The joys of devouring golgappa from a street vendor can never match that of eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant, because nothing screams more homely, comfy and satisfying like street food. It does not differentiate between light and heavy pockets, between people’s religion and skin colour. It is simple and uncomplicated.
According to Maheima Kapur, street food or local food is an integral part of getting under the skin of a city and understanding its ethos. She enjoys talking to street vendors, hearing their stories and documenting some of them. So she put together her love for food and food vendors, and Talking Street was born to help locate the best of local/street food in a city, for both local foodies and tourists alike. This food discovery platform in Bengaluru started in July of 2014; the platform went live the same year in October.
Part of the Nasscom’s 10K ecosystem, Talking Street has covered 325 outlets till date. It curates local food joints worth a visit, in different parts of the city, and provides its users geo-location relevant information along with user-generated reviews to guide them.
Last year in December, the platform went live with its content on Goa, because of its interesting food culture. “Goa sees a huge influx of tourists and that makes Talking Street relevant to a larger set of users, compared to only Bengaluru-specific content”, she says.
Curently, Talking Street piloting a model that allows users (individuals/offices) to bulk-order local or street food for events and parties from a limited set of selected and trained vendors who will hygienically prepare, pack and deliver the food to the user’s location. Talking Street makes a commission on the total amount.
Born and brought up in Kolkata, Maheima was schooled in Delhi and completed her graduation in Physics from Sri Sathya Sai University in Anantapur in 2002, followed by an MBA from IIM Bangalore in 2005.
With nine years of experience in marketing and sales in FMCG organisations, understanding consumers, translating their stated and unstated requirements into solutions, and developing engaging and exciting communication gave the 34-year-old Maheima a kick. She lives by the code of enjoying when she is doing and being good to everyone who comes her way.
Walking a tightrope
An entrepreneur’s way is paved with challenges and Maheima’s is no different. “Resource usage is a key question that I need to answer every month. How do I maximise what I get out of the money I spend and how do I make the money last as long as needed to allow the venture to get off the ground. This is the reason that the current team is extremely lean and needs to work hard to deliver on all fronts. My mentor does an excellent job of keeping me on track regarding this,” she says.
There are dark phases too and, according to Maheima, there always are periods of self-doubt and figuring out what to do next. Positivity and resilience in the face of challenges keeps her going.
She is also thankful for and appreciative of small things. “I have a good team, a balanced, encouraging mentor who is an entrepreneur himself with 25 years of experience, a grounded and highly qualified technical advisor and a product lead who brings a lot of insights and positivity to work. Often, the company culture changes with new talent but I would like to ensure that I recruit people who fit into our value-driven, eco-conscious, deeply committed and accountable culture,” Maheima adds.
In the next few years, she wants to build a sustainable, scalable business without compromising user experience.
Street food in Bengaluru
Talking about the street food culture in Bengaluru, Mahiema says, “It is gradually evolving in the face of its cosmopolitan culture. There are a lot of interesting street food joints and eateries that are coming up.” Here are a few of her recommendations: VV Puram food street for local specialities such as akki roti, ragi roti, paddus, holiges etc. Other recommendations are a Chinese dosa at one of the 99 variety dosa joints, hibiscus tea at Sharon Tea Stall on 80 ft road Indira Nagar, and Mexican chat at RR’s Blue Mount in Vasanth Nagar.
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