Malvani meals on trains get a homely flavour

Updated: Dec 09, 2016, 14:51 IST | Gaurav Sarkar |

mid-day visits the centralised kitchen of the 30 women who have turned entrepreneur to start the e-catering service that has teamed up with IRCTC to supply food

The women get together to cook up the Malvani meal near the Sawantwadi railway station
The women get together to cook up the Malvani meal near the Sawantwadi railway station

The IRCTC wants you to get a taste of home even before you get there on one of their trains. To that end, it has teamed up with 30 women members of the Loksanchalit Sadhan Kendra — a federation of 19 women’s self-help groups formed by the Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal (MAVIM) in Sawantwadi — who will be cooking the region’s local Malvani cuisine for railway passengers on south-bound trains. Their tireless effort over three months, with financial backing from NABARD — that allotted a sum of Rs 6,23,000 for this project (includes their training as well as the cost of setting up of a centralised kitchen close to Sawantwadi Railway Station) — finally came to fruition with the first online order being placed on Wednesday. And with that, the initiative has propelled them from being simple home chefs to entrepreneurs who run an e-catering service for the Indian Railways.

Meet the women
“The spices, masala, and overall flavouring of the food is very different than what is usually served from the pantry,” explains 34-year-old Nitali Ajit Shirodkar. A native of Talawade village, Shirodkar has been cooking Malvani cuisine for her family for years. “This opportunity to become a professional cook is a big achievement for us. Today, there are just 30 of us, but I think that number will soon increase—our food is that delicious!”

In the training, they were taught everything from using the right ingredients, condiments, and spices, to special focus on presentation and packaging of the meals. “Our entire workforce is not required yet. As of now, we are working in two shifts of around 5-6 women,” noted Aarti Subhash Kapdi (31), adding, “When the number of orders increase, we will deploy more workforce.”

How it works
Any commuter on a south-bound train (as of now 8 such trains have been shortlisted for the programme) on the Konkan line can simply log on to the IRCTC website, and select the dish — ranging anything between local specialty Surmai thali to Sukka Chicken and Bhakari to Puran Poli made with desi ghee.

IRCTC then calls the staff coordinators at the centralised e-kitchen two hours before the train arrives at Sawantwadi station, who make sure that the orders are properly delivered. The minimum requisite for an order is R60.
Salary and remuneration

NABARD spokesperson Rajashree Mankame said, “Initially, we will be paying them around R100-150 per day until the business picks up,” adding, “Apart from this, the women will be encouraged to take on local events, so they have an alternate source of income as well.”

Rave customer reviews are in
“I’d give the food a 4/5,” said Aditya Saini, one of the two people to try the food on the first day. “I had ordered the chicken thali and it was delicious.”

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