How You Can Start its Business Anywhere
Pondicherry (Puducherry, in the local Tamil language) is a seaside union territory, bound on three sides by Tamil Nadu. A French colonial settlement till 1954, the stylish villas, the fashionable boutiques, monuments, and heritage buildings symbolise the French legacy. So let's begin with some of its famous places:
The Food Streets of Pondicherry
While street food is available across the town, some areas have more stalls. Bussy Street is one such place. It is an important street in Pondicherry with many commercial establishments. As you approach the vicinity, you are welcomed by the aroma of food—plenty of stalls selling vegetarian and non-vegetarian, with food lined on both sides of the street. The nearby Gandhi Street also has some stalls selling a good variety of food items.
The other street food centres are the South Boulevard, Beach road which both tourists and locals heavily admire and visit.
After knowing where you should head for the best street food in Pondicherry, now let us find out the typical varieties.
Famous Delicacies on the Streets of Pondicherry
One can easily find both Tamil and French influences in the local food in Pondicherry. Dosa, Vada, Idli, and Upma are everyday items from the Tamil staples. Most of these today are among the typical street food items across India. However, at Pondicherry, you will find a difference in taste (in all the southern items) since the locals here prefer less oil while cooking (another French legacy, perhaps since French food requires very little oil).
Bakery items in Pondicherry carry the unmistakable French signature style. Baguette, a thin loaf of bread characterised by its length, and Croissant, a buttery pastry in a crescent shape, folded in several layers are among the most popular ones. Both Baguette and Croissant are commonly served with the main dish as an accompaniment, but many prefer them (baguette/croissant) as breakfast items, complemented by a cup of coffee as well.
Some of the other popular local items on the streets of Pondicherry:
1. Samosa ( heavy type, with both veg & non-veg. fillings)
2. Keema Paratha
3. Mutton roll
4. Dosa with a non-veg filling usually minced mutton
5. Mushroom Bonda
6. Sandwich (veg. and non-veg)
7. Ratatouille (a French dish, type of vegetable soup)
8. Quiche (another French item, egg-based, with filling of vegetables, fish or chic
9. Sea-food items: Fried fish, prawn etc.
10. Tandoori potato
Pondicherry does not offer a single signature item as in many other places. Bakery items are generally top-rated and preferred by the locals. Other than that, the French style-soup and sandwich combination is a trendy snack at the street vends.
Starting A Street Food Business
Starting a food business in a cart (or in a truck) is an ideal way of entering the food industry. This business requires manageable resources in terms of finance, staffing and expertise. It has low risk as the investment is not high, and the turnaround of capital is fast since street food is sold against payment.
- Many general street food vendors in cities across India do business illegally. They do not have any licence and occupy a space on a particular street through local contacts only.
- The central government has already made the registration of food vendors mandatory through local municipalities. A new entrant needs to keep track of the rules.
Like in any business, you need to begin with an introductory survey for your food cart operations.
What information do you need to get from research?
1. Item/s to sell
2. Who is your target customer – Demographics; whether your target audience prefers your planned items.
3. The location of your cart
4. The necessary licenses – From Local Corporation / Municipality, food safety organisations, Local Police etc.
5. How is the competition in your planned location? – How many food vendors are there – anyone selling your type of items. (A word of caution: A place without any existing vendor may appear tempting but may not be lucrative; people mostly go to places for street food where there are several vendors)
6. Types of equipment – Cart, cooking arrangements, Illumination after sundown. (In case selecting an office area and planning only one-shift operation, you may not need this) ; cooking arrangements
7. Workforce – Cooking, cleaning, managing. However, the best way to start is to do your cooking and hire cleaning help only. For employing a good cook, you need to pay a high salary.
Planning of Action: Fine-tuning Research Results
A. Item / Product – Pondicherry specialities
i) Items with a French connection may be your USP (unique selling proposition), and therefore, careful planning is necessary.
ii) Sandwich/soup/stew can be one combination if you are targeting office areas. Keema Paratha/mutton roll could be another.
iii) Questions to be clarified - Who will cook, the authenticity of the taste, using the right ingredients.
iv) Ensure genuine ingredients (as in the original recipe)
v) Organising supply logistics of ingredients, if they are not available in your place.
B. Find customer potential for your type of item
i) Customer traffic in general (in the location for other food stalls)
ii) Overall competition (of other food vendors)
iii) General prices of items sold in the area by other vendors.
i) Accessibility of the location and approach to your planned spot
ii) Security in the area (whether peaceful in general)
iii) Whether drinking water is available or not.
iv) Offices / colleges / shops / metro or railway station / bus terminus , in the vicinity
D. Registration and License
The local municipality requirements (of your proposed location) must be complied with; Food safety guidelines for the street vendor of FSSAI (The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) to be followed.
E. Cart & Equipment purchase
Arrangements on the cart should be in line with your cooking utensils. Space for a gas cylinder, and perhaps, for an additional one for storage, should be planned.
Investments and Profits: Food Cart Business
Major components of your investment:
a) Cart (Rs 70000 –Rs 90000)
b) Equipments (Rs 25000),
c) License /Registration /deposits (Rs.10000),
d) Employee (x 2, Rs 25000)
e) Marketing (Rs.10000) Misc. (Rs 10000)
f) Working capital Rs. 20000.
Rs.1.75 -2 Lakhs would be a minimum requirement to start a food cart business.
Margin from sales will be around 50-60 %, and the net profits (in a month) will depend on your total monthly sales.
Challenges of a Street Food Business
Extreme heat during summer or continuous rain may impact customer traffic and sales significantly.
2. Local issues
Other vendors / nearby shop owners creating problems
3. Hidden laws/regulations
It is challenging to keep track of and comply with all relevant rules for venturing into a small street food business. There may be harassment from the concerned authorities.
4. A sudden drop in sales
There is no business without risks and challenges. Starting a small food cart is the right way of understanding the food business's nuances; it may pave the way to bigger things in the sector in times to come. To be successful in the food business, it must be clear that good tasty and clean food, backed up by prompt service, are the chief ingredients.
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Q. What are the advantages of the street food business?
A) Low investment to start your operations
B) Mobile location –If you find the area not suitable for your type of items, you can move to a different place.
Q. Do I need to follow all the regulations for my small business- it takes effort and cost money for compliance.
Ans. Essential compliance like a license is a primary business requirement –without it, your cart may be evicted from the location. Food safety regulations mainly focus on hygiene. Displaying that you are fully compliant will give you an advantage. Many customers today are concerned about cleanliness /hygiene, and you stand to gain with them.
Q. Should I plan for one shift or two-shift operations? I can manage the resources.
Ans. The longer you work, the more sales will happen. The main issue here is whether you have regular customer traffic (on all your working days) for both shifts. You should also take into consideration the safe storage of your raw materials for the additional work.
Q. Will I get enough customers for my soup and sandwich stall in Mumbai?
Ans. As you know, street food sales are guided principally by the location. If you choose the place correctly after due research, certainly you will have a good response. Both are popular items.