MAY 2020  
In Conversation
Altering Lives, the Green Way

What prompted the launch of mobile kitchens? What was the driving force behind this initiative?

When my domestic help fell sick, she sent her daughter to work for us. Through my wife, I came to know that she (our domestic help’s daughter) is a commerce graduate. I was saddened that despite being a graduate, she had no source of employment. Since I am a dealer of electric vehicles (EVs), I had designed a stainless steel kitchen with facilities such as a banmarie (to keep food warm as is done in star hotels), a dosa plate/burner, a paratha and a chapati deskfitted on my EV and created a concept called ‘food on electric wheels’.

When councillors from the Kalamassery municipality (in Kerala) visited my showroom, they decided to put the idea to good use. Furthermore, they accepted my proposal of providing an alternate living to street vendors, since this would mean clearing pathways in the city without a problem (this is because most pathways are occupied by street vendors). Till date, we have supplied nine vehicles to Kudumbashree members with financial support from Bank of India.

In which part of Kerala was this initiative launched? How has the response been?

Cochin is a metropolitan city, whereas Kalamassery is a nearby municipality enjoying all the benefits of a modern city. Usually, the street vendors start their business by 6 p.m., mostly to cater to office goers who leave their workplace by around 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. While going back, they are hungry and need a small bite while waiting for their bus or train or even while riding back home. This gives an opportunity for the roadside food stall business to thrive. One of our beneficiaries jokingly told me that she had no time to quarrel with her husband since they both were busy in preparing their vehicle, equipping it with pre-cooked food and driving it to the city junction to start their business.

Which are the other districts where this initiative is likely to be launched? Have you got inquiries from government bodies and private organizations outside Kerala as well?

We do have inquiries from various municipalities and city corporations. Kudumbashree is an organization spread all over Kerala in almost 14 districts. Major cities such as Cochin, Calicut, Trichur, Kottayam, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram, Palghat have a population of above 5 lakh and most of it is moving population. Just like Mumbai and Delhi, cities in South Indian states have also inculcated a culture of eating from street vendors, more so by office goers and shop owners in these cities.

How have families and women benefited from this venture?

Indeed, there has been a paradigm change that I have witnessed in their lifestyle—this is what I see when I go to conduct classes or to evaluate their financial stability.  Being a businessman, I feel I am serving the society and local community by guiding them to establish their MSME model eatery. The entire family is involved in preparing food and its sale thereafter, while the extra food is consumed by the family members as their dinner. This has helped in the eradication of poverty and malnutrition in a family. Children are also keen to help their parents because they will also get pocket money for their daily expenses. When the woman is earning and has a control on the finances, it means the family is financially safe. This is because women spend judiciously whereas men end up spending it on liquor, often forgetting about their children in the process. I am happy that all these nine families now live in great satisfaction and happiness. It is essentially a self-employment venture by an unemployed woman to find her dignity—where the husband and children are partners as well. It is also a training ground for their children and will enable them to survive.

How do you prepare women and their families for this venture?

Municipality councillors find the beneficiaries—those struggling to feed and educate their children. Then, we call all of them to the municipality office and explain about our ‘Food on Wheel’ project. Once they fill the NULM application form, we help them raise `20,000 to deposit in the bank as their first contribution to this `330,000 project. The bank pays us the total amount and this money is used to equip the vehicle—it helps cover the cost of the battery, the solar unit, utensils, and stainless-steel kitchen units. We then call the beneficiaries to attend training classes and execute this project in a successful manner.

Sapna Gopal is an independent writer on environmental concerns and renewable energy. She can be reached on [email protected].

© TERI 2020

Nominations open for CSP Today India awards 2013

The inaugural CSP Today India awards ceremony takes place on March 12, and CSP developers, EPCs, suppliers and technology providers can now be nominated.

CSP has made tremendous progress since the announcement of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010. With Phase I projects now drawing closer to completion, the first milestone in India’s CSP learning curve is drawing closer. CSP Today has chosen the next CSP Today India conference (12-13 March, New Delhi) as the time for the industry to reflect upon its progress and celebrate its first achievements.

At the awards ceremony, industry leaders will be recognized for their achievements in one of 4 categories: CSP India Developer Award, CSP India Engineering Performance Award, CSP India Technology and Supplier Award, and the prestigious CSP India Personality of the Year.

Matt Carr, Global Events Director at CSP Today, said at the opening of nominations that “CSP Today are excited to launch these esteemed awards, which will enhance the reputation of their recipients. I am particularly excited to launch the CSP India Personality of the Year award, a distinguished honor for the industry figure deemed worthy by their peers.”

All eyes will be on the CSP Today India 2013 Awards when nomination entry closes on February 4 and the finalists are announced on February 11. The awards are open to all industry stakeholders to nominate until February 4 at or by e-mail to [email protected]

Matt Carr
+44 (0) 20 7375 7248
[email protected]