Namira Hossain is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cookups, a platform that markets home cooks as a community. Previously she worked as a journalist for New Age Xtra. She studied Sociology & Anthropology in Denison University, Ohio. She is also a member of Ampersand, a spoken word group and a performer with ‘it’s a SHE thing’. Recently, IBT got in touch with Namira to find out about how Cookups came into being and what it has planned for the future.
What inspired you to come up with Cookups?
The idea was actually our co-founder Misha Ali’s. We would have lots of dinner parties which got tough on our wallets and having the same friends over meant we could not share our food with lots of people. As we started sharing our recipes on a blog, we saw that there was demand for other people to try our food and we figured a platform such as this would prove to be popular, as there are many talented home cooks in Bangladesh who could use the extra income by working from home.
“REGARDING THE FOOD BUSINESS, I BELIEVE WE ARE CREATING A MARKET WHERE THERE WAS NONE BY GIVING OPPORTUNITIES TO A LOT OF HOME-COOKS, ESPECIALLY WOMEN, WHO HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESSES AND NOW ARE BEING ABLE TO SELL THEIR AMAZING FOOD OUT OF THEIR OWN HOMES.”
Cookups is diverting a section of people who order from traditional food outlets towards home-based chefs. What kind of impact has this had on the overall food business in Dhaka so far?
I don’t know if it is diverting people – restaurants are still popular and will continue to be because of the experience. However, I do think Cookups is shifting the paradigm by offering something different – that is, being able to stay home, in your pajamas and have an array of delicious homemade food at your fingertips. Overall, I think this is giving people more options as it is not always healthy or affordable to eat out. Regarding the food business, I believe we are creating a market where there was none by giving opportunities to a lot of home-cooks, especially women, who have always wanted to start their own businesses and now are being able to sell their amazing food out of their own homes.
THE COOKUPS TEAM ALSO INCLUDES:
During the early stages of your startup, how well did you understand what you were doing? What kind of planning and commercial strategy did you have?
Misha has had a lot of experience, having worked for Bikroy for the last two years. However, I am completely new to this. A lot of the decisions that we made were completely ad hoc and seemed to have worked out quite well. Our primary strategy was Facebook – as we already knew that people spend a lot of their time on it. Seeing the pictures of food on their newsfeeds, meant that people would be talking about it and seeing the food. It was important for us to have that kind of reach and actually utilize this social network to market our business.
How would you describe your mission and company culture?
Our mission is to be the best online platform for buying and selling quality, affordable home-made food. We care about our cooks and our diners, and I think it shows in everything we do. We take hygiene and quality very seriously, and hence we physically check ALL kitchens before they are approved to sell on our platform. Our company is still quite new and hence our culture is still in its germination stage – however, I’d say that everybody works super hard and has fun while they’re at it!
How well did you deal with any failures you faced during the initial phases?
Failures are an opportunity to learn. If we failed in any aspects, then we took feedback from others on board and bounced back. It is all about resilience and acceptance. Failures are okay; repeated failures are not.
Would you say that you’ve reached a point where you’re proud of your endeavor? Or do you still expect further growth before you can make that claim?
I am proud of how far we have come, but in terms of maturity – I think Cookups is still a baby. We have taken baby steps, and we have far to go. We don’t want to stop until we have expanded to all of Bangladesh, and who knows? Even the rest of Asia. I think we have a way to go yet before we start patting ourselves on the back.
How do you see Cookups growing over the next five years? What kind of direction do you foresee it heading into?
As I mentioned in the previous answer, I hope we can first expand to all of Dhaka and then the rest of the country. But why stop there? Pinky and the Brain had the right idea – to take over the world! Good food is not limited by boundaries after all. And technology is the answer.
I would like to add that we have also started another platform called Growups. This platform is similar to Cookups but it is for buying and selling produce as we want to support local growers and farmers and have access to chemical free organic produce.
What is the biggest risk for your company at this point?
One significant risk that I foresee is migrating people to our app and off Facebook. I really think it is about empowerment, if we can make people understand that our aim is to empower them through the use of technology, then I believe we will be alright.