This is a weekly column centred on the city’s youth — what they do and don’t, how they spend their time, the trends they ride in on and those they let go of.

In the age of start-ups, the cake goes to those who innovate staid, old ways of eating with technology and ideas. There are services that connect you to chefs, help you find restaurants that cater to your diet, and a few that even bring home groceries at the click of a mouse.

Along similar lines is Chennai-based, six-month-old start-up, www.idlyvada.com, that aims to make your food experience during train journeys comfortable.

“All one has to do is call and pick her choice of food from our menu,” says Dinesh Kumar, a 34-year-old entrepreneur, who launched the service along with his friends Anil Kumar, a businessman, and Shiva Ganesh, a techie.

Dinesh, who began working on the idea after his sister’s wedding, says, “We took 300 guests from Chennai to Kolkata by train and arranging food for them during the journey was very tiring. Each one had a specific taste or dietary problem that needed to be taken care of.”

With tie-ups across more than 150 restaurants, idlyvada.com offers vegetarian breakfast, lunch and dinner at 90 stations on 100 train routes, and has catered to 1,500 passengers so far.

“We make sure the food is in a machine-sealed pack, with disposable plates, spoons and tissues, and of high quality, from a reputed hotel. We serve only vegetarian food to avoid health complications,” says Dinesh. Food specific to diabetic patients, Jains and Sabarimala devotees is their specialty.

“Sometimes, customers even ask for delivery of syringes or medicines for their relatives who are travelling, or birthday cakes and ice-creams,” he says.

Dinesh says the biggest challenge is convincing vendors of the idea; that one needs to simply track the train so those delivering the food don’t have to wait in case of late arrivals.

Startup Centre, a city-based accelerator and hub for early-technology start-ups, is offering co-working space for young entrepreneurs at their Valmiki Nagar office at a reasonably-low monthly rent.

Vijay Anand, entrepreneur and mentor of the centre, says the idea of providing per-seat rental to start-ups is not just aimed at providing them with a vibrant workplace at an affordable cost, but also at inculcating a sense of community and belonging.

“It is way better than working at one’s home, which is what most small start-ups do,” he says.

C.R. Gunasekar, a market research professional, had attempted to run a co-working office space in Anna Nagar last year but that project was not successful as he did not focus much on marketing the concept.

He met with an accident and had to discontinue the project, but there is no reason why the idea should not take off in the country, he says.

“The trend of co-working spaces began in Germany and spread to other European countries over the past two years. Many start-ups see the value in going to work at such places. They need a competitive environment where innovation and brainstorming needs to happen on a regular basis,” he says.

The concept of co-working spaces goes by various monikers. One such is ‘desk surfing’.

There is a difference between co-working and ‘shared office space’.

When big companies that have a fixed number of cubicles, say 100, retrench their staff, they tend to lease out the work terminals on rent — that is a ‘shared office’ space. Proponents of ‘co-working’ say the two are different as shared office spaces don’t offer a sense of community feeling.

(Reporting by Vasudha Venugopal and Karthik Subramanian)

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