When you think of roadside food, you think of a quick bite-to-eat, on-the-go snack. And while street food is often scrutinised for its quality and hygiene, this food vendor in Mumbai has raised the bar by offering 5-star biryani on the roadside joint.
Walking around the star mall area of Dadar, Mumbai, the aroma of the rice, the juicy tender pieces of meat and the fragrant spices on this food joint provide a mouth-watering call to eat a plate of biryani.
Akshay Parkar, the former chef working at Taj Group of Hotels and international cruises started his venture, Parkar Biryani House after the COVID-19 pandemic brought his career to the shores.
“My parents have been ill for a while now. My mother has undergone two operations for a fractured knee and an elbow injury. My father lost his job after the flour mills closed down and he has been recuperating from tuberculosis for years,” says the 29-year-old.
With his family’s financial condition deteriorating due to frequent illnesses, Akshay decided to gear up and do what he does best — sell 5-star hotel biryani, but this t, on the road.
The Sole Breadwinner
With his family’s entire financial responsibility on his shoulders, in 2010, Akshay took up an internship with Taj Group of Hotels to serve in the airline sector. By 2013 he bagged a contract for international cruises.
“I earned $1,000 a month. But all my savings were spent on my parents’ medical treatment. With their advanced age and prior health conditions, my parents were not eligible for the medical insurance policy, making the treatment more expensive,” he laments.
Akshay says the worst came when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “I thought that after years of struggle I would be able to save more after the treatments but was left with just Rs 20,000 in my savings when I returned home this year,” he adds.
He further shares, “With very little money during the lockdown, meeting daily expenses became difficult. I realised that I had to do something quickly to sustain my family and so I decided to use my cooking skills.”
Speaking about setting up his biryani stall, Akshay says, “A vada pav snack vendor from my neighbourhood went out of business and was willing to hand over his business space to me. I decided to cook the biryani at home and sell it during the evenings on the street.”
Akshay shares that he requested loans from his friends and relatives, but no one could help because everyone was facing financial restraints owing to the pandemic.
Taking His Biryani to The Streets
Akshay spent Rs 10,000 in the first week of operations in September. Along with chicken and mutton biryani, he also has a vegetarian and paneer option priced at Rs 800 a kg and Rs 1,200 a kg, respectively. The chicken biryani is sold at Rs 900 a kg while mutton goes for Rs 1,500 a kg.
Akshay sees about 30 customers a day and also accepts takeaway orders for other food items. “I also cook butter chicken, North Indian, and other food items through personal orders,” he adds.
The chef started with selling 5 kg biryani a day and now sells over 7 kgs each day. “The customers are higher during the weekends, and I am starting to roll out small profits. My biryani’s selling point is that I cook from the recipes I’ve learned at 5-star hotels, working alongside international chefs. The same quality is maintained, even if it is being sold on the road,” he says.
However, selling biryani alone does not cut the mustard. The entrepreneur needs more sales to procure online food selling permissions and pay for the registration fees to offer the items on food delivery platforms to expand further.
With no money to spend on marketing, Akshay’s friends and cousins helped spread the word on local Whatsapp and social media groups.
“After trying the biryani and convinced with the high standards of hygiene, I decided to put up a post on Facebook and on various local groups to make people aware. It helped Akshay increase his business and I was happy to know that his sales increased after a single Facebook post,” says Aarti Velde, Akshay’s cousin.
And now, this entrepreneur has no plans to go back to globetrotting.
“I have decided to continue growing the business here rather than going back to my glamorous job. My parents also need me, considering their medical conditions, and I cannot take the risk of returning to the seas,” Akshay concludes.
Aksay accepts orders on 09869361451.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)