On my recent visit to Mumbai, I got stuck in traffic that took me four hours longer to reach my destination. Between the tiring and slow-moving traffic at a junction and my hope of arriving at my destination on time slowly dwindling, a vendor approached me with a small packet of roasted peanuts. I don’t exaggerate when I say that the quick nibble helped me brace the traffic again.
And it was with this notion that Gaurav Londhe thought of launching his own vada pav venture so that people stuck in bad traffic jams could have something to look forward to.
While he only caters to people stuck at traffic signals, Gaurav tells us his Eureka moment of how he, with the help of his mother, thought about kicking off a business that included Mumbai’s most beloved snack.
Snacking in a jam
In 2009, Gaurav, a resident of Thane, worked as a pizza delivery boy. “I used to finish my shift around 5.30-6 pm at Andheri and took three hours to cover a distance of 24 km, which ideally should take one hour, to reach back home. Stuck in the traffic snarls, I always felt hungry and craved for a quick snack to help me survive the journey,” says the 30-year-old.
But it was 10 years later, when Gaurav faced similar traffic woes that led to him starting The Traffic Vada Pav in September 2019. “It was around July 2019 during another terrible traffic jam that I realised many people, like me, must be feeling hungry. I wondered — what if commuters get a snack on their way back home,” Gaurav says.
After giving it a serious thought, Gaurav adds, “I always wanted to have my own business.”
After a decade of working in the food delivery business, he says he was confident about his venture. “I knew how to market the product and that there was a potential market that remained unexplored,” he says.
With The Traffic Vada Pav, Gaurav decided to sell fresh, hygienic and neatly-packed vada pavs, with a small water bottle and a tissue paper in a box for Rs 20. The peak hour traffic from 5 pm to 10 pm in the city worked best for his business, which now earns him Rs 2 lakhs a month.
Taking off as a vada pav vendor
Though, leaving a stable job to start his own food venture seemed more daunting to Gaurav’s mother and wife.
His 52-year-old mother, Ranjana, says she was upset after learning about his decision to quit his job. “Gaurav had a stable job and was promoted over the years to a manager, earning him Rs 35,000 a month. I tried to convince him to continue the job but he insisted on starting the vada pav business,” she says.
Ranjana adds that she doubted the business model as well because many businesses were already doing the same thing. “The proposed idea to sell them in a box in the middle of traffic seemed more unrealistic. Customers have a habit of eating the snack fresh in a plate and not packed in a box. They prefer the fritters hot. Also, selling food at a junction always came with the fear of being hit by moving vehicles,” she says.
But Gaurav was adamant and so Ranjana lent her son Rs 1 lakh to invest. “I feared that my son would lose my precious savings over the years. But Gaurav promised to repay me double the invested amount from the business,” she says.
With the initial investment, Gaurav purchased the kitchenware and equipment for the business and spent some money on packaging as well. While his mother agreed to cook, his wife took the responsibility of packing the snack, and Gaurav would sell it at the junction.
“We cooked 50 vada pavs on the first day, and none of them were sold. Gaurav returned disappointed and said that he distributed all of them to the commuters. This continued for the next five days, and Gaurav also took help from two of his friends to sell the snack at the junction,” Ranjana recollects.
“The next week, I was prepared for the same fate but after an hour, Gaurav called excitedly and asked us to make a few more. The demand for vada pavs kept on coming in batches, and we sold over 100 vada pavs that day. The business has since then skyrocketed,” Ranjana says.
Today, the entrepreneur says that he sells about 800 vada pavs a day earning a business of Rs 2 lakh a month. “I earn about Rs 80,000 a month after discounting the costs. I have rented a kiosk and recruited eight boys paying them Rs 6,000 a month to sell the snack. They wear orange T-shirts as uniforms and are easy to spot as they wave a packet of The Traffic Vada Pav at the Teen Haath Naka,” he says.
“If the customers do not find the boys selling vada pav, they call to inquire why the vendors are missing. Some commuters make a quick stopover at the kiosk now,” he adds.
Ranjana still blends the spices and makes the batter for the vadas. She says, “I feel proud that he did not fail me and succeeded in his venture.”
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