18 year-old Risha is the co-founder and CEO of Digimeal: a handy low-cost cookery app which helps students to basically survive. Using just three of the ingredients from the fridge, Digimeal will recommend you a variety of simple-to-follow yet tasty recipes, also allowing you to utilise leftovers for economic and environmental conservancy. “The idea emerged when my older sister, Sumita, went off to university,” the young entrepreneur told us. “Like many students, she wasn’t that aware of how to cook properly. She would be calling up my mum, asking her what she should do. And, as we discovered, it wasn’t just her; it was all her uni friends and flatmates. The problem was universal.” Following this revelation, the two sisters entered their flavoursome solution into the Duke of York’s IDEA programme where they then went on to whisk away the award. Risha told us of the digital development process: “securing the funding was the most difficult part. It wasn’t enough to have the concept; we had to prove it was capable of traction. It is very expensive to launch into the market research and tech aid required, and we had to show the industry professionals that people would actually download the app.” But pragmatic as it is all is, Digimeal’s USP is the fact that it ultimately feeds inspiration: “it does make you want to come back to it” Risha continued “it provides you with that one recipe, but then there also other suggested combos, and the appeal of mix and match.” Not just encouraging young people to cook, Digimeal also stresses the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Among the many apps driven towards grades and aptitude in the professional sphere, Risha’s bright, little feature shows that well-being too is a skill in the journey to personal success.
How would you sum up Digimeal in a few lines?
Digimeal stands as a helping hand for people who aren’t very competent in the kitchen, as well as providing instant ideas for meals; we also give you that extra info which makes your cooking easier. We have tailored the app and database so it corresponds with what students typically have in their fridge: cheese, chicken, peppers and onions seem to be the recurring staples.
What, in your opinion, is the component of a good app?
It should be easy to use, deliver what it says, and have a unique hook.
What did you think about with the product design of the app?
Universality of appeal: for example we made sure to stay away from colours associated with a specific gender. As opposed to a girly pink, we went with a bright orange and turquoise so as not to alienate one side of the market. Another important element was to keep the format simple. The more cluttered it looks, the more likely you are to alienate the customer.
What would be one of your favourite simple meals from the app?
The sun-dried tomato pasta! It sounds simple, but with the suggested combo of ingredients it comes out really well.
What was the exact journey with development of the app?
My sister and I came up with the idea and the design, and consequently worked with a company called Dogfish to develop the technical product. We did have a basic knowledge of code, but they helped us with the algorithms and database, and we are able to come up with a prototype. The market research too was done in conjunction with them. Taking what I’d laid out, they informed me of what was popular in terms of app design, and I was able to modify from there.
You are a student yourself now at the University of Sussex, studying Economics and International Development. What are your hopes with the app business in the future?
Well app development has always been more of a hobby. Though my degree will certainly help, it is a natural interest that will likely take off independently. Post- degree, however, I will have that sharper, critical eye to spot problems I might have missed the first time around.
Are there any tech features that fascinate you right now?
Wearable technology: it would be interesting to progress the app in that vein. It could be really good for calorie counting, for example, and expanding the lifestyle element.
Finally, what would be your advice to other young entrepreneurs?
Take advantage of your age: senior tech professionals will really value your fresh insight. It’s about more than content. The demographic matters too.