Induben, from Gujarat, owns and operates Chilli and Cheese, a home-cooked food business that serves delectable vada pav.
The adventure began when she was involved in a catastrophic accident that profoundly altered her life.
Induben Rajput of Mehsana, Gujarat, was involved in a bike accident in 2017 that left her spine gravely wounded, with many cracks and compressed nerves. She was recommended to spend the entire day in bed in order to avoid a permanent back problem.
This put the mother of three in a difficult situation. Her stitching business was just getting started, and her hard-earned money was going towards her pricey medical treatment. Her husband, a government clerk at the time, took out many loans to pay for her post-surgery treatment and their children’s education.
Induben, 44, said, “Our lives were devastated after that occurrence. I felt helpless because I had lost my money. My husband worked longer hours since I stayed in bed all day. I’d need someone’s assistance just to get out of the house. On certain days, I would just lose my equilibrium after a few steps. My girls were in private school, we had five mouths to feed, and we couldn’t make ends meet on my husband’s salary alone. There was no light – just a long, dark tunnel.”
However, she claims that her girls and husband did not give up hope. It was because of them that she was able to launch Chilli and Cheese, her homemade food enterprise that has provided financial security to the family.
She also starred on the reality TV show The Big Picture, hosted by actor Ranveer Singh, in February of this year.
Induben may be a master in a variety of recipes, but when her daughters initially proposed she sell home-cooked meals, she was filled with self-doubt. She realised she had to have a distinctive component to generate money in a state packed with all kinds of food establishments — big and little — and where people enjoy their food with intense devotion.
She did the next best thing because she didn’t have enough money to buy ovens or microwaves, so she went to her mother’s recipes.
Induben says, “There are advantages to being born and raised in Kolhapur. As a Gujarati, I’m sure I ate vada pav more than dhoklas as a kid. My mother would cook them at home and use her own masalas instead of what was commonly used.”
In 2019, the family rented a modest location for Rs 16,000 and established Chilli and Cheese, a food restaurant. They began by offering vada pav and eventually expanded to include sandwiches, pizzas, and burgers. To appeal to the younger age, Induben introduced mint and schezwan vada pav.
The several forms of vada pav available here range in price from Rs 30 to Rs 79. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m., but Induben begins working around 9 a.m. She goes to the market to buy fresh veggies and begins her day by boiling potatoes and cooking chutneys.
According to Induben, the company has begun to expand, and they now receive 30-40 orders each day on average. She mentions that they made Rs 1.25 lakh in revenue last month, the majority of which was reinvested. All that was left was Rs 8,000, which she carried home with her.
Induben says, “When we first launched the restaurant, our revenue was Rs 40,000. However, curfews were soon implemented as a result of COVID-19, and our business came to a halt. We didn’t have a single consumer for weeks. So getting home Rs 8,000 is a breakthrough for me,” she says, her eyes welling up with tears.”
While the original promotion was done through word of mouth and social media networks, things improved after she featured on The Big Picture.
“The show transformed our destiny.” I was scared we’d have to close because none of us are marketing professionals. Ranveer’s encouragement on the show was quite helpful. According to her, the best-selling item at the restaurant is the ‘Spicy Simba Vada Pav,’ which Ranveer Singh named himself.
“I read about the restaurant on the internet and came here to experience the Ranveer special,” says Rajkumar Patel, a regular at Chilli and Cheese. The flavour is distinct and the quality has been nicely preserved.
Induben hopes to expand her services and begin offering delivery alternatives in the future. She is currently running the business with the assistance of her husband and daughters.