Most of us have a favourite street food; while some may swear by pav bhaji or bhel puri, others simply love pani puri. Indian street foods have numerous options for a foodie. According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, there are 10 million street vendors in India.
While we enjoy their delicacies, the vendors don’t usually have a good or easy time earning their livelihood. They are also often criticised for seemingly unhygienic food preparation practices.
Among other things, they also worry about their food and supplies getting spoilt. This is because they lack basic facilities like cold storage.
But a recent pilot project that emerged as the winner of the Re-Imagine Waste Hackathon, organised by Waste-Impact Trust in collaboration with Centre for Product Design & Manufacturing at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, could solve some of these problems for Indian street vendors.
The 2017 theme of the Hackathon was ‘street food vendors’, and it focused on how waste can be managed by re-imagining it.
The pilot programme of Team 3C (Chilled Chutney Cart) headed by Aakarsh Shamanur, an architect with a background in Urban Management, envisaged a community cooling solution for vendors to store perishables, which otherwise would expire.
The Better India spoke to Aakarsh, to know how the pilot was carried out. “We realised that one of the ways food wastage could be reduced was by providing food security to street food vendors,” says Aakarsh.
The hackathon immersion trip was for four days. “We went on an immersion trip to analyse food preparation. There, we realised that one of the main challenges for street food was storing the chutney in ideal conditions,” explains Aakarsh.
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So, they came back to the drawing board to see how they could provide a solution. The team concentrated on providing a safe and hygienic means of food security, one in which vendors wouldn’t have to pay too much.
Describing the ideation phase, Aakarsh says, “One of the solutions was to provide hygienic ready-made chutneys to the vendors. But the problem was that there wouldn’t be any uniqueness in the food served by them.”
He continues, “So instead, we focussed on providing cooling solutions for them to store their chutney safely.”
The team surveyed vendors and customers from Sanjay Nagar, Bengaluru, to collect data about their preferences and how a cooling solution could be provided.
The pilot was done with the support of Citizens for Sustainability (CiFoS), a civic group in Sanjay Nagar. “The pilot project was to validate the idea, to check if street food vendors would be open to the idea of keeping their ingredients in the fridge. Because there is a major trust factor that is involved,” Aakarsh shares.
The team soon rented four fridges, which would be kept at a common place for the vendors to use.
Speaking about the ground-level implementation, Aakarsh says, “So we were looking at how we could provide locker-based community fridges. We rented out a Tata Ace vehicle and put the four fridges in it, which was called the Chilled Chutney Cart. We gave it on a subscription basis in vending zones for two weeks, at Rs 10 a day, from 4 pm to 10 pm.”
Now vending zones are areas designated by the government under the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014. The act seeks to look out for the vendors, instead of shutting them down completely. In such allocated vending zones, infrastructure could be provided to the vendors to benefit their business.
“The act mandates that street vending is legal and that the municipality has to provide basic infrastructure and create vending zones,” Aakarsh notes.
Team 3C’s pilot sheds a significant light here. It was found that six out of 11 vendors agreed to pay about Rs 5 to Rs 20 to avail the service and about 83% of customers said they were willing to pay more if hygienic food practices were adopted.
This is great news as it means that a single change in infrastructure could prove beneficial to street vendors.
“We can combine this with another service like dishwashing and provide a combined resource for the vendors. And since street vending is transitory, once the vendors make a profit, they could expand their ventures into a hotel or a small-scale eatery business,” says Aakarsh.
One of the main challenges to turn this into a revenue model Aakarsh feels is the lack of data about street vendors. Data that could be used to build an enterprise. And not only that, the jurisdiction has been loose to allocate vending zones. This means that not every area has a dedicated vending zone where the provision could be made.
The pilot proved very beneficial and gave an interesting insight into how street vendors could be helped. Though there are shortcomings, the study completed what it set out to do, to give better food security to reduce overall waste.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)