ECO – Kitchen is a not-for-profit social entrepreneurship model which has established itself in food retail. We were taken on an educational trip to this biggest industrial kitchen in Chennai in connection with our paper on Entrepreneurial Development. It gave us a bird’s eye view about this venture throwing light on various distinctive features of this model.
On 7 January, 2012 we left to Injambakkam where the industrial kitchen is located. Reaching the ECO kitchen, we were given a presentation about the idea and setting up of this model. The opened a completely different window to the food retailers in varied aspects.
- Multi-faceted social approach: The ECO Kitchen has an acronym ‘ECO’ which is ‘Enhancing Community Opportunities’.
The management has introduced various programs like KATHIR and KATHIR DHAN.
KATHIR – This model aims at providing employment to destitute women. The ECO kitchen provides them with adequate knowledge and skills to sell food as well as provide them with food at subsidized cost. The cost of one meal is `17.50 while the women sell meals at `25-30. The cost breakup involves `15 for preparation while `1.50 is for transportation and `1 towards Y.R.G. CARE, which is one of the fore-runners in combating against AIDS and addressing varied issues such as counseling, research, hospitals, pharmacy etc.
KATHIR DHAN – This program is charted to suit the needs of the mal-nourished population in Chennai. Many of these groups are identified by the ECO Kitchen and they provide free food as per the instructions of the donors or by the organization themselves on special days. The donors have flexibility in choosing the date, type of food and the target group. Moreover they come under Section 80(G) of Income Tax Act, and are eligible for tax deductions. The food prepared for donation is same as any other food that’s prepared, ensuring hygiene and quality and adequate nutrition. The ECO Kitchen has the capacity to deliver 10,000 meals per donation.
The Kitchen employs persons after giving adequate training and thereby alleviates them for poverty and making their life more meaningful.
One rupee (`1) of every meal sold goes to Y.R.G. CARE, who in turn uses it to fund the subsidized medicines which they give to the needy persons and fund their other programs and expenses. This holds a significant impact in functioning of this model giving it a unique outlook.
- The ECO Kitchen is also a very environment friendly model. They got the state-of-art efficient utilization of energy.
SOLAR POWER – The ECO Kitchen uses solar power to heat water and utilizing the steam to cook food. However the limitation is that solar power cannot be used on cloudy or rainy days.
STEAM – the steam is channelized into huge barrels made of steel to cook immense quantities of food in a very short time frame. Those which can be cooked using steam as such as are cooked in barrels which are called SINGLE JACKET VESSELS, which means steam is directed used for cooking like rice. When steam cannot be directly used for cooking, like sambar or other gravy items are cooked in barrels called DOUBLE JACKET VESSELS, where steam passed through the vessel for the food to be cooked.
BRIQUETTES – The ECO Kitchen uses briquettes to cook food which are made from jute waste, peanut husk, shell of mango seeds. Thus making the fuel eco friendly and conserving LPG to fuel the huge Industrial unit. The only difficulty being the flame cannot be controlled.
LPG – they are use for very LIMITED purposes to fry certain food items like papads etc.
CONSERVATION – The Kitchen is made in such a way that every natural element that is utilized to maximum extent and the element which is not utilized is conserved and re-used.
WATER – the steam which is made using solar power or briquettes, when not utilized is sent back to a tank to be cooled into water and be used the next time. Also water used for cleaning the vessels are directed to a water treatment plant to be made clean and be used to irrigate the garden surrounding the industrial kitchen.
FUEL – the flame which is fuelled by briquettes is directed to a three-stove model. This three-stove model is designed in such a way that the first and last stoves are fuelled with flame while the middle stove utilizes the heat emitted from either sides.
- The ECO Kitchen has makes uses for various industrial food production like potato peeler, dough maker, single-jacket vessels (for cooking rice), double-jacket vessels (for cooking milk, sambar etc), roti maker, grinders, idly makers etc which produces significant quantity of food within a short duration.
- This model has also adapted a profit motivated program called OUT OF THE BOX, thereby offsetting the loss incurred while giving subsidized food to KATHIR program and KATHIR DHAN program. This program offers nutritious food to corporate and also under-takes catering for various functions by providing vegan food. The customers can choose from a variety of options and also customize for health and dietary needs. They offer a great level of customization and again one rupee (`1) of every meal sold via OUT OF THE BOX also goes to Y.R.G. CARE foundation.
Such a model which caters to address social, environmental as well as commercial needs must be applauded. The profit motivated tool is used with great care and ensuring benefit to all, thereby bringing to light the fact that it can be used adequately can serve the society and not be seen just as a voracious need of entrepreneurs.
We also took a tour around the campus, where the staffs explained the technology in detail. The presentation threw light upon the ECO Kitchen and its model. Finally we tasted the most delicious meal along with a satisfaction that someone else is also smiling because of that single penny spent while treating out taste buds.