Net surfers get curried away

Web site tries to curry favour with the nation's Indian food lovers

Boring sandwiches for lunch could become a thing of the past, as a national curry delivery service is to be rolled out on the Web and throughout the country over the next few years. A couple of clicks on the mouse and you could be tucking into Lamb Rogan Josh at your desk 40 minutes later.

The service, www.joshiskitchen.com, is a partnership between Joshi's Kitchen and new media company Majestic, and has already had a successful trial in Reading, according to its managing director Sanjeev Joshi. The company plans to create 300 food preparation centres around the country in the next five years to ensure extensive coverage.

There is a strong potential market for such a service according to Joshi, who explained that the company has carried out a series of feasibility studies, looking at whether customers are more inclined to use the Web to order or the phone. The studies also looked at practicalities such as delivery times, possible mileages and radiuses for the service and, most fundamentally, what dishes people want to order.

Joshi was positive about the trial in Reading: "We had a good response. We've succeeded in maintaining customers, and we have most of the day covered, from midday orders right through to 2am, so all the infrastructure is there."

Stage two of the rollout will cover Brighton and Crawley, and should bring the total of food preparation centres up to nine. In 2002, 24 more centres are to be set up across the country to increase the Web site's coverage and enable more curry-lovers to use the service.

There is certainly a market to be tapped, as the Independent reported last year that Britons consume 2.5 million curries a week, and that there are more Indian restaurants in London than in Bombay and Delhi combined.

The launch is also timely, coming so soon after Robin Cook's speech in praise of a multicultural Britain, which observed that chicken tikka massala, not shepherd's pie or fish and chips, is now the country's national dish. It was this month as well that McDonald's decided to market the McCurry in the UK.

Food shopping has become very popular online -- a survey found that £390m of groceries were sold online in 2000. In October of 2000, Tesco announced that it was taking 60,000 online grocery orders a week making it the world's largest Internet food shopping service. The home delivery service was making £5m a week at the time.

Take me to the e-commerce special.

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