He has gone from chemical engineer to radio jockey to cafe owner and never along the way has Anand Raj been short of quirky ideas. When he took over his father's cafe, he was quick to realise that home-food was what his customers missed the most - and decided to give it to them. His business model ropes in housewives and mothers from across the city, who cook their favourite breakfasts for Raj's cafe to purchase and sell. What's more, everything is put to use, even the fruit peels, which Raj uses to make natural cleaners and even a pet shampoo! He tells Nikhil Gangadhar his zero-waste story.
Much wisdom has been born in the kitchens of India, where clusters of pragmatic women found purpose in every scrap of food. As more and more people left their homes for the wealth of promise that urban life offered, these traditions began to recede also unfortunate, perhaps, for in them lie answers to many of the questions that trouble us today.
Bengaluru, for instance, is synonymous with struggles in solid waste management, with BBMP struggling to dispose the garbage it collects. In the Palike’s defence, composting centres have been set up at various points in the city, although these are plagued by issues like the lack of a standard procedure and the absence of takers for the final product. All their methods, indeed, have failed to provide the promised yield.
Out of this mess comes Raja, the enthusiastic media person turned activist who seems to a local solution that addresses three issues: providing home cooked food to hungry customers, giving housewives a chance to put their culinary skills to the test in return for a profit and finally, the elimination of waste. Wet waste generated in his cafe and juice centre is used to create bio-enzyme liquids that can be used for a number of cleaning purposes. “It’s better than anything available in the market,” he maintains, proudly.
Eat Raja, Mom’s Cooked Food, on Sampige Road, Malleswaram, is already grabbing its shares of eyeballs. It’s owner, Anand Raj, is a medical electronic engineer-slash-radio jockey, who refers to himself now as a Waste Engineer.
Speaking to DC, Raj said, “As I was going about my work and realized that there was huge wet waste collected at my café and juice centre and it was difficult to dispose too. I started to brainstorm and came in contact with wet waste management experts, who taught me how to make use of the wet waste and create something valuable from it.” He began segregating citrus and non-citrus wet waste. The former was used to produce bio-enzymes while the other is used to produce manure.
This bio-enzyme is now being used to clean vessels, floors, walls or anything that strikes Raja’s fancy. He’s even trying to develop a shampoo for pets. “The bio-enzyme is an effective product and people are beginning to appreciate its worth, too. I have my customers swearing that they will never go back to chemical cleaners!” Through the process of developing cleaning products from bio-enzyme, Raj set up a mini lab to experiment on how to use wet waste to generate something. He is also creating awareness at colleges, universities and social events. Students from various colleges visit his lab to experiment on the wet waste and to make full use of it.
It began when Raj took over his father’s cafe, having quit his day job to work on new concepts for customers. That’s when he hit the jackpot: Bengaluru’s wide range of culinary offerings misses a homely touch and the idea of ‘mom’s cooked food’ began to take seed in his mind. “I decided I would only serve food cooked at home by mothers.” He approached his friends, who loved the idea. What’s more, their mothers were happy to get on board too, thrilled especially that they would be paid well for their efforts.
“I made a list of all my friends’ mothers and started approaching them a day in advance.” The request was simple: they were asked to cook their favourite breakfast dish. The model took off and soon, Raj’s friends were in the loop too, earning an income through the cafe. Even customers began lining up, offering to put their mums in touch with the cafe!
The BBMP needs to pick a lesson or two on putting the wet waste into better use by creating byproducts....