Home-style food for international students

Tasmania’s Jay and Dhruti Ahir’s tiffin service delivers nutritious home-cooked food to students on the go.

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When Jay Ahir worked in international student recruitment in India, he often wondered what the students’ lives would look like when they moved overseas.

He got a first-hand feel when he himself moved to Tasmania recently with his wife Dhruti.

Very early into their stay, they began to miss the food they were used to.

“When I worked as marketing manager for the University of Northern British Columbia in India, I used to wonder what the youngsters that I was sending to Canada would do for their meals, in the midst of studying and working,” Jay tells Indian Link.

When he and Dhruti, 30 and 26 respectively, moved to Launceston from Gujarat in January this year, this became food for thought.

Dhruti is pursuing a Masters in IT from the University of Tasmania. Jay had a suggestion. “I thought, why not start a tiffin service for international students?”

Dhruti, passionate about cooking, was quickly on board.

And thus was born ‘OM Home Food’.

Jay and Dhruti Ahir
(Source: Supplied)

Bringing a bit of home to you

On the menu, it’s shuddh shakahari (pure vegetarian) food items only.

“We have healthy options like a curry, roti/paratha, buttermilk and papad, on weekdays,” Jay describes. “It’s created based on what young people between the ages of 19 and 30 would like typically at their own homes with their families. On weekends, we like our customers to eat guilt-free, and offer them dabeli, pav bhaji and other streetfood items.”

Some of the best-selling dishes are pav bhaji, rotlo and oro (bajra roti and baingan bharta), and the famous Gujarati theplas. Jay 

Dhruti is the “heart of the business”, while Jay is the brain behind it.

“Dhruti is a fantastic cook and simply loves it,” Jay says proudly. “My role, on the other hand, is to support her as much as possible.”

Jay takes care of the social media marketing of their small but fast-growing brand, coordinates with customers to take orders, handles finances and day-to-day tasks so that food deliveries are done seamlessly.

He also designs the menu, depending upon demand from their regular buyers.

Within just three months of launching this dabba (or tiffin) service, Jay and Dhruti’s venture is a hit among Launceston residents.

“On weekdays, we get around 15-20 orders; and the numbers go up till 25 on weekends,” he smiles.

“Our tiffin service is available from Monday to Saturday,” he informs. “We accept orders only till 4pm so that we have time to pick up fresh veggies from the market, cook meals and have the tiffin boxes ready to be picked up by 7 pm.”

A recurring customer feedback is that the food reminds their clients of home. Jay 

“It means the world to us,” say Jay and Dhruti Ahir of the love they are getting from people.

Theplas ready for rolling (Source: Supplied)

Curing homesickness with kindness and food

It all began with Dhruti sharing her meals with friends in her neighbourhood. Word spread about her culinary skills, and helped when the venture was launched.

But with so many cloud kitchens and desi restaurants serving delicious Indian meals in the region, how does Dhruti manage to stand out, we ask.

“It was never our agenda to compete with full-fledged restaurants,” Jay responds. “Our model is different. We provide healthy, home-style meals on cost-effective rates.”

Jay and Dhruti Ahir aim to help people get access to home-cooked food with the cost equivalent to their monthly groceries, for instance. “Our monthly tiffin service costs only $280, per tiffin coming in at $12. If a student in Tasmania cooks daily at home, he or she will end up spending exactly this amount, if not more, on grocery and gas bills.”

All the credit for Dhruti’s cooking skills goes to her mother. “I must have been in Year 6 or 7 when I first took interest in her cooking,” Dhruti shares. “Three years later, I served a wholesome meal to my family and received terrific feedback. That’s when I knew I have it in me.”

Gradually, she became a cooking ninja, helping her mum whip up delicious Gujarati meals.

Thanks to Jay and Dhruti Ahir, a whole lot of Indian students don’t have to go a day without eating ghar ka khana!

Read More: Food blogger Dhanya Samuel: For the love of spice

Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Bhosle Chakraborty is a freelance journalist. With over nine years of experience in different Indian newsrooms, she has worked both as a reporter and a copy editor. She writes on community, health, food and culture. She has widely covered the Indian diaspora, the expat community, embassies and consulates. Prutha is an alumna of the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru.

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