In the last decade, Bangladesh has made significant progress in improving the lives of women and achieved greater economic inclusion of women across sectors. Women's participation in the workforce has increased and they have made their way into every sector. However, when it comes to male-female ratio, women still are far behind men in economic participation. The percentage is even low when it comes to entrepreneurship.
The scenario may have arisen from problems related to two main factors— the social construct which often compels women to be homemakers and lack of access to financial resources to set up their own business. So, an innovative way to foster women's economic participation is to create a way through which they can work or run their businesses from home.
foodpanda Bangladesh has been working with such an idea to support homecooks to become entrepreneurs. foodpanda launched its 'homechef' initiative during the pandemic to support economic participation of aspiring homechefs. As the majority of women in this region grow up learning how to cook, and building expertise in that area, this initiative created an opportunity for many, especially homemakers who had been wanting to start their own food business.
Since the launch of this initiative, several thousand homecooks have signed up on the platform with their home kitchen. Roughly 70 percent of homechefs on foodpanda are women.
One of the successful homechefs is Momtaz Momo, the owner of Amar Rannaghor on foodpanda. Before the pandemic started, Momo was doing a full-time job. She used to do household chores after returning from work every day. She was having a hard time juggling her responsibilities at home and work.
"One day, I learned that it is possible to make money by starting a home kitchen at foodpanda. As I was looking for an opportunity like that, I immediately started my kitchen. Now, I am running my own business and earning through selling food on foodpanda. I think every woman should do something for their own sake."
Another homechef, Jasia Ahmad Romana, the owner of Jasia's Kitchen, believes that every woman should do something instead of sitting at home.
She said, "I especially want to talk about housewives. In our society, people don't recognize their contribution, but they play the most important role in keeping a family functioning properly. Despite being a highly educated woman, I am not able to hold a full-time job as I have to take care of my family properly. foodpanda's homechef initiative was a great opportunity for me to be independent. Now I am earning money from my food business right from my home. To run this home kitchen, I do not have to invest a lot of money. I am grateful to foodpanda for supporting my entrepreneurship effort and helping me become a financially self-dependent woman."
There is no need for capital investment, extensive paperwork and going through the hassle that comes with starting a restaurant business. Instead, homeches can focus on creating delicious dishes while foodpanda takes care of marketing and selling their dishes.
Shahana Yasmin Poly, the owner of Shahana Home Kitchen on foodpanda was able to support her husband when his RMG business was hit by the pandemic. Shahana was able to support her family financially and deal with the crisis easily.
"I am proud of supporting my family and I have been able to do it through the income from my home kitchen on foodpanda. Women can achieve great things if given the opportunity. foodpanda gave me a good platform, and I have been able to scale my business with foodpanda. From my experience, I can say that a homechef can earn a good amount of money if they are committed. At the same time, they can take care of their other responsibilities as well."
Homechef initiative has the potential to transform lives across the country and uplift women's economic condition. It eliminates the entry barriers to starting a new venture and makes it possible for anyone with cooking skills and a kitchen to become an entrepreneur.
Whether an individual wants to sell their homemade food and maintain a steady income or wants to show their culinary skills to customers, they can do it right from their kitchen. All they need to do is sign up as homechef with foodpanda and start selling their food. foodpanda's team guides them through the process and supports them in developing menus and optimizing their business while connecting them with customers on foodpanda platform.
This initiative has supported many women to use their culinary skills as a tool for their economic participation. Alongside driving women empowerment, the platform also serves as a growth catalyst for the sector, primarily by creating more employment opportunities.
Home chefs are not only actively participating in the economy and making contributions, they are also providing customers with delicious, healthy and safe food every day. Many in our country perceive that home-cooked meals are healthier and tastier, and hence meals cooked by homechefs have greater appeal to customers.
So, foodpanda's homechef initiative has the potential to provide financial inclusion opportunities to thousands of women supporting them to break barriers.