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  • Manika Gupta

Nano businesses: Travelling vendors as foot soldiers for big brands

Updated: Mar 26

Mobile vendors have the toughest job says the distributor

In this land of many food stories, travelling food vendors dishing out food morsels is a particularly interesting one.  One may think it is a small town or village phenomenon, but the calls and cries of these vendors are very much a part of almost every Indian city.

Each vendor has a specific cry and the cry is not random or spontaneous but one that their forefathers also used to call. The vendors could have a bicycle or carts. They have no specific business models but they work for 12 hours every day. All businesses have their challenges but street vendors have the toughest job that begins in the morning and ends till all their product is sold out.

When speaking of summer, can the ice-cream carts be far behind? These are the foot soldiers for big brands like Quality Walls of Hindustan Levers, Amul of NDDB, Mother Dairy, Cream Bell and Vadilal.  

There are pockets where one finds huge concentration of these pushcarts. In Delhi, the War Memorial India Gate is the biggest battleground for these brands. It is one such largest selling points for these ice-creams.  Each cart does good business from March till monsoon rains hit Delhi/NCR. These carts are the direct point of sale for the big companies.

Business Model:

These vendors get their carts through sub distributors and get a certain percentage of the total sale.

Manoj Gupta who is a sub distributor based out of sector 31, Noida says that he has given out around 20 carts in 3-4 sectors that he deals in but the main distributor for Kwality Walls is in Sector 53. There are area vice distributors who further give out the pushcarts to vendors willing to sell ice creams for their livelihood. This is the distribution model followed throughout Delhi/NCR.

Aditya Kumar Gupta who sells ice creams for Kwality Walls opposite 25 sector, has

got his ice cream cart through a distributor in Nithari, Noida. He has positioned his cart opposite a school and is able to sell Rs4000-Rs5000 worth of ice creams every day. Out of these he get 15%.

Similarly, Shiv Mangal sells Havmore brand of ice creams opposite Sector 21. He also has a distributor in Nithari and makes 16% on the total sale. He says as far as Havmore ice cream is concerned, there are not so many buyers. He sells Rs 2000-Rs 2500 worth of ice creams daily from morning to evening.  He says, the sales will pick up after Holi.

Momo carts are also to be seen on the streets these days. They may not be attached to a brand but sell premium momos in the evening.


 These vendors certainly have a knack for getting their timing right. It’s mostly in the summer evenings that one can see these vendors lined up on important streets.  . And the summer holiday timing?

Aditya Gupta sells between 12 noon to 11 pm, similarly Shiv Mangal is also on his feet for at least 12 hours, although he may sell at a time when he can get maximum customers. 


According to distributor Manoj Gupta, there are several challenges in this business:

1.       The pushcart vendors often face regulatory challenges including zoning restrictions and licensing requirements.  A distributor has to help them resolve those, he said.  Steering the bureaucratic hurdles can be time-consuming and pose barriers to entry or expansion of these entrepreneurs.

2.       Dependence on weather: Secondly, the business is seasonal and there is dependence on weather conditions. Too much heat or cold can impact their ability to operate.

3.       Visibility:  visibility is another problem for the pushcart vendors and the distributors. A distributor has to decide the areas where he thinks there will be good sale. They have to strategize their locations so that they attract more customers

4.       Security: The distributor also has to support them with securing both the pushcart and the merchandise. This is a challenge in the daily operations.


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