There was a time when his colleagues must have thought 26-year-old Nitin Agarwal a plain old basket case.
Last August, when management graduates were panicking under the cloud of an economic recession and jostling for job offers, Agarwal did the unthinkable.
The alumnus of the Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon chucked a job offering him Rs 11 lakh per annum from an Information Technology giant to become — what can be called at its crudest — a thelawala.
More than an year later, Agarwal is carting around successfully luck and laughter all the way to the bank.
Acing the taste
Under his flasgship enterprise Chakh le India (Taste it, India) Agarwal sells packed food ranging from full meals, snacks and beverages in 15 pushcarts in the streets outside corporate offices in Gurgaon. His venture fetches him almost the same amount the IT firm had offered him during his campus interview.
What’s more, the young man provides employment to over 20 people who prepare the food and manage the pushcarts.
The son of a businessman and resident of Sector 16 in Faridabad, Agarwal said he started Chakh Le India with a capital of Rs. 25 lakh.
What prompted the young man to go the thela way?
“I foresaw a huge gap between demand and supply when it comes to hygienically packed food being served in the streets for office-goers,” says Agarwal.
“The food on rehris (carts) is very unhygienically cooked and the food in cafeterias inside companies is too expensive. So I saw a huge potential in this segment,” he says.
And economical his food is.
Lunch options include aloo poori and rice with rajma or chhole for Rs. 25 each. (see box on right). A similar meal in a the canteen of a corporate office could cost anywhere between Rs 40 to 50.
However, the going was not always easy for the young entrepreneur.
“My parents wanted me to accept the job offering a seven figure salary — one of the most lucrative offers in my batch,” says Agarwal, standing next to one of his trademark green rehris.
“I come from a middle-class family and the buzzword 'recession' was very daunting those days. I managed finances from two of my entrepreneur friends but they too backed out later,” he says with a wry smile.
He was helped out by other friends and family, he says.
“I got specially crafted tri-wheel push carts from Ramnagar in Delhi and got these painted green with my logo.”
Once the carts wheeled out in the field, the business didn’t get simpler..
“Sometime, goons ask for a 'monthly’ (bribe) for parking the carts,” Agarwal says.
“This is why I have not been able to park my carts in DLF Cybercity that has very high concentration of MNCs.”
But whatever form the opposition may take, it does not deter Agarwal. He has plans to set up 100 such carts in Gurgaon and 1000 in Delhi and NCR.
If his customers’ word is anything to go by, there should be no stopping this enterprise.
“I am a regular visitor at Chakh Le India and find the flavour of the food balanced and price affordable. I am fond of its rice with rajma and aloo poori that I do not find anywhere else around my office,” says Pankaj Vats, an executive with Eastmen Industries.