#6 | Aravindh - I hide the actual price from my mom when I order food online for her.
What's cooking - Qualitative study to understand food in urban households
My dad always had opinions about how to cook, but I had never seen him cook for the first 30 years of my life. In 2020 my dad started sending me pictures of traditional dishes that were last cooked by my grandmother a decade back at home. My dad fell in love with Youtube and cooking, which brought him closer to his mom by recreating the dishes. After the new chef avatar one day, he told me, ‘I can now without the need for your mom,’ which I highly doubt, but it was an interesting observation.
Introducing technology in any relationship is bound to change the dynamics. When embraced, they will help us bond better.
About the research: 'What's Cooking?' is a user research series aimed at understanding 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.
Arvindh is a software developer and a Delhi resident who lives with his parents and older brother. His dad and his brother work in the legal field. Arvindh and his family live in a three-bedroom apartment they own and have lived there for around 20 years. They also recently purchased a home in Greater Noida. Arvindh's mother is responsible for taking care of the kitchen and handling the cooking in the household.
Table of content
I hide the actual price from my mom when I order food online for her.
What does the family eat?
The family is primarily vegetarian, but the children occasionally consume meat and egg. Aravindh’s father and brother continue their village tradition of eating a thali (full meal) for breakfast. They have a hearty breakfast of roti, rice, and dal or vegetables, while Aravindh prefers fruit, milk, or oats for breakfast. The cooking menu is primarily fixed with minimal changes.
Here’s a snapshot of their meal preferences during weekdays.
The vicious cycle of fasting and feasting!
The family has fine-tuned mainly to the preference of Aravindh’s father. For example, Aravindh’s father fasts every Tuesday. Hence he prefers having a heavier meal the night before, and dinner is dal chawal (rice) every Monday.
On Wednesday morning, it’s dal chawal again when the father breaks his fasting.
Groceries online? What’s the onion price?
Aravindh's family prefers buying groceries from the local kirana store and occasionally from Reliance Fresh supermarket.
For vegetable purchases, their mother goes to the local street market twice weekly to purchase vegetables.
They prefer to buy offline as they find it cheaper and do not see the need to save time.
When Arvindh nudged his mother to purchase vegetables online, her first response was to ask for the onion’s price to compare with market rates.
My mom is aware about the price of every vegetables sold at the market. Then they try to compare the price on Big Basket, which is obviously higher. Also, I can see that my father is master at negotiating things, especially in the market. So if anything is costing around 600, he will make sure that he will get around by 350. That’s the sort of option he can cut off. So I think maybe they don’t get a chance to negotiate online.
I hide the actual price from my mom when I order food online for her.
Arvindh’s parents prefer eating only home-cooked food, but occasionally, his mom craves eating Chaat, and he helps her by ordering online.
If my mom wants something, she’s just asked me. She’s not that tech savvy and on Zomato you can’t simply ask it order the food through voice search. YouTube makes it much easier for the not tech savvy people as well. Voice search is something she uses to search and learn new recipes.
The price-conscious mom is reluctant to pay higher prices for chaat along with the delivery fees. Hence Arvindh occasionally quotes a lower price to his mom to satisfy her cravings and yet not feel guilty.
I recently purchased Chaat from the Haldiram which my mom wanted. It cost me around 200 Rupees - 180 Rupees for the product, and 50-60 Rupees delivery charges. So my mom asked me, how much it costs. I told the amount and she immediately said no. But by that time I had already ordered that and she has to eat it now.
Neighbourhood restaurant »» Zomato
Arvindh prefers ordering food online from Zomato, where he has a standard preferred set of dishes to choose from. He doesn’t use Swiggy due to memory constraints on his mobile.
He has started using BlinkIt to get snacks and munchies delivered for instant cravings but finds the item list limiting.
Arvindh prefers getting his food cheaper and faster. Hence his choices are usually from restaurants 10 - 15 mins away from home.
With my local one, I usually prefer either to buy Egg Curry or sometimes Shahi Matar Paneer, that’s it. For most the time Zomato. Even I prefer to order a Veg Roll or Egg Roll, though I can go, it's of 10-15 minutes away from my home. I can buy this at a very less price, but still I prefer because of my laziness, you can say, I have very limited outdoor activity. Though I have additional charges for that still I prefer to doing that.
He is also a favourite customer of his neighbourhood restaurant, which delivers food to his home at zero delivery fee. The restaurant usually delivers only for orders above Rs. 150, but Arvindh gets special attention which he is proud of.
The neighbourhood restaurant has a minimum order value of Rs. 150 for free home delivery. But I usually order for around Rs. 130, Rs. 100, and they provide a free home delivery because he knows I’m a regular customer. There were couple of incidents where the food which I ordered from my nearer shop was not that good. So I asked them and they immediately replaced the food for me.
Twitter influencers nudged me to start eating healthy
Arvindh is an ardent follower of Paras Chopra, who regularly tweets about mental models and health. Influencers like Paras Chopra on Twitter and a few subreddit forums have pushed Arvindh towards a healthy lifestyle.
It's more kind of a social media influence like people like Paras Chopra, who has recently shared his journey of weight loss and how healthy makes you. And also somewhere down the line I feel like I have seen the benefit of being healthy. Like you feel really energetic your whole day. And whenever I don't do exercise, I can feel how lethargic I become. This idea of being more productive and more energetic, this motivations lead towards being a healthy lifestyle.
He now makes conscious choices in food by reading the nutritional values printed on the pack before consuming them.
I started to move towards having a proper healthy style. I started to exercise more often as well. I read more and more blogs, articles, YouTube videos; so I got to know more about healthy diets. And started to reduce my carbs and sugar intake. So nowadays, I have a habit of searching the internet before having the food. Something like, Is Idli good for health? How much calorie intake is in Idli? How much fat is in Idli or this sort of food? etc.
Arvindh has also stopped consuming meat after reading about animal cruelty and its contribution to global warming.
With a religiously fasting father, price-conscious mother, and blink-it snack procurer son, Arvindh's story is a perfect example of how decisions are made in an Indian middle-class home. The coexistence of different school of thought, with one respecting the view of the other, make it more beautiful. However, this diversity can also make building products for this market challenge. Every youngster with a mobile phone is the CTO of the home, and its high time we build collaborative flows for the Indian market.
Collaborative flow is the one where two users are required to complete an action. For example, in this case, the mother should be able to browse and pick the dishes (if possible, with the price hidden), and the son should be able to checkout.
What are your key takeaways from this story, do let me know in the comments.
Check out the other stories in this series