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How the Home Catering Industry is Empowering Unemployed Egyptian Housewives

More than just a way to make a living, it's become a new lease of life for many.

After a long day at work, you’d be forgiven for grabbing your phone, tapping on a particular food-ordering app to satisfy your hunger pangs. If anything, it’s become second nature in Egypt – a country that has come to fully rely on that wonderful little thing called home delivery.

But with that has come the near-death of home-cooking. Yes, your token weekly visit to your parents’ home comes with a customary feast of delights, but there now exists a phenomenon that fuses the best of both worlds. You can, and have been able to for some time, order home-cooked food straight to your doorstep – and they’re thriving businesses.

One of the most important attributes to the rise in popularity of this new food concept is social media – nowadays, it’s easy to advertise your business, with little-to-no cost. Instagram and Facebook have made all of that much easier, and accessible to just about anyone. Thanks to the engagement that brands can now create on Instagram and social media, these food businesses don’t create customers, they create fans. Unlike a simple customer, a fan will buy your product and spread the news and tell the world about it, and word of mouth is extremely important in this line of work. Social media allows home food businesses to interact with customers on a daily basis – and invaluable tool for would-be entrepreneurs and, more specifically, Egyptian women.

With 76.7% of women in Egypt believing that their basic role is to cook and clean, according to Egypt Today, the concept of home-food businesses have, in a round-about way, filled a gap. With one of the solutions proposed by the Economic Research Forum being providing women with more flexible working hours, either in the form of part-time jobs or work from home jobs, home-catering services offer exactly that – a way for women to work at their convenience, from the comfort of their own home, without much barriers to entry like in the private sector.

“This sort of business is appealing, as there is an increasing number of people interested in working from home, for economic reasons, but also because it’s a nice way to get an insight into the market, know what people like, their price sensitivity, and what type of clientele actually likes your food, should you want to grow your business into something more concrete,” Amina Kandil, who runs a home-food service called Chez Soi, told us. Providing jobs for stay-at-home moms can only have a positive impact on our economy, as women today account for 75% of Egyptian unemployment, according to Egypt Today.

Mohi, founder of Matbakh Shams, which offers quintessential Egyptian food, was of the same opinion, stating that “competition is increasing as the barriers to entry are not that high. The sector is thriving as Egyptians generally place a large emphasis on food. Not only do they enjoy a delicious meal, but they take pride in providing one to their guests. The dining scene as a whole has been on the rise as of late.”

While many still advertise their services on Instagram and Facebook, mobile app and website, Mumm - which has been called the “Uber of home cooking” by Egypt Innovate, empowers women to earn a living. Mumm’s drivers deliver the meals, again removing a barrier to entry, and the cooks can earn up to EGP 6,000 a month.

But nothing in life is ever that easy and this field, like any other, comes with its own issues – particularly when it comes to expanding operations, which invariably means drafting in help to cope with demand. “The number one challenge is that you need to have a running business,” Kandil says. “You sometimes receive orders that don’t turn a profit. Another challenge is the employees,” she continued. “It’s like the chicken and the egg. You can’t get employees before you have a running business, and you can’t have the running business without help.”

Mohi was also quick to mention the inevitable issues of delivering in the often gridlocked traffic of Cairo. “Being based out of the the Cairo-Alex Desert Road/Sheikh Zayed area and catering to Mohandiseen, Zamalek and Maadi, we felt that a big obstacle for us would be traffic impeding on our ability to deliver on time consistently, especially during rush hour.”

Home food catering is on the rise, and doesn’t look like it’ll be slowing down any time soon. The low barriers to entry, such as the convenience of working from home, as well as transport being taken care of by a third party. In addition to giving the Egyptian economy a much-needed boost on account of the newfound purchasing power, the growing industry will also carve a path for previously marginalised, unemployed Egyptian women towards financial independence, which is one of the most fundamental roots for free choice.  


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