Shilpa, the owner of “Halle Mane Rotti,” a popular fast food truck in Mangaluru is no ordinary entrepreneur.
With little money and no degree in business or hospitality, she only had a strong desire to leave her struggles behind when she opened her food truck for business in 2015.
In the last five years, however, Shilpa’s business has gone from strength to strength, and today, the successful entrepreneur has a dedicated clientele who flock to her food truck. She has also been invited by reputed educational institutions like Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration to share her inspiring story and deliver business lessons.
Looking at the ever-smiling and optimistic Shilpa, one can hardly imagine the struggles she went through when her husband went missing in 2009.
“I had no money and very little savings. I didn’t want to go home, but my lack of education and work experience also meant that I struggled to get a decent job and stay afloat. There were times when I had to mix water in the milk meant for my son,” the 36-year-old tells The Better India.
Where one would give up all hope in such dire circumstances, Shilpa decided to turn around her life and make it meaningful.
And she did.
Emerging From The Setback
If the tragic incident was not enough to make her life miserable, incessant taunts from distant relatives and neighbours and job rejections made it worse.
“Every time I went for a job interview for a receptionist, cook, cleaner or saleswoman, people asked me about my husband. Instead of empathy, I received taunts. My skills were ignored and I would be turned down due to the stigma,” she recollects.
To ease her financial burden, her brother, Chiranjeevi, shifted to Mangaluru and took up the job of a security guard. Eventually, Shilpa, too, found a few menial jobs—in a salon, cyber cafe, and a factory. However, it was still hard for her to get by.
Not willing to live a life with difficulties, Shilpa started exploring options that would increase her income and just when she was about to reach a dead-end, a conversation with her mother came to her rescue.
Recollecting the conversation that took place in 2015, Shilpa says, “My mother has always loved my cooking style, and would always jokingly wish for a hotel that served my style of food. I was out of ideas, so I thought, why not bank on my culinary skills, and do something?”
However, Shilpa did not have enough money to lease or rent land for her food outlet. So, she decided to buy a second-hand truck and withdrew Rs 1 lakh that she had saved as a fixed deposit for her son’s education.
“Using my final savings for a business venture, something that I was very new to, was a huge risk I took. While I did not doubt my cooking skills, I was worried if Northern Karnataka food would be accepted in Mangaluru. But soldiered on. This was unknown territory, but there was nothing left for me to lose,” she says.
Shilpa opened the mobile canteen in 2015 and would operate near educational institutes, offices and malls. Chiranjeevi also quit his job and joined Shilpa.
On day one itself, her food truck made profits. She kept the rates lower than hotels so that everyone could afford to eat there. With time, customers and popularity of the food truck increased and today, the majority of her clients are working professionals in the IT sector, doctors and students. She earns up to Rs 5000 every day, and about a few lakhs every month.
Shilpa proudly informs The Better India that the USP of the food truck is its healthy food that is made without any additives or colour.“We serve healthy North Karnataka delicacies like roti made from jowar, rice and bajra, ragi mudde, rice and traditional spicy gravies.
Her popularity led to a local newspaper covering her life story, and this turned out to be a life-changing moment.
“That story led to more coverage which turned out to be a major turning point for me. In fact, philanthropist Anand Mahindra read about us in a newspaper, and was so moved that he gifted me a Bolero Maxi Truck Plus,” says an elated Shilpa.
Today, the successful entrepreneur is a role model for a community, and her food truck has become a Mangaluru institution. While she has received several collaboration offers from food ventures, she is insistent that she wants to remain independent.
“With god’s grace and hard work, I have reached a better position today, and I have secured my 12-year-old son’s financial future. My only wish now is to open a hotel of my own someday, and I am working hard to make that dream come true” she concludes.
All images have been sourced from Shilpa.
Edited by Gayatri Mishra