- The article is contributed by Edward Gordon, DGM Projects, AGA Hospitality Pvt Ltd.
There were a lot of thoughts and emotions running in my mind when I was asked to write my perspective about the Food Truck business in Mumbai. You all might be thinking why did I use the word “emotions”? For many of us, food is important and the most critical aspect of our life which we tend to take it a bit lightly in our country. For me, it’s about my childhood, my mom’s delicious home cooked food, to indulge in all that street food and then over the years, I tried various cuisines that created an interest to understand the back-end process of a food manufacturing business. I was fortunate to have met Chef Abhijit Berde (Co-Founder Maverix Platforms Pvt Ltd) 6 years ago and when he asked me to join him on his journey with Yellow Sapphire Food Consultants LLP as a Director, it was a life-changing opportunity and experience. While we set out to consult and build commercial kitchens, offering end to end key solutions to various clients in the F&B industry, we always had the concepts for food trucks at the back of our minds to explore.
This finally led me to start some research on food truck setups in the country. Mumbai being the city which gives opportunities for fulfilling one’s dreams and street food plays a key role with those daily routines. Mumbai as compared to Gurgaon, Pune and Bangalore has a long way to go when it comes to Food Trucks/Parks. There are various factors that stood out for me to come to this conclusion and few of them being infrastructure, permits and licenses (a lot of ambiguity) and then, of course, the complexity of operating the truck even if all of these are in place. About a couple of years ago there was very little information you could find on the internet or any other sources for the licenses required to start a food truck business. Even then, many have taken a risk to venture out on their own and leave it to destiny or by increasing their overhead expenditure for a sustainable business. There are ways around to operate such businesses in a city like Mumbai which is fortunate or unfortunate (leave this for you to decide) but then aren’t we all used to this culture for years and generations.
Times are changing though. Now you will find a lot of information about everything you need to run a food truck business legally. All you need is a strong concept which includes the product portfolio, a food truck and a design (needless to mention), all licenses/permits (Fire Safety Certificate, Shop and Establishment License, NOC from RTO, NOC from Municipal Corporation, FSSAI Mobile Vendor’s License, Kitchen Insurance)and of course a business/promotion plan. All of these should help you begin the journey and getting to this point would approximately take up to 3 months or more. Very lucrative from the outside however the back-end operations come with its challenges and pressures. The next step is to sustain the business. The volatility aspect comes in the forefront now. There are very few food trucks in the country that have managed to sustain for a period of time with no changes to their menus or cuisines. Indian consumers need a constant change when it comes to their taste buds hence one should be willing to update the menu time and again even though you will find a few loyalists visiting your truck on a regular basis. The more you experiment with food the more you end up making these changes to your concept.
After contemplating over the idea of venturing into the food truck business for years, we finally took the plunge in the month of October 2018. The association here was between AGA Hospitality Pvt Ltd and the TBSE Group. The name of the brand created by TBSE was The Bark Bank, at Juhu which is an open-air food truck park and we bought a slot to operate one of the trucks. We named it "The Native Food Truck” offering food from authentic Indian cuisines. Three months into operations, TBSE was forced to shut the place temporarily due to some issues with the licensing. We are soon to see the end of the tunnel and expect to start operations in the month of June 2019. With AGA, we will also be starting a vertical to operate food trucks across the country soon and that’s work in progress.
To conclude, I would like to highlight that Food Trucks and Food Parks are taking us into the future with not just a lucrative business point of view but also bringing together a community of street food lovers to indulge in what they love to do. To see this budding prospect to envisage into the potential it has, the city will need to have the infrastructure in place, create a hygienic environment around such trucks/parks and most importantly a little bit of support from the legal authorities to make this a viable business prospect. I wish all of us food lovers get to enjoy more of this in the near future.