If you pass through Church Street in Bengaluru, it is unlikely that you’d miss the person in a monkey mask next to a small kiosk, playing music. But don’t mistake him for a roadside busker playing music for your entertainment. Behind the mask is a 21-year-old graduate whose actual business entails running a unique food stall with only one item on the menu — a sandwich.
Ankur Indoria, a business administration graduate from East West College of Management in the city, started the venture straight out of college instead of looking for a job or taking part in campus placements. It is even more interesting to know that the business idea was conceived from a casual conversation with his brother, and materialised in 12 days.
“I like to think about business ideas that attempt to fill the gaps in existing businesses. In December 2020, I was casually chatting with my sibling about issues that street food vendors face,” Ankur tells The Better India.
No monkey business
These problems included issues such as lack of hygiene, the unorganised sector and how the job is viewed as a final resort. “Street food is popular among Indians. However, vendors often start the business assuming they are out of options or when they face a lack of funds. They feel like this is the best way for them to earn a living. I wanted to change that notion,” Ankur adds.
He decided to come up with an upmarket, attractive cart that sells a single food item. “I designed a small cart of dimensions of 18×18, and fit in a music system, cash box, gas cylinder, lights and a compartment that could store inventory to last a week. Moreover, the cart has wheels and can move easily,” he explains.
The entrepreneur says that he had not decided the menu during the design. “Research on street food made me realise that there are not many sandwich vendors in the city. I decided to do away with the traditional cucumber, tomato, and onion sandwiches spread with green chutney and introduced a sandwich that had a mix of vegetables including olives, paneer, corn, bell pepper, and tofu, blended with sauces such as harissa, mayonnaise and others. The mix is stuffed in garlic bread garnished with grated cheese and grilled. I named it Street Toast 101,” Ankur says.
He christened the startup as OH-Ho. To make the business funky and attract customers, Ankur bought a monkey mask to wear during business hours. “I first wore it to a restaurant to judge people’s reaction, and they took notice,” he adds. The idea of the cart was to be simple in terms of the food that was being offered, and yet, what attracts potential customers more is the mask, which attracts curious passers-by on the street. Around 75-100 customers flock to visit this eccentric man’s cart every day.
‘A street food business should not be the last resort’
Ankur says he first stood at Church Street on 8 January 2021, offering the sandwiches at Rs 40. “Initially, people felt that me wearing the mask and playing music was an act of amusement. It took time for passers-by to realise that I am offering sandwiches. The beginning was slow, and customers took time to get accustomed to the sandwich’s taste. Regardless, business picked up at a good pace,” he says,
Abhijit Nair, an entrepreneur and customer of OH-Ho, says he loves the sandwich. “The monkey mask is a unique addition. I frequent this place during weekends, and while there is a single variant of sandwich, you’d still want to have another,” he adds.
Ankur plans to start a new outlet at Indiranagar in the coming months. “I also wish to bring variations in the sandwich within the single food menu,” he says.
He adds that through the business, he wants people to look at street food through a better perspective. “People around me were sceptical about whether I could pull the idea off, and perceived the cart as inferior. But there should be no shame in doing business on the streets. It is not the last resort. Moreover, the small business could be a great platform for youngsters to intern or take entrepreneurial lessons and earn money,” he says.
Edited by Divya Sethu
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