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The business of street food, Anubhav, Delhi Food Walks

Listen to Divya dialogue with Anubhav Sapra, founder and foodie-in-chief, Delhi Food Walks on the business of the street food industry in India, and what’s next due to COVID-19.

“When you come for a food walk with me, it’s not only about tasting the local food. It’s about social interaction. It’s not going to be the same post-COVID-19.”

What is the idea behind Delhi Food Walks (DFW)?

Anubhav shares that after finishing his masters, he started working with an NGO, catering to street children. It was then the idea of food walks clicked. After exploring lesser-known cuisines and leading a food walk of 30 people back in 2010, he wanted to make these walks a frequent affair. These food walks started promoting immersive culture and inclusivity. After quitting his job in 2014, he began travelling to various states, exploring cuisines – one city at a time. 

DR Pro Tip: Curating food tours and activities during festivals in India yields a high turn up. 

What are the gaps that DFW is filling in the service industry?

Street food vendors fall under the unorganised sector in India. No organisation caters to their needs or checks their hygiene standards currently. There are over 3 million street food vendors in India.

Health & Hygiene Practices

DFW extends inclusivity and business to the street vendors and also nudges correct health and hygiene practices. The vendors have to keep just 10 yards in and around their cart or shop clean. They have been provided with dustbins and training to execute this. 

DR Pro Tip: Farmer’s market is an efficient way of including street vendors where they can sell their produce. 

Class Distinction

By making the street food more hygienic, DFW breaks the class distinction that the urban upper class execute by not purchasing street food. 

FYI With DR: Singapore is famous for its street food and is more organised for its street hawkers.

What are the challenges in doing food tours in India? 

Inclusivity of Street Vendors

DFW contacts all the vendors before a tour and asks them to follow specific parameters in regards to hygiene and cleanliness. Due to this, even vendors have become an integral part of DFW. 

FYI With DR: Kankaria Lake in Ahmedabad is India’s first ‘clean street food hub’.

Foreign Clients

Most people coming for tours from abroad have the notion that street food would not suit their stomachs. However, the tours see through a good source of hygiene and are changing this notion. 

FYI With DR: Delhi Belly means an upset stomach suffered by visitors to India.

What is the business model of Indian Culinary Tours (ICT)? 

Food tourism was flourishing pre-COVID-19. ICT, another venture of Anubhav, organises week-long food tours in various parts of the country. They also customise food tours for large corporates. 

How have you re-invented during COVID-19?

Tourism is the worst affected sector due to COVID-19; hence food tours and walks will not be seeing the light of day any time soon. “The last food walk we hosted was on 17th March.” Most vendors have now converted to only delivery rather than dine-in. This year there will be no tourism.

Expanding Geographical Bounds

Apart from releasing weekly videos on YouTube, DFW is increasing their geographical reach and speaking with more locals pan India. DFW plans to increase their reach to Assam and introduce tea estate tours. They are utilising this time for research and development. 

Guidelines for Vendors

DFW has released guidelines for street vendors to follow through the pandemic. The aim is to introduce the guidelines at a mass level about wearing masks and gloves, using portable water, accepting digital payments, and disposing of the waste through secure channels.

DR Pro Tip: The most significant advantage of street food is that people can see how their food is being prepared rather than in restaurants. 

How can you define street food? 

Street food is synonymous to the culture of a city or town. It is affordable, accessible, inclusive for all classes, 

  • Mobile Vendors – a nomadic style of selling where a vendor goes from locality to locality to sell the food.
  • Carts/ Hawkers – open make-shift shops or carts stationed across the city selling street food. Even the carts are very mobile. 
  • Shops – proper shops taken on rent or bought in known localities for food but with minimal or no sitting. 
  • Restaurants – highly regarded in quality. A restaurant has a proper dine-in facility catering to about 50-100 people at a time. 

Did you like this podcast? Listen to Divya dialogue with Tejasvini Sinha, a neuropsychologist on how to balance your loss & grief during COVID-19 here.

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