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Cold business sense makes his kulfis cooler

A Class 11 pass-out of a government school in Andheri, Sawant says he made major changes to how his father and grandfather did the same business.

Mumbai |
February 27, 2016 2:33:54 am
Kulfi, Night shift, small business, human interest stories humans of bombay, humans of mumbai, street vendor income Satish Sawant waits for customers outside Jogeshwari East station. (Tabassum Barnagarwala)

It is the evening peak hour. Every three minutes or so, a large crowd pours out of the Jogeshwari East station. For these tired, hassled people, it is hard to miss the dhoti-kurta-clad man sitting with a big earthen pot, holding out the promise of creamy kulfis.

Prod Satish Sawant, and he will tell you his visibility is not a coincidence. He has strategically placed himself near the parked autoricksaws, where the commuters queue up.

Great business acumen goes into how the 28-year-old Sawant plies his family trade.

A Class 11 pass-out of a government school in Andheri, Sawant says he made major changes to how his father and grandfather did the same business. One of them is the facility of home delivery, which he introduced understanding the “needs of his customers”.

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“Customers do not want to step out only for a kulfi. If it is delivered to them at home, chances of buying become more,” he explains. Sawant manages to sell all 200 boxes of kulfi he makes by 1 am every night. One box has four semi-cylindrical kulfis.

He specialises in making four flavours, also his bestsellers — badam pista, strawberry, mango and sitaphal. “I earn Rs 2,500 every day and invest Rs 1,500,” he says, with a hint of pride. His earlier generations managed a meagre income.

Sawant, along with his brother, is the breadwinner of his eight-member family living at an Andheri East chawl.

He has recently got married and plans to take a break and stay in Pune with his wife.

Another of his strategies is to price his kulfi lower than the competition, and sell smaller pieces. He has priced his kulfi at Rs 15, Rs 25 and Rs 30.

With ready-made ice-creams always a threat, he says he has to add a personal touch to his kulfis, maintain a rapport with regular customers and smile at each new person who stops by.

After the crowd near the station gets thinner, Sawant roams about on the streets of Jogeshwari, networking and delivering kulfis at home, aiming for customers craving something sweet after dinner. His other major clientele at night, he claims, are “couples roaming on streets.”

His raw material for kulfi is milk, ‘mawa’ (thickened milk), sugar, cardamom and flavours, using which he prepares his stock from early morning till late in the afternoon. “I add a few other things, which I can’t tell you,” he smiles.

Often, Sawant takes an autorickshaw to travel till Kurla and Goregaon to deliver kulfis when the order is large. He has made an agreement with his regular customers to pay one-way fare. He spends on the return journey. “I can’t go by bus or train with my matka (earthen pot),” he explains. Reflecting, he says, “There is nothing else I would do. Making kulfis and connecting with new customers, making them my regulars, feels good.”

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