When Vinit Patil was in school, he always stood out in class, thanks to his mother Geeta Patil, or Patil Kaki. The delicious tiffin that she packed for her son every day would grab everyone’s attention, he recalls.
“While everyone else would get the usual roti and sabzi for lunch, aai (mother) would ensure that she came up with something innovative to pack for me. Aai had her unique way of making sure I ate my vegetables. She would make a vegetable filling and add it to a regular paratha dough. The only difference was that it would be shaped as a samosa. I would gobble it up with all the vegetables in it. Every day, I couldn’t wait to open my tiffin at school. It’s a different matter that before I could eat any of it, my friends would finish it all off,” says Vinit.
Meanwhile, for Geeta, this love for cooking up delectable meals and running a business from home came from watching her own mother, Kamlabai Nivugale, who ran her own venture and would pack tiffins for as many as 20 people every day. “We would often help her with it as well,” Geeta tells The Better India.
She recalls sitting on a large stool by the stove, stirring the ingredients in the large pot. “I was aai’s little helper, and I loved it,” she notes.
For Geeta, these learnings proved to be a great foundation for what was to come. In 2016, she started a small business from home to sell traditional Maharashtrian snacks and sweets. These included modak, puranpoli, chakli, poha and chivda. With minimal investment and serving a few customers month-on-month, the business today serves over 3,000 customers, and is making a revenue of over Rs 1 crore annually.
Food that helped run the household
For Geeta, who was born and brought up in Mumbai, and married into a family that lived here as well, the city has always been home. “The only shift I made was from Vile Parle to Santacruz. My father worked with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and my mother was what you will today call a home chef.”
“The inspiration to feed people came from aai. She would effortlessly move around the kitchen and whip up so many thalis by the end of the morning. I loved watching her,” she says.
Soon enough, Geeta’s own food would become her calling card — whether it was to make special food items during festival time or just snacks to nibble on.
“We live in an area with people of different religions. Often, our Muslim and Catholic friends would place an order for chakli or puranpoli. I would make it for them without charging anything,” she says.
Things carried on this way for a while up until 2016, when Geeta’s husband Govind lost his job as a clerk in a dental laboratory. “We had two boys to educate and a home to run,” she recalls. This incident pushed her, for the first time, to think about using her talents to run the house and support the family.
“Since we already had an established client base, we thought we could capitalise on that. Darhsan and Vinit were in school, and their expenses were only growing. I had full confidence in my cooking skills, and with support from my husband, started small from our home kitchen,” says Geeta.
While she was used to making these food items for relatives and friends, she says that when the first formal order came in, there was some amount of nervousness. “Up until 2016, I was doing it more out of a passion. Now it was a proper business and a means to run our household. I couldn’t afford to take it easy any longer. The first order came from a family in Khar. The best part is that even today, we get orders from them regularly,” she adds.
From 2016 to 2020, the business was run from the home kitchen, without any formal branding. It started slow, but Geeta was confident it would go well. In their early years of business, she would supply breakfast and tea-time snacks to the employees of BMC in Prabhat Colony. “I was channeling the energy that aai brought to her work. Every morning before I started, I would remember her,” she adds.
While Geeta is not sure of how much money the business was making from 2016 to 2020, she says they made enough and more to run the entire household. “Maybe we did a lakh a month, but I cannot say that for sure,” she says.
Creating a brand: Patil Kaki
It is at this juncture in 2021 that Vinit entered the business. “Understanding how branding and marketing works, I wanted to help aai scale this business and take it forward. I have seen the amount of hard work that she has poured into this. First and foremost, we came up with the name Patil Kaki and started leveraging social media to get the business some visibility,” he says.
Vinit worked on increasing the revenue from Rs 12,000 lakh annually to almost Rs 1.4 crore, he says. “We have taken up a 1,200 sqft space in Santacruz where we operate from. We also have 25 other women who work with us at the workshop. Ably led by aai and Dhanashree Kaki, who joined the business in 2018, ‘Patil Kaki’ is now doing very well. What’s truly satisfying is that we have been able to employ so many women to work with us. About 70 per cent of our workforce consists of women who are working for the very first time.”
This, Geeta says, has also helped many women whose husbands lost their jobs when the pandemic first began.
Anuradha Johari, a customer who has been ordering food items from Patil Kaki for a while now, says, “The taste is absolutely authentic and the quality is really good. The best part about ordering from Patil Kaki is the service! Their team is just amazing. You get instant replies and issues get solved within minutes. On-time delivery is also something that makes them really special.”
The bestsellers are the modaks, puranpoli and chakli, while there is also a constant demand for the besan ladoo and chivda. On an average, close to 10,000 puranpoli and over 500 kg of chakli is made and shipped month-on-month across Mumbai and Pune.
Geeta says that even in her wildest dreams, she did not imagine the business picking up as it has. “It makes me feel so overwhelmed at times. I would on my own never have known how to market myself on social media platforms. This has been all thanks to Vinit,” she says.
With over 3,000 orders being shipped out every month, the brand is looking to expand their service to other cities very soon.
If you would like to reach out to Patil Kaki and place an order, please click here.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)