The food industry in Northeast India has received a great boost in the last three years. Young people, from all across the nation, are looking inwards and introducing products and services to attend to the ever-evolving needs of people. In Guwahati, Assam, the story is the same. For one man, it is about making a difference and adding value to food culture in the area.
When Bidyut Kalita conceived the idea of his food start up in 2016, the goal was to promote the local Assamese cuisines and flavours among residents and visitors. In December 2019, he finally launched his small-scale food outlet Bhuruka, in Chandmari – home to some of the finest traditional Assamese snacks and quality teas – and has been forging on ever since.
Without a business background, Kalita was driven by passion to make a statement in the industry and promote the local food content of Assam. In this chat with Kalita, he tells us about his business and so much more.
“This is actually my debut venture and my mother Bina Kalita is helping me in this. I’d not done business before, neither am I from a business background. I grew up in Guwahati. I currently hold a masters in arts degree from Gauhati University.” An investment of almost Rs 5 lakhs meant he had some good footing to begin. While the entrepreneurial bug bit him in 2016, his actual entrepreneurial journey began last year. “India’s new startup environment encouraged me a lot,” he says.
His creativity and heritage are two factors that have inspired his business tremendously. Even the name Bhuruka was inspired by Assamese culture and heritage. “The main theme of the name Bhuruka is inspired by the initials of Assam’s three kinds of Bihu festivals and our land; Bh stands for Bhogali Bihu, R for Rongali Bihu, K for Kangali Bihu, and A for Assam. Bhuruka, however, also means a small clay pot,” he adds.
Kalita believes there is a lack of proper utilisation of Assamese traditional and festive food items like Pitha and Laru in cafés & restaurants. “I wanted to add value to Pitha-Laru, and make it a daily consumed product instead of the seasonal consumption it is currently enjoying. I wanted the new generation to be familiar with our local food items,” he enthuses.
“I see the potential of fresh food market at the national level. We can lead that train from Northeast India. Actually, Guwahati is the best option for promoting this concept because it is a metro city, crowds of all kinds are present here, people hangout a lot, it is easy to get the exposure,” Kalita adds.
One crucial part of setting up a food business is putting together a menu. That is one aspect that can make or mar the business. For Kalita, curating the menu for Bhuruka was both simple and challenging. The main focus was Pitha-Laru combined with fusion delights such as Choco Tekeli Pitha, Choco Mahura Pitha, Bhuruka Special Narikol Laru to provide variety.
As for the teas, the formula is simple; made to be “hygienic, authentic, and organic”. All of these are made possible through carefully selected ingredients, making up what he calls the three signature items, which are Masala Tea, Bhuruka Special Tea, and Original Tekeli Pitha. But it’s not just the ingredients and delightful taste that make Kalita’s snacks and teas amazing. The look and feel of Bhuruka is one place everyone should visit. It is described by Kalita himself as a “cool & people friendly environment, an intellectual hub, and an abode suiting for everyone from new to old generation. He caps these up with conditions such as; a fresh food hub, 100% natural, good ambience, promotion of Assamese ingredients, and so on.
Other features of Bhuruka include quality tea varieties, suitable for all ages, as well as immunity boost. His snacks are made with fresh rice powder, coconut, jaggery, almond, cashew, milk, and several other everyday items. His delicious snacks and teas at the café can be bought at prices ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 40.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought about new ways of doing things. Measures were taken by both organisations and governments across the world to limit the spread of the virus. For Bhuruka, it was ensuring the use of face masks, hand sanitizer and other government protocols.
Beyond making delicious snack and teas, Kalita takes his spare time to engage in other activities like writing, music, and having conversations with core friends. He is also very involved in multiple social initiatives like Bhuruka Fight Hunger Initiative for the needy.
It may not seem like a lot right now, but with the vigour, passion and originality that Kalita’s startup comes with, the sky looks like only a starting point for this entrepreneur.
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