach sessions during this period.

International Women’s day 2013

ECO joined hands with the NGO SUEB to celebrate the international women’s day 2013 on March 8th.  Over 300 women participated in the KATHIR reach-out campaign. From this single event, 35 women registered for the entrepreneurship training on food handling, sales, hygiene, finance literacy, customer satisfaction etc.

Advocacy Programs

We met officials from the state authorities and law enforcement agencies to continue informing them about the goals of the project and to provide an enabling business environment for the women entrepreneurs. We also met with the various people’s representatives and police departments to mobilize their support, and they have pledged their support for this project.

Progress and milestones

ECO Kitchen has identified 20 women who have completed the training and are awaiting the award of micro franchise “KATHIR”. With the available funds, we have inducted 6 entrepreneurs and appeal to all readers to share this report with their friends and also support the project again this year to reach the goal of 100 entrepreneurs. Our financial goal was to reach 40000$, we have reached 21000$, with a remainder of 19000$. We have made meaningful progress with our goal as we have so far inducted 63 entrepreneurs commensurate with the funds raised.

Future plans

We will be introducing a new variant of the entrepreneurship, “Kathir Campus” a captive plan for small businesses to support women entrepreneurs with a safe location. Vending will be exclusive to that business – staff and visitors.  Entrepreneurs will use either carts or furnish available pantry space. We expect that the women will earn similar income through this model. 


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Organization Information

YRGaitonde Medical Educational&Research Foundation

Location: CHENNAI, Tamil Nadu - India
Website: http:/​/​www.ecokitchen.org
YRGaitonde Medical Educational&Research Foundation
Project Leader:
Aylur Kailasam Ganesh

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