The national lockdown starting from 5 November 2020 means the diaspora will be celebrating Diwali under strict rules. It means some people will be stuck alone at home and meeting loved ones only virtually. There will also be the yearning to eat home-style Indian food on a festival day, but without the pressure of cooking it yourself and keeping it healthy!
Atcha, London’s first healthy Indian takeaway, has spotted the gap in the high-street for regional, home-style Indian cooking and have pivoted to deliveries during the pandemic to bring innovative Indian-inspired healthy but delectable food direct to homes and workplaces.
Londoner Aadit Shankar, the Founder of Atcha, after studying PPE at the University of Oxford went into banking for one and a half years. He quit thereafter to start Atcha. “I had this idea of healthy Indian food in the lunchtime market in London,” Aadit told Asian Voice.
“Although Indian food is arguably the most popular cuisine in the UK, we have never managed to break into kind of mainstream ‘grab-and-go’ kind of lunch time in the UK High Street. Indian food is probably the best cuisine in the whole world for managing a healthy and tasty balance. We can actually cook salads and sandwiches and healthy rice bowls. But because we use traditional recipes, the food has a lot more flavour than usual high street salad and sandwich shop. We are trying to show that Indian food is one of the best options, if you want to eat healthy.”
Mum, his inspiration
While his father is from Bangalore, Aadit’s mother, who is Punjabi, has been instrumental to the growth of the business and creating Atcha’s first menu. It was infact a marriage between his mother’s homestyle Indian food, old family recipes from India and contemporary UK grab-and-go.
Aadit said, “Six-seven years ago, I used to have a diary where I would literally write down every single delicious Indian dish I ate anywhere. Slowly I created a shortlist, and then saw what was possible to add in the menu – based on practicality, nutritional principles, and what I thought was unique and interesting. It involved a lot of research of several years to develop a menu and then testing out. To start, and to test, we used to deliver free lunches to my friends’ office in bulk for them to try out and see what worked.”
Although Aadit’s plan was to mainly deliver to offices and open up kiosk or shops (may be like an Indian Leon) in the City, the focus has now shifted to home delivery. This includes people who are working from home, often ordering on company budgets.
“We obviously had to slightly change our product. We have added more combos to the menu, a new rice bowl and even ice cream! But we still definitely keeping true to the principle of fresh cooked everyday healthy Indian food,” he said.
During the first wave, Atcha donated over 2500 meals to key workers at hospitals and also to food-banks. They are now looking to do more work with one of London’s poorest boroughs, Tower Hamlets, where their East London kitchen is based, to deliver surplus food to food banks and hospices.
With the second lockdown in the horizon and no hopes of offices opening for another three to six months, Atcha plans to continue to focus on home delivery, with lots of new products launched soon. Aadit told the newsweekly with a smile, “We are keen to start producing more chilled, reheatable options and this is something we would love to do at national scale, as well as in collaboration with retailers like delis, supermarkets, and co-working spaces. We are always on the lookout for our first physical site – this could be a kiosk or something bigger, and there are lots of interesting sites coming up now.”