Impact of Lockdown on Street vendors and measures taken for helping them.

How will celebrations, eating out, formal & casual dining, home deliveries, street food snacking will be affected? Will all this impact what we buy, even before it impacts what we eat? Will the COVID-19 pandemic be the final nail in the coffin that makes the world switch over to healthier eating alternatives and practices? Food consumption and eating habits are likely to be significantly impacted as a result of all the new concerns about hygiene, personal safety, and social distancing. Consumers might shift towards an organic lifestyle, move further away from chemical-based products, and prefer consuming organic food free from pesticides and insecticides. The price-sensitive consumers will become mindful of the quality of the ingredients and hygiene of the food. People had already started showing interest in cooking at home by sharing recipes and cooking tips during the lockdown. This will cut down on the frequency of eating out. Eating street food will not be the same when the lockdown is lifted.

Vendors, especially those selling street food, are going to be adversely affected, as people will be reluctant to eat on the road fearing the spread of the virus. Vendors displaced by physical distancing regulations would have to either relocate, if such an alternative is possible, or they would go out of business. Most of the street vendors from different regions have gone back home or are stranded with no work and no income. There is no food on the street. Without a scheme to sustain street vendors through this lockdown and the precautions that must follow a gradual rollback, urban distress will be widespread and difficult to manage. But now the vendors are eager to know what they can do to revive their business. They have suffered a lot in the last two months.

Looking at the situation in hand, the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) has decided to prepare Delhi’s street food vendors for the new normal by training them to take measures while selling food. The training includes wearing protective gear, cleaning the cart with disinfectants, opting for online payments, a separate table for customers to collect food, home deliveries, and a few other things. The training will be based on guidelines prepared by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for food businesses during the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. The training guidelines for vendors also emphasize cleaning the surfaces that are touched frequently using disinfectants such as sodium hypochlorite at least twice daily, the importance of hygiene while cooking, and making proper arrangements to sanitize their hands. Vendors will be taught about hand hygiene, social distancing, etc which are essential today.

As per government records based on surveys done in 2007 and 2011, there were close to 90 lakh authorized street food vendors. Approximately 3.5 lakh vendors are in Delhi but their exact number is not known. The training is likely to 19–20 districts and over 500 street food vendors will be trained in the first phase. The Delhi government is taking efforts to prepare a detailed plan for street vendors and create fixed vending zones which will help ensure social distancing. Despite all the efforts taken by the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NAVSI), vendors are unsure if people would prefer eating roadside food even when the situation normalizes. Street vendors fear that business will not bounce back quickly and people will socialize less in crowded places. Moreover, buying protective gears and disinfectants is also an added expense for the street food vendors. There is a lot of uncertainty.

Coronavirus is certainly one of the biggest economic setbacks in India in the recent past. Lots of businesses will find it hard to make it through this scenario. But once this pandemic is over, it is going to open new opportunities for small businesses. Every disaster carries with it the seeds of opportunity. This can be harnessed to create businesses. While it might be difficult for street food vendors to change their profession due to the acquired skills, we can see some positive changes in the services of street food. Everybody prefers to order in or buy good food after a long day of work. And nothing can beat a warm plate of delicious lunch at work during your break. Zipped by on the roads today, it should come as no surprise then that online food delivery is set to supersize to a hefty $200 billion by 2025. People are going to avoid crowds and prefer home delivery. There will be an increase in demand for delivery services. The introduction of home delivery services by street food vendors is key to combat viruses and diseases that prevent people from going out. Delivery will be key to success and a key to beat the recession.

In recent times, you can find even a lot of organized retailers who are offering street foods in a designed way. Also, they are offering franchise opportunities to new entrepreneurs. Some of the most successful ventures are tea stalls, Pani Puri, and even vada pav. As consumers will be resistant to go out to eat, developing a new app that connects vendors with the customers and building ambassadors in different areas to work with consumers and vendors could help. Moreover, sanitization will not be a big challenge for street food vendors as they work with minimal equipment when compared to a restaurant. Digital payments will become a necessity rather than a luxury for both consumers and vendors due to constant risk. Vendors might even make a shift to selling fruits and vegetables. There is a need to create a new positive ecosystem for street food vendors through an endorsement for food vendors by chefs and developing organized street food hubs at tourist places. It is a fact that street food video creators earn more than the street food vendors themselves. It is time for chefs, writers, food bloggers, food journalists, YouTubers, civil society and the government to work together to help food vendors revive their business.

Contributed By- Alvina Begum Zeba, Content Writer @ Mitti Ke Rang

At Mitti Ke Rang, we started with a COVID-19 community support fundraising, as an emergency response to provide a safety net to families. This will help them survive in the lockdown period. We aim to directly support these families by providing a minimum wage, through transferring the same into their accounts or partner with local NGO, Organisation, Fellow or a Volunteer, and support them with groceries.

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A social venture dedicated to empowering widows and single women to overcome poverty and dependency.