Delhi-based Mohit Arora, a chemical engineer and his wife Mahek, a cosmetologist, lived a comfortable life. The duo, who got married in 2018, tell me that they earned a combined salary of Rs 1.25 lakh per month.
However, the dream to someday own a venture of their own was always alive.
“We were contemplating starting a salon or a street food business. But I was unsure about starting a salon as I had no enterprising experience in the field, whereas Mohit cooked well,” Mahek says.
The 32-year-old adds that the investment for a food venture was less in comparison to starting a salon. So, they settled on opening a food kiosk. “It involved fewer risks and the chances of heavy losses were low,” Mahek says.
To cushion their risks, Mahek and Mohit spoke to their respective employers about returning to their jobs in six months, if the venture didn’t pick up.
In 2019, the couple zeroed in on a spot in Ayodhya Chowk, near Rohini sector 7, to start a weekend kiosk selling two items under the name — The Boss Cafe. It offered soya chaap, a soy delicacy and momos (dumplings).
“We invested Rs 50,000, and my brother in law also joined to assist the business,” she says.
Mahek says that besides struggling to establish the business, the couple faced many logistical difficulties. “We started in a small shed of a scooter garage. We had no seating space or a shed to protect us from intense heat or rain. Somehow we managed. I also faced many sexist comments from neighbouring competitors as I was the only female in the area entering the business,” she says, adding, “We often thought that the business would not survive and we’ll have to shut shop. But we ignored all the negative thoughts and comments to focus on the work.”
She adds, “Mohit loves cooking and often prepares unique delicacies like noodles using Tandoori Masala and sauce. We thought of introducing such food items to stand out from other businesses.”
Thus was born — Tandoori Chow Mein, which involves cooking noodles with vegetables and homemade Tandoori Masala. Once the vegetables are stir-fried, the boiled noodles are added with vinegar, juices and other ingredients. When the noodles are ready, a small piece of burnt charcoal in a small bowl is placed between the noodles and covered for a couple of minutes for a smokey flavour.
“The charcoal is removed, and a dollop of butter is added to the noodles. The butter removes the dryness from the smoke while infusing the smokey flavour. The Tandoori flavour lingers in every bite of the food item,” says Mohit, the chef behind the humble kiosk.
The dish is sold at Rs 100 a plate and went viral on social media.
Speaking about the business, Mohit says, “It was slow in the initial days, partly because we offered limited food items. Gradually, we increased the food variety by offering dishes like Baked cheese pasta, Chilli potatoes, Spring rolls and others.”
Mohit says that the COVID-19 lockdown kicked in when their business had started to grow. “We barely survived the situation but reopened after the lockdown restrictions eased,” he says and adds, “Today, we serve about 100 customers per day, which earns us a monthly revenue of Rs 3 lakh. Our profit margins are low, as the food is pocket-friendly and the cost of raw materials continues to increase.”
In future, the couple aims to own a restaurant.
On a parting note, Mahek feels that everyone should follow their dreams and passion. She says, “We did not confine our dreams to our hearts. I believe that even if we failed, there would still be the satisfaction of giving it a try rather than having regrets.”
Edited by Yoshita Rao