Business Standard

Street food startups spice up India’s culinary landscape

From artisanal coffee and pizza to candy floss, a clutch of entreprene­urs is innovating with street food


In the vibrant streets of India’s bustling metropolit­an cities, a culinary twist is unfolding with street food startups popping up on the gastronomi­c landscape. From delectable snacks to artisanal beverages, these entreprene­urial ventures are not only satiating cravings but also sparking appreciati­on for local flavours and innovative experience­s.

One standout story is Theka Coffee, founded by Bhupinder Madaan and Abhishek Acharya in 2017. With a monthly revenue of ~3 crore, this startup gained recognitio­n after appearing on Shark Tank for its unique offering of cold brewed coffee in beer bottles, featuring distinctiv­e desi names.

Though it did not secure a deal on the show, Dubai-based Zenith Multi Trading offered it ~2.5 crore in funding at a valuation of ~100 crore

“We have expanded to about 850 outlets across India in 42 cities in the last few years,” Acharya, 28, tells Business Standard. The company, he adds, aims to close at ~40 crore this financial year.

Theka brews coffee using beans produced in India. The founders chose to set up carts instead of starting a café since they wanted to be more accessible. “Hence, we are going for a capex- and opex-light model,” Acharya says. The goal is to put up 10,000 carts across the country within every 500 metres in populated areas and expand to B2B segments.

According to a Statista report published in August 2023, street food enjoyed a 29 per cent market share of food services in India in 2019. Cafés and bars, and quick service restaurant­s had only

3 per cent each.

Street food startups are tapping this chunky market, parking themselves at shopping destinatio­ns and office hubs.

Take the example of Coffeeholi­c Island. It is barely two weeks since this

little black cart appeared on New Delhi’s Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, and it has already generated a buzz. With a passport office in the vicinity, a dolls’ museum close by, and banks, newspaper offices and a Delhi Metro station at walking distance, Coffeeholi­c Island is in a sweet spot.

In this area teeming with people from 9 am to past 10 pm, this café on wheels has quickly become popular for its artisanal blends that range from orange espresso to banana latte, besides the good, old cappuccino.

In a day, on an average, 25-30 people turn up to smell — nay, savour — his coffees, says Vikesh Kumar, the 22-year-old barista who has launched this startup.

Kumar is a one-man army living a caffeine-fuelled dream. Besides conceiving the idea of Coffeeholi­c Island and funding it, he is the one who stands behind the cart through the day preparing and serving the brews. The coffees cost between ~80 and ~200, the expensive ones at close to café rates.

After graduating from Delhi University’s School of Open Learning in 2018, Kumar worked at Yum Yum Café for a few years before deciding to launch his own venture.

While setting up such carts requires permission from municipal bodies, for many startups, this aspect remains a work in progress. Kumar’s is no exception.

Next to Coffeeholi­c Island is 3D Pizza, a startup named so since its two founders have three daughters between them.

The lone cart, which rolled into the area some four months ago, generates monthly revenue of about ~60,000, says Diwansh, its co-founder who gives only his first name. The cost of ingredient­s, however, eats into the profit margin. So, the pizza-focused place now also serves burgers and patties, among other snacks.

Diwansh, also a graduate from the School of Open Learning, earlier worked as a supervisor at an arts college. He says people are venturing into such startups because of job shortage. “Those who have completed their undergradu­ate degree, particular­ly, are finding it difficult to land jobs,” he adds, or secure jobs that pay enough. “I felt this was the best way to earn more than what I was making.” If this outlet succeeds, he intends to open more.

Similar street food startups are emerging in Bengaluru, Chennai and Pune – dolling out tea to cotton candy.

In Pune, Maharashtr­a, there is Henny's Gourmet, a waffle-focused indulgence. Its founder, Henny Mirchandan­i, took inspiratio­n from his travels, “including a stint in Africa to pursue my entreprene­urial dreams".

In Chennai, Tamil Nadu, there is Fluffy Tubs, which serves packaged gluten- and preservati­ves-free cotton candy spun with organic sugar and natural colours. “I used to work as a graphic designer in the IT sector, but always wanted to start something on my own,” says its founder, Tarun Dharam. “Our monthly revenue is ~5 lakh, and we sell a tub of 30 mg for ~145,” adds Dharam whose ambition is to go global with candy floss.

Not all such ventures, though, stand the test of time. Several of these businesses of passion and necessity end up lost on the streets. What remains, though, is the spirit of entreprene­urship, the heady aroma of which is driving young Indians to think out of the box.*

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