Sunday, June 30, 2019

Cafe Womaniya: Women-led Food & Snack Cafes and Kiosks in Government Offices

Café Womaniya, is “a food retail initiative to promote food & beverage products made exclusively by women entrepreneurs, at snack kiosks and dining areas in Government offices”. These cafés/ kiosks will deliver low-fat, nutrient-rich, cookies, crackers, Indian snacks/ meals, assorted pickles, condiments, tea/ coffee bags and organic food products, and foster consumption of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts.

Hyper-local procurement of food and beverage products by Government offices will result in new and untapped economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs. Further, low-cost, high-volume, high-utility orders will ensure economies of scale for women enterprises, and ensure fresh foods at all times due to “Just-In-Time” inventory practices.

Most importantly, healthy meal choices at Café Womaniya will reduce intake of free sugars, and salt/ sodium, and limit energy intake from total fats, by shifting consumption of fat from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and eliminating use of trans-fatty acids; some of the primary drivers for early onset of non-communicable diseases such as Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease, in India.


Rising incomes, rapid urbanization, and globalization are influencing the nutritional consumption patterns of masses. Increased access to convenient foods from modern retailers at competitively low prices is further driving people to reach out for unhealthy foods [Popkin, Adair & Ng, 2012, Popkin, 1998; Popkin, 1999; Allender et al., 2010, Arokiasamy & Yadav, 2013].

In India, the modern food retail market grew by a whopping 49 percent from 2001 to 2010 [Reardon & Minten, 2011] and nutrition researchers estimate that 80-85 percent of Indians consume commercially processed foods [Reardon & Minten, 2011; Gupta et al., 2010, Misra et al., 2011] which reflects a significant shift from consumption of nutrient-rich foods to energy-dense processed foods, increased intake of meats and salt and a net decrease in intake of coarse cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Further, availability and accessibility of high-calorie foods in urban areas in comparison to rural areas, has resulted in higher rates of obesity and diabetes, in cities [Popkin, Adair & Ng, 2012, Popkin, 1998; Popkin, 1999; Reardon & Minten, 2011].


According to the International Diabetes Foundation, approximately 33 percent of adults with Diabetes remain undiagnosed [Bloom et al., 2014]. The annual number of deaths resulting from Diabetes increased two-fold from 100,000 in 1990 to 233,999 in 2010. By 2012, India had more than 63 million people suffering from Type 2 Diabetes, earning it the tag of being the “Diabetes Capital of the World”.

Unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity are key drivers for the rise in non-communicable diseases [NCD]. According to WHO, High blood pressure, high concentrations of cholesterol in the blood, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, overweight or obesity, lack of physical activity, alcohol and tobacco use, are some of the other factors for NCD [WHO, 2004] .


Public offices are synonymous with vintage canteens offering deep-fried snacks and tea coffee to staff and visitors. Café Womaniya will prod public offices to set up Café’/ Kiosk Womaniya which will offer nutrient-rich food & snacks and meals, designed and produced by women entrepreneurs, to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts.

The key goal will be to limit intake of free sugars, and salt/ sodium, and limit energy intake from total fats, shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and eliminate use of trans-fatty acids.


Café/ tea and coffee pantry are run in every Government ministry, department and organization operates pantry/ café to prepare and serve light snacks and beverages to office staff. GeM operates a food kiosk which sells branded chips and cookies along with deep-fried Indian snacks, aerated beverages and bottled water.

Café Womaniya will encourage Government offices to procure low-fat, nutrient-rich, cookies, crackers, Indian snacks/ meals, pickles, tea/ coffee bags and organic food products that are available on GeM Womaniya page [] and stack for display/ sale to employees. Food products made by women entrepreneurs will be served in meetings and conferences, and employees can be incentivized to procure the same through staff food coupons.

Canteen services are a much-desired service in Government offices and women entrepreneurs will be encouraged to take up annual contracts for rendering such services. GeM is in touch with NGOs to handhold women entrepreneurs with training and skill development for canteen services. Popular regional and local delicacies may gradually replace branded chips and cookies, aerated beverages and deep-friend Indian snacks.



Café Womaniya will spur hyper-local employment and economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs in 60+ Government Ministries, departments, autonomous organizations and 300+ central public sector enterprise offices in Delhi NCR region.

Several Government institutions such as Ministry of Railways, Defence, Home, and Personnel and Training, are large buyers of food products. 3 percent mandatory procurement of supplies from women entrepreneurs will generate sustainable livelihoods for approx. 3,000-5,000 women representing low-income families in Delhi NCR region, alone.


Since, dietary habits and patterns are rooted in local and regional traditions, Café Womaniya will prod grass-roots mobilization and advocacy for healthy dietary behaviour among Government employees, support wide dissemination of information related to prevention of non-communicable diseases through balanced diets and healthy lifestyles.

Café Womaniya will underline the role of Government in promoting public health, healthy diets and physical activity, and assist Government ministries, departments and organizations in meeting their mandatory 3 percent procurement, from Women entrepreneurs and SHGs.


Hyper-local procurement of food will ensure shorter travel time for transporting fruits and vegetables from farm-to-fork. Delivery of farm fresh quality of fresh fruits and vegetables, in terms of shape, size, appearance and texture, will start reaching end-consumers and this will reduce carbon and water footprint during food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and disposal stages.

Gender Equality

Decisions about food and nutrition are determined by women and influenced by culture and traditional diets.

Economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs through opportunities within public procurement will address the twin challenges of malnutrition/ nutritional deficiencies and gender-violence, faced by women.

Café Womaniya aligns with SDG #5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by enabling the use of technology, especially ICT to promote empowerment of women, and SDG #8 Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value by promoting development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of MSME enterprises, including through access to financial services.


Government e Marketplace [GeM] is an open, inclusive marketplace for procurement of common use goods and services by Government ministries, departments and CPSEs. The platform provides great opportunity to SHGs, women entrepreneurs, artisans, NGOs, Startups and other sectors to register, list and sell their products to government buyers. Women entrepreneurs face numerous difficulties in accessing public procurement markets and GeM has taken several proactive initiatives to facilitate the training and registrations of such specific category of manufacturers/ sellers.

The online platform offers end-to-end solution for procurement of common use goods and services by Government ministries, departments and CPSEs. GeM was setup in 2016 and has 1,026,764 product categories, with 246,237 registered sellers and 36,596 government buyers. Since inception, GeM has processed 19.63 lac orders worth 26,963 Crores in Gross Merchandise Value.


The author is indebted to Ms. S. Radha Chauhan, CEO GeM, Shri S Suresh Kumar, Additional CEO GeM and Dr. Rajeev Kandpal, CFO and Additional CEO GeM, and dear colleagues at GeM for their valuable support and inputs during the compilation of Project Startup Runway.

Special thanks to co-author Anohita, for her rich research, edits, proof-reads and kind support.


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