The intensely colourful world of Indian cuisine has found a substantial fan base in Australia, with growing appreciation for its many regional variations. Thanks to increased immigration, Indian food is found all across Australia. But, due to the complexity of its flavours and cooking methods, preparing authentic Indian food is time-consuming and isn’t a feasible option for many curry lovers.
This is why there are so many pre-made sauces, marinades and cooking kits adorning the shelves of all major supermarkets. Brands like Patak’s have experienced long-standing success in Australia, as their products appeal to an ever-growing market of time-poor foodies. But let’s be honest: a lot of these products are inauthentic and substandard; they’re watered-down versions of Indian food and are actually expensive. But given our busy lifestyles, many of us don’t have the time or the inclination to prepare home cooked meals.
Two Sydney-based entrepreneurs have come up with a solution that addresses both the time-consuming nature of preparing Indian food and the quick but low-quality supermarket alternative. Ambika Malvia and Vikram Kotibhaskar have recently launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for their startup Curry Delight, which delivers a kit to subscribers every month containing everything they need to prepare authentic Indian dishes, minus fresh products.
Curry Delight’s overarching mission is to make Indian cooking a regular part of Australian life, by removing its various complexities without compromising on authentic flavour..
“Our friends ask about Indian recipes all the time. But the moment we go into spices and unfamiliar ingredients, it all gets too hard. To make matters worse, supermarket spices can be quite expensive. Before you know it, you’ve spent $40 for jars of spices which will sit on your kitchen shelf for months,” says Malvia, who is also the co-founder of OzCompare and Director at TiE Sydney.
“We created Curry Delights to take away all the hassle. The kit comes with everything you need to cook up the meal and the assurance that it will taste great at the end of it.”
The most interesting aspect of Curry Delight is its monthly subscription model. Although the price has not been set in stone, it’s likely to be within the vicinity of $35 for a one-off kit and $80 for a three-month subscription kit for four. Malvia says they plan on negotiating better costs with suppliers as volumes increase. Each kit will contain a three-to-four course menu, and all the raw and non-perishable ingredients needed to prepare the dishes, as well as online video demonstrations, recipe cards and stories behind each dish. On the day the subscriber plans to cook the dishes, they will only need to purchase a few fresh ingredients like meat, yogurt, herbs, and so on.
Curry Delight has already trialled one of their kits with 12 Australian families. The trial kit contained a ready-to-eat snack, raw poppadoms, uncooked Basmati rice, spice mixes for one of the main dishes and another heat-and-eat main, as well as spices and ingredients for a raita (a minty yoghurt sauce) and a ready-to-eat dessert. The families, even those that were sceptical at first, were satisfied with the result.
Main dishes take about an hour to prepare, as opposed to the three hours it usually takes to prepare a curry. Malvia admits that cutting down the preparation time without compromising on flavour was one of the biggest challenges they faced. Thankfully, they were able to find a balance.
They began by deciding on the menu for each meal; and then for each item on the menu, they experimented with many different ways to make it – from scratch, using spice mixes, using ready-to-eat packs and even partly-assembled ingredients. For example, they tested five different spice mixes for Butter Chicken and selected the one that took about 10 minutes and tasted delicious. For the Daal (a popular lentil dish), they specifically tested ready-to-eat brands to reduce cooking times and selected the one that tasted the best. Malvia says the kit is the final result of extensive testing: “It is easy to cook, tastes great and is preservative free”.
At first glance, the subscription-based model may seem unsustainable. Would people renew their subscription if they already had the secret recipes to all their favourite dishes? But ‘subscription box’ style businesses have experienced considerable success in Australia, especially those that operate in the beauty and fashion industries. Malvia is cognisant of the fact that there are other meal subscription boxes out there like Lite ‘n’ Easy and Hello Fresh, but they focus more on convenience and low-calorie or Diabetic meals.
“Curry Delights is all about the joy of cooking and discovery. It takes around an hour to cook up the full spread, perfect for your monthly curry night or weekend lunch. There isn’t anything like Curry Delights in Australia,” says Malvia.
She believes the revenue model is sustainable because members will be introduced to a new menu every month.
“Indian cuisine is so vast and varied that the food safari can go on for a long time – Mughlai, Bengali, Street Food, Konkani, Goan … an endless list. And each month we will plan a mix of familiar and new dishes to keep things interesting,” says Malvia.
Of course, the Kickstarter campaign will help the founders validate their idea. Curry Delight is seeking to raise $5,000, currently sitting at over $1,700.
“There are many ways we could have funded this project. We chose Kickstarter because it is a great way to reach a wide audience and tell the story behind this project. We hope to connect with people who love the idea enough to actually help us bring it to life,” says Malvia.
At the moment, Curry Delight is offering one kit a month with a vegetarian alternative to meat dishes. This will evolve as the startup gets better as managing logistics.
They’re also offering a special Indian snack pack for this summer season as the Indian cricket team tours Australia.