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#13 | Girish - Migrating to a new city
What's cooking - Qualitative study to understand food in urban households
👋 What's up, peeps? Dharmesh Ba here. Welcome to another edition of The India Notes, your go-to newsletter to decode Indian consumer psychology. Every week I publish a long-form piece decoding Indian behaviour from a digital lens.
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About the research: 'What's Cooking?' is a user research series to understand how urban millennial households consume food. All the names and personally identifiable information are masked to honour the participants' privacy. I publish one story from this series every Thursday.
Girish is a software engineer who lives with his wife and two-year-old daughter in Bangalore, who is originally from Tamilnadu. His wife works from home, while Girish goes to the office twice a week. Girish has hired a cook who comes to their house daily to prepare their lunch.
I had a conversation with Girish to understand his food behaviour and practices. Here’s a sneak peek of 3 interesting behaviour patterns you’ll find in the conversation:
My 2-year-old child always wants to try different foods
We have a tiny kitchen, so we don't buy a lot of groceries at once
My wife is picky about her preference of food while ordering online
Now, let’s unfold the conversation! 📃
My 2-year-old child always wants to try different foods
What does your daughter eat in a day? Does she have any food preferences?
My daughter usually has Kanji (rice pudding) for breakfast at around 9:00 AM in the morning. Sometimes we also give her Dosa or Upma for breakfast. She goes to a preschool where she has her lunch, and we give her snacks when she returns home at around 6:00 PM. It takes at least an hour for me to feed her dinner, and I need to ensure she eats enough so she doesn't cry during the night because of hunger. She gets bored of repetitive food, so I always need to give her something unique and tasty.
What does your daughter usually like when she wants something unique and tasty?
I've noticed that my daughter gets tired of eating the same South Indian dishes every day. She craves variety and wants to explore new, unique, and delicious flavours. For instance, when I took her to a Gujarati shop last week, she tried a dish called Thepla, which was new for both of us. I decided to get it for her just in case she didn't like it. I could eat that. But to my surprise, she ate all four pieces. She seems to enjoy trying new and different types of food.
Even if it's not South Indian, she'll probably like it as long as it's tasty and unique. It's essential to offer her a variety of flavourful foods so that she doesn't get bored with the same meals. I try to remember this when preparing her meals and snacks to ensure she gets the nutrition she needs while also enjoying her food. But it is a struggle for me to keep up with her.
What changes did you have to make to your eating habits because of your daughter?
One of the significant changes we've made is stopping going out to eat. My daughter is always cranky, which makes it hard for my wife to enjoy the restaurant atmosphere. She feels it's better for us to eat at home instead so we don't disturb other people in the restaurant. As a result, we haven't been to many restaurants in the past two years. Since we moved to Bangalore, we also stopped having breakfast because our daughter's disrupted sleep schedule makes it difficult for us to get a good night's sleep. In the morning, we don't have enough time to prepare a proper breakfast because we usually wake up late due to this.
At what time does your daughter sleep?
I usually begin feeding my child around 8:45 or 9:00 pm. It takes me at least an hour, sometimes up to 75 minutes, to ensure she finishes her dinner. I have to dedicate this time to her meal because she won't eat enough if I don't. Even though her meal differs from mine, she can be playful or might not be in the mood to eat something like Dosa. In these cases, I need to gently encourage her to eat; otherwise, she may only have two or three bites and then become hungry later at night ,and it's essential not to fall into a habit of letting her eat too little because we are tired or lazy, as this can become a pattern for both the child and us as parents. So, even when I am exhausted, I make sure to take the time to feed her patiently. Afterwards, I usually have my dinner around 10:15 pm. I tend to feel quite tired after feeding my child, so I take a short 5-10 minute break before starting my meal.
We have a tiny kitchen, so we don't buy a lot of groceries at once
How do you buy your groceries? When and where do you buy them?
Back in Chennai, when we lived in a joint family, we would shop for groceries once a month, along with occasional ad hoc purchases. I would typically pick these up from the supermarket before or after work. However, when we moved to a 2 BHK gated community in Bangalore, we encountered some challenges due to the limited size of the kitchen and minimal storage space. This made it difficult to store large quantities of groceries, and we found ourselves dealing with clutter, our daughter playing with the items, and nighttime insects.
After a month or two, we stopped buying groceries monthly and switched to an ad hoc basis since our family did not require as much food, and we wanted to avoid waste. Since moving to Bangalore last March, we have been using the reliable BBDaily service, which delivers items ordered the previous day, meeting our needs 9 out of 10 times. If there are any issues or additional needs, I can quickly go out and grab what we need. We also have access to delivery services like Dunzo and Instamart.
Grocery shopping has become more flexible and based on our immediate needs rather than stocking up and storing large quantities.
So on average, in a month, how many times these purchases happen?
For rice, we don't have a strict schedule; we buy it twice a month or purchase a 5 kg bag and replenish it when it's empty. We don't closely monitor the frequency, as our rice consumption varies depending on how often we eat out. Whenever we need more rice, I can easily go to the nearby shop and pick some up.
For other grocery items, we might order them through BBDaily every three weeks or as needed. It's a mix of using BBDaily and picking up items when I'm out and about. For example, my wife might order Toor Dal (Pigeon Pea Dal) on BBDaily, and I might grab tamarind while I'm out two weeks later. We don't meticulously track our purchases but ensure nothing goes to waste.
This relaxed approach to grocery shopping works well for us because accessibility is straightforward here in Bangalore, and we don't need to be as diligent about tracking our purchases.
