The grisly toll of people affected by Covid- 19 is mounting worldwide. At present, 38.5 M positive cases have been reported globally, while India stands at 7.31M and counting. The pandemic has engulfed the world in utter chaos. Economies have been ruined, businesses have dwindled to a trickle, corporations have had their employees fired and their workshops shut down.
Coronavirus has skyrocketed India’s unemployment rate rapidly. It is estimated that 12.2 crore people have lost their jobs since the onset of the pandemic, out of which 75 per cent were small traders and wage-labourers. It has had people run amok, from pillar to post, in quest of two square meals a day. Lots of people have been displaced from their homes, with migrant workers becoming the worst hit. Unforeseen challenges have come to mar the quality of life. The stories of the present scenario are similar in every region of the country.
Garo Hills, however, stands out for having emerged as an entrepreneurial hub in the wake of this calamity, thereby converting this crisis into opportunity, shedding positive light in these trying times. In fact, it can be rightly said that this outbreak has served as a boon for many aspiring entrepreneurs.
The pandemic unleashed its threat, and simultaneously, the people of Garo Hills went at par along with it and unfurled a multitude of potentials and hidden talents, monetising resources at hand from the comfort of their homes. The region, thus, saw boom in entrepreneurship like never before. The surge of home-based businesses have turned out massively in impressive figures and at present, almost every nook and corner in the hills has an entrepreneur of his/her own making. While there is a rapid rise in online availability of products and services in almost every sector, the increasing amount of food joints takes the cake. It is like a mini-revolution of food deliveries and takeaways that has taken place.
As social distancing is paramount, people cannot hang out freely in public places. This is where cloud kitchens have come to their rescue. The number of such ventures, from pickles and preservation, to fast food, to home-based bakeries, has gone up a notch ever since lockdown was first imposed in the country. Ranging from authentic Garo cuisine, to Tibetan laphings, bao buns, burgers, noodles, dumplings, and a host of other delicacies, there is no dearth for good food as they are available aplenty. Social media is flooded with newly discovered chefs with their business handles displaying their menus, pictures of tantalising dishes, and contact numbers.
One such venture under the name of Baozi Buns was founded by Santalisa Sangma, Melkior Sangma, and Ronny Momin in the mid of July. The cloud kitchen is run on Instagram and goes by the handle name ‘Baozi bun’. Their menu consists of beef and chicken thukpa, mini beef, and chicken burger, beef shapta, and tingmo. They also keep updating their menu from time to time with new items on their platter.
The business has been running quite well, and the trio plan to continue it post pandemic and perhaps turn it into a full-time outdoor café in the near future. They have partnered with ‘Carry My package’ who does all their deliveries. Santalisa Sangma had a job prior to the pandemic, while the other two are pursuing their studies. “We do have a lot of customers, we manage to get 90+ orders every weekend and it’s overwhelming to see such a great response from the people,” Sangma is quoted as saying.
In another part of the same town, Kasaan Chokchim M. Sangma, a final year bachelor student of Don Bosco College, Tura, together with her mother, Silche M. Sangma, founded Home.mad.pickle, a.k.a Ama-ni jakma, which translates to mother’s handiwork. It is a venture into the world of preserving and pickling. They first started with only bamboo shoot pickles which they mobilised through social media. The demand for varieties arose as customers multiplied and hence, more items were added. Today, their menu includes beef pickle, pork pickle, chicken shredded pickle, lemon pickle, roselle leaves pickle, along with bamboo shoot pickle. Her mother does most part of making the pickles, while she helps in running the business, mobilising and reaching out to customers.
Fornia K. Sangma, a graduate in B.Sc, Nutrition and Dietetics, from the College of Community Science, CAU, Tura, is another one of these entrepreneurs who emerged during the period of pandemic and is paving the way for all other prospective students in her field. She is the owner of Genuine Cakes and Wines.
Made in the confines of her home, Fornia Sangma’s cakes and wines are available for delivery as well as takeaway. One can choose from a wide range of pound cakes, sponge cakes, cheesecakes, and wine made from locally available fruits. As she waits to join her master’s, she is making productive use of her time and degree. “I do plan to continue my business journey along with my further studies. Till date, there is no negative feedback about my products. I also make cupcakes and mini cakes, and the cheesecakes are prepared by a close friend. Currently, I have one delivery boy who is a college student,” says Fornia Sangma.
With so much to choose from, the foodies of Garo Hills are truly spoilt for choices. Such enterprises are not only engaging and productive, but they are also a means of self-employment and sustainability. Competition for white collar jobs has become tough. Entrepreneurship is a fresh route one can take to escape from the cut-throat competition in the rat race, and also reap the advantages of being one’s own employer, while also generating employment to others.
It is encouraging to witness such positive stories at a time when the world is struggling to embrace this new ‘normal’ and accept and cope with the presence of the virus which is here to stay for perhaps some more time. Who knows, by then, we will have a lot more of hidden potentials and talents to unfold.