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Mobile food business of Tezpur youths hard hit by lockdown

By Shambhu Boro

TEZPUR, June 9 - From stranded labourers to small-scale businessmen, hard times came for everyone after lockdown was announced in the country. Four-skilled youths of Tezpur who started a mobile food business in the city a year back with sheer determination and were earning an honest livelihood are also in dire straits as their business till date has incurred huge losses.

The four young and dynamic youths, Debanjan Pathak pursuing Masters in Mass Communication and Journalism in Tezpur University, Nitish Deka pursuing LLM in Tezpur Law College and Pranjal Das and Madhurjya Deka, master degree holders from Gauhati University had a dream of doing something exceptional for their livelihood by setting up an example of work culture among the Assamese youths. The four youths, after travelling to Kolkata and seeing many of its big and small street food vendors and watching a number of cooking shows on different TV channels got motivated enough to start such a business in their own town.

Sharing their views before this reporter they said that today, a new generation of street-food lovers is lining up at food trucks and food carts like never before. �Little do they know that neither food trucks nor food carts are new to the streets across the country. Like so many other popular trends, they are the latest version of a long-standing part of American and world culture. This lesser important sector now enjoys so much publicity. This industry comprises food trucks, food carts and kiosks, which have appeared in malls as well as at train and bus stations, airports, stadiums, conference centres, resorts and other locations in recent years multiplying largely in response to the slow-growing economy. People are seeking inexpensive breakfasts and lunches and also the employees today are often pressed for time, with more work and shorter lunch hours. These factors make the mobile-food concept more appealing than ever. So, from this entrepreneurial standpoint, we started our business in Tezpur town.�

Their business, popular here as �Four MAMAs� hopefully to show respect to their mothers faced a lot of challenges at first since the concept was too new in a small town like Tezpur. However, amidst the many ups and downs, they managed to purchase a second hand 709 model bus, which was modified with modern facilities like fridge, water tank, sink, generator, griller machine, chimney, CCTV, TV, wash basin tank etc., at a cost of Rs 20 lakh. �We had to face many challenges at first since we didn�t have the capital. We knocked at the doors of different banks and financing agencies including India�s SBI seeking a loan since it was a big budget venture, but despite there being a standing programme of the Central government like �Start-Up India� to promote unemployed youths like us and our indomitable zeal of doing something for self employment, we did not get any response. In the meantime, Canara Bank here agreed to help us with a loan amount of Rs 10 lakh which inspired us to go forward. We also managed some amount from our end to start the business. After getting our fully mechanised and customer friendly food-truck ready, we launched our business last year on April 24 with a huge response from the public,� they said.

However, their prolific business had to remain closed for the last couple of months following the lockdown. �However, even though our business is at stake, we credited salary to our staff since their livelihood depends upon us; our food truck which was parked in an open space on the roadside near Darrang College has got damaged and is to be repaired. On the other hand, EMIs have to be paid. But we haven�t lost hope as we have resumed business from June 1, seeking the same response from customers as was the case earlier.�

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