Puduvizo Khatso along with his staff at the food truck in Kohima Credit: Max Menuoseo Khieya

Kohima: Despite economic hurdles due to the lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic, local entrepreneurs in Nagaland are still determined to venture into newer territories. With the relaxations in lockdown guidelines, a new food truck has now been seen in the heart of Kohima town and is, not surprisingly, attracting crowds in hordes.

EastMojo reached out to the Naga restaurateur who began the initiative.

Puduvizo Khatso, a local entrepreneur who has been in the food industry since 2009, ventured into the food truck business over a week ago. As food trucks are not a common sight in Kohima, Khatso’s newest start-up — ‘Burger Factory’ — has become the talk of the town.

Speaking with EastMojo, Khatso recounted how the idea of the food truck was brainstormed way before the COVID-19 pandemic. “I have been researching on the internet. I made blueprints and started constructing the van in the month of January and completed it by mid-March before the lockdown. But due to this pandemic, the plan came to a halt,” the 32-year-old said.

Khatso revealed that the truck is a ‘modified’ one. He added: “I searched around the town and found a second-hand van. I purchased it and cut the body off. At a steel fabrication near my home, a new body was constructed.”

Locals seen outside the food truck in Kohima

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Khatso, who owns the Inroad Cafe, a popular restaurant in Kohima, also said that due to lockdown, the cafe was forced to shut down, affecting regular business.

“I could not run the cafe, so I had to find ways and means to earn some income to pay the staff, clear the bills and the house (room) rent. I started some online deliveries which wasn’t running well but did manage to make some income. That’s how I barely managed to pay my staffs, although not in a full payment, but to help them carry on,” he told EastMojo.

Despite the hurdles, Khatso was determined to start the food truck. When all economic establishments were permitted to operate by September 1, Khatso approached the Kohima Municipal Council (KMC) and received permit for the food truck. By September 4, the food truck hit the streets of Kohima and by Saturday, it made its online presence.

With an investment of over Rs 3 lakh for the food truck, Khatso said that the average daily profit is around Rs 2,000-2,500. Mostly parked by the roadside at Old MLA junction, the food truck serves burgers, food wraps and rice bowls. “I am planning to introduce fried items as well. We are currently focusing on burgers. We have four varieties of burger: Terikayi, Juicy Lucy, Tandoori and Double Decker. There will be more items in the future,” he said.

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Burgers being prepared at the food truck in Kohima

As the business starting off in the middle of the pandemic, Khatso said that necessary safety measures are followed. “We are trying to maintain social distancing among the customers and providing hand sanitizers. For the staffs, they put on their masks and gloves for hygiene,” he said.

While there has been a good response from its customers, Khatso highlighted that getting a parking lot in the town becomes a difficulty due to the vehicle traffic. The food truck is open after 1 pm at Old MLA Junction, depending on the availability of the parking space.

Khatso is a graduate from Baptist College in Kohima and has also studied tourism in Singapore for a year. He ventured into the food business with his elder brother. He is also a father to three children aged 5, 4 and the youngest being a month old.

As he emerged stronger following the pandemic, he reminds entrepreneurs to be “determined, never give up and not to lose hope”. “There are plenty of opportunities. Even if one business fails, if you explore, you will always find an option,” he optimistically shared.

Two employees at the food truck pose for a photo on Tuesday

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