A Patna-born entrepreneur has set up a proprietorship firm that designs and manufactures food carts, for those who lost their livelihoods due to sinking business during Covid.
Thirty-eight years old Dheeraj Kumar had returned to his native Bihar after shutting his restaurant The Fish & Chips Room in Dubai, which he ran for a decade.
The reason for shutting the restaurant was the eroding margins, and the pandemic fixed the final nail in the coffin, which forced him to return to his home state.
On his return, Dheeraj came up with an idea to set up Cart Club, a proprietorship firm that would design and make food carts, for those who had lost their livelihood.
“Covid affected my business in Dubai and I returned, but I found the conditions no better here too as people were losing jobs almost every day. I spent at least four months understanding which business had growth potential.
During this period, I realized that people spent less on other utilities, they had a penchant for a good meal with family. We floated the idea and quickly received a demand from multiple people who had lost jobs and wanted to start something of their own,” he said.
People in small towns have disposable incomes but do not have the option of the middle layer, with the only options of street food vendors or fancy restaurants, around.
“Food trucks are a rage in western countries, but the idea has not taken roots in India, especially in a town like Patna,” Dheeraj said.
He said the firm has begun well and is profitable with a small margin after it commenced its operations.
The idea is not to make money, but to help people set up their business, Dheeraj said. The firm is making nearly six percent profit per food cart, he added.
The firm has already sold 25 vehicles, each costing Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh. As many as 12 orders have been booked for the next four months, he said.
“We are planning to expand operations in West Bengal and Jharkhand. We are also evaluating to refurbish vehicles for vegetable vendors with an objective of achieving a turnover of Rs 2.5 crore by March next year,” Dheeraj said.
Not only the firm sets up food carts, but also develops the menu, trains staff, and provides operating guidelines to customers, he said.
The company also gets them much-needed approvals from the FSSAI and other departments.
“Cart Club has also tied up with a Noida-based consultancy to provide employees to cart owners if needed. The idea is to provide complete hand-holding. You just need to start your business once you get the cart from us,” Dheeraj said.
Raj Abhishek is his Club Cart partner who brings to the table his technical expertise in redesigning carts, which he was doing while running Raj Engineering in Patna.
Dheeraj brings to the table his hospitality experience, for he has a degree in hotel management from the Institute of Hotel Management, Ahmedabad.
Talking about the supply of vehicles, Dheeraj said the firm has tied up with Tata Ok, a unit of Tata Motors that sells used trucks.
“We buy vehicles like Tata Ace and convert them into food carts by refurbishing them and installing kitchen fittings. About 80 percent of Cart Club’s customers are people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic,” he said.
Trucks delivered by Cart Club have begun selling wood oven pizzas and continental food apart from the regular Chinese cuisines across Patna.