Do you order from 2 different accounts on BigBasket? Or is it only your account?
My wife and I use the BBdaily app to buy groceries, but I'm the one who logs in. When my wife wasn't working last year, I managed the budget, and we used the same account on different phones. If there's ever an issue with an order, my wife lets me know, and I raise a complaint from my app when I'm at the office. Having a single account works best for us.
My wife is picky about her preference for food while ordering online
Do you order food from outside?
For me, there are times when my wife orders non-vegetarian food, and I'll order vegetarian items from the same restaurant, if available, or from a separate place. On occasions when I stay awake through the night, I might order a pizza or tea from Chai Point, but I generally don't have specific cravings that I need to satisfy.
I typically ask my wife if she wants something, and I'll add my choices to her order, as I don't have strong preferences. Since I go out quite often, I sometimes enjoy food from local snack shops, such as Gujarati or North Indian. Ordering from these shops through delivery apps like Zomato or Swiggy can be expensive, and I would have to place an order just for myself. So, when I'm out, I take the opportunity to enjoy a wider variety of food options.
In essence, I prefer to keep my food choices simple and uncomplicated.
What is usually the nudge for you to order when ordering for yourself?
There are two main instances when I feel the urge to order food. First, it occasionally happens when I'm particularly frustrated or upset with work, maybe once or twice a month. Second, there are times when I need to stay up all night to complete something important. In these cases, I order items like tea from Chai Point or pizza to help me stay awake. Aside from these situations, if I want to enjoy a good meal, I prefer to go out and eat, even if I'm alone. My wife doesn't particularly enjoy going out often, but I appreciate the experience of dining out.
How do you decide which food delivery app to use, which restaurant to choose, and what dish to order?
We can look at two scenarios. Initially, around February this year, I had a Zomato Pro membership. Before that, I had no memberships, so that I would choose either Zomato or Swiggy based on the best offers. However, after experiencing some issues with Zomato's customer support and their decision to take responsibility for food quality no longer, I became frustrated and stopped using Zomato Pro. I then switched to Swiggy One, which I found comparatively better.
Recently, Swiggy One partnered with Dineout, and I've started using Instamart, making it more valuable. As a result, my current preference is Swiggy, especially since they offer free delivery for orders over 149 Rupees. My wife follows the same preference, as I often order for her too. I ask her to choose the restaurant and the dishes she wants.
In summary, I initially chose based on the available offers, then used Zomato Pro, and now prefer Swiggy One.
How do you decide on the food to order?
As I mentioned earlier, my wife is quite particular about her non-vegetarian food preferences. She especially enjoys dishes prepared by her mother, which has led to her being quite selective about what she eats from outside. Despite being a non-vegetarian, she's almost like me in her pickiness, only opting for one or two restaurants that meet her taste and value expectations. In Bangalore, many biryanis are available, but most homemade non-veg food lovers find them inauthentic or not worth the price.
For the past year, my wife has been ordering Chicken Lollipop Biryani from Meghna, finding it a good value for around 300 Rupees, even though the biryani itself was average. This year, we discovered Mani's Dum Biryani, offering a Half Dum Biryani for 149 Rupees. My wife found the taste decent and the price appealing. Additionally, their takeaway counter is just 1.5 kilometres away, so we usually receive our order within 20 minutes.
The point here is that my wife is incredibly selective when it comes to ordering non-vegetarian dishes like Chicken or Mutton Biryani. She doesn't eat mutton and only orders chicken dishes from a handful of trusted restaurants, such as Mani's Dum Biryani.
Can you talk about your budget around food?
When it comes to budgeting for food ordered through apps, we don't have any strict rules, although we are both quite frugal by nature. This has led us to limit our orders, even if my wife prefers more expensive non-veg dishes. For example, she often orders a dish for 149 Rupees, costing only 119 Rupees after discounts and delivery fees. On average, we try to keep our spending within a range of 150 to 170 Rupees.
As for dining out, we don't have specific budget limits since we rarely eat out – maybe only 5-6 times in the past two years. Since these occasions are so infrequent, I usually let my wife and me enjoy whatever we like without worrying about the cost. On average, we might spend around 500 to 600 Rupees at a place like A2B, or up to 2500-2600 Rupees at a more upscale restaurant like Copper Kitchen, where my wife enjoys some authentic non-veg dishes that can be quite pricey. However, I am okay with these costs since we dine out so rarely.
For a family of three, including our daughter, who eats very little, the 2600 Rupees spent at Copper Kitchen is for two people. We also take advantage of various discounts and offers, such as a 15% discount from Dineout and additional discounts through the CRED app or my friend's HDFC credit card. These discounts can save us around 600-700 Rupees on our overall bill.
Do you have some goals around food and health right now?
I've started having some goals regarding my health, but I haven't taken any steps towards them yet. I'm planning to start something proper for Diwali. Firstly, I want to reduce unnecessary eating because I realize that I eat even when I'm not hungry.
Seeing people like Paras Chopra from Wingify and Nitin from Zerodha taking reasonable steps towards their health on Twitter motivated me to do the same. Although I don't have a solid plan yet, I want to start by eating only when I'm truly hungry, not out of habit or when my mind is stressed.
PS: The transcripts are rephrased using ChatGPT for a better reading experience. I try my best to ensure they stay authentic to the original conversation.
That’s all I had for today. How do you discover restaurants to explore? Comment your answer below :) See you in another episode of the What’s cooking series next month.