Ravi Kumar Sarthi is the young proprietor of Devyanshi Snacks, a low-cost mobile food cart that was started under the banner of PACE Hospitality.
PACE or Pratham Arora Center for Education is an institute that conducts skilling programs that help youth become more employable. Aside from vocational training, it also provides placement in entry-level positions and guidance for entrepreneurial endeavours.
Ravi’s journey from working in the hotel industry to setting up his own business has its beginnings at the PACE Institute in Chhattisgarh.
Born in a village called Darramatha in Chhattisgarh, Ravi lost his father when he was a year old. His mother took up employment at a farm and began to work as a labourer. For many years, it was a struggle to keep her children in school.
When Ravi completed his Class X exams, the family’s financial position took a turn for the worse. He quit school and worked to support his family. During this time, a relative of his who worked with Pratham approached him and encouraged him to sign up for their housekeeping program. He went on to receive three months of training and got placed at United 21, a high-end club in Thane, Mumbai.
Tryst with entrepreneurship
A quick learner and a hard worker, Ravi soon moved from the housekeeping department to the club’s kitchen where he learnt how to cook. In the two years that followed, he spent time in Kodaikanal, Ooty and Mysore and learnt how to cook both South Indian and Indo-Chinese food.
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A cook’s life is not an easy one and Ravi had to face many challenges while working in different places, some of which he described to us during a recent conversation with him.
“In Ooty, it was difficult to commute. The town was nearly 30 kms away from the resort where I worked. If we needed to go to the shops, we had to walk for a kilometre or so to reach them. It was hard living there so I quit and went back to Chhattisgarh and then applied for a position in Mysore. While working there, demonetisation happened and I did not receive two months’ salary. Once again, I returned to Chhattisgarh and worked in Bilaspur, sometimes upto 14 hours a day.”
Eventually, he left his job at Bilaspur and set up his own fast food kiosk. Unfortunately, the business did not do well due to operational difficulties and Ravi had to shut it down within six months.
Setting up a small business
Fortunately, his tryst with entrepreneurship did not end there. Pratham selected him as a candidate for their PACE Bawarchi kiosk initiative and provided him with seed capital and business planning assistance to strike out on his own once more. They also facilitated a low-cost loan from Rang De, as he had little savings of his own and was not able to get a bank loan.
“I tried to get a MUDRA loan but could not do so. I had to run around a lot and it just became a waste of time. With Rang De, I did not have to go anywhere or run around. I got the loan quite easily”.
Ravi opened his mobile food service on 1st February 2018 at a busy bus stop in Champa town and now serves hot dosas, vadas and idlis to his customers. The location is strategic as a steady stream of college students, truck drivers, office goers and travellers pass through the area. He is also the only vendor who serves South Indian food during the day and Indo-Chinese during the night.
We asked him about the difference between having his own business vis-à-vis being employed. He responded by saying, “It feels good to have my own business. While working for other people, if I needed to go anywhere on personal work, I would lose that day’s money. Now I can manage the loss of income even if I open the stall after a break.”
The path ahead
It has only been a short while since Ravi opened shop but business is off to a good start. He earns income averages Rs.700 per day, out of which he comfortably meets all business-related expenses, loan instalments and household expenditure.
Ravi dreams of taking his food cart to exhibitions and melas and would like to increase his customer base. Experience, however, has taught him to wait and watch. He adopts a cautious policy as far are loans are concerned and says,
“Going forward, if I decide to expand the business and cannot manage on my own, only then will I consider taking another loan.”
We hope that Ravi enjoys success on his second outing as an entrepreneur and congratulate him on being named Pratham’s “Entrepreneur for the Month”. We also look forward to joining Pratham in supporting more young men and women who wish to be profitably self-employed.
By Lydia Paulraj
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