From Necessity to a Resource

Gopal Sheler is a native Goan based at Margao and runs a Food stall at the popularly known Colva Circle. He’s been in this business for more than a decade and is widely known for typical Goan cuisines. In conversation, with Ila Dhond, Content Editor at Tell us about your journey.

Gopal: I started earning at a very young age. I worked at Goa Land in Gandhi Market for three years. When I got married, the salary was not enough. Soon after, I met a man who helped me set up this stall. I started this business in the year 2006. I would stand near the circle. But then, due to construction I moved to this place. Back then I would find it difficult to get a good number of customers. But since it is established now, I am doing well. Why did you think of setting up this Food Stall?

Gopal: I come from a poor financial background. I have five brothers and one sister. When I was young, I could not continue my studies. I studied till fifth grade. My father had to look after his brothers along with his own family. He could not afford our education. We had no support. Had I been educated; I would go for a Government Job and settle down. But that was not possible. Today, I am 47 and have two children- a daughter and a son. I want to educate them till I can. I will not make them continue my business. As a source of income to look after the family, I thought of starting something of my own and that is how this Food stall idea budded in my mind. How did Covid impact your business?

Gopal: Everything was closed for around six months. Last March when Covid cases were found in India, the news started affecting Business slowly. During lockdown, nothing worked. When the lockdown was unlocked, customers started coming slowly and later business picked up. The Food Stalls are said to make hundred percent profit. What do you have to say about it?

Gopal: The Food Stall Business is too much of work. Personally, I keep the stall open till 11 pm. By the time we wrap up it is 12 am already. After going home, we wash utensils, bathe, and then have dinner around 1:30 am every day. I wake up at 6:30 am every single day, prepare for the day, drop kids to the school and then go shopping. I have lunch around 12 in the afternoon and then again get back to work. At 3 in the afternoon, I reach my Food stall and begin. We keep everything ready around 4 pm to 4:30 pm.

There is profit but there is also hard-work. There is no holiday in this kind of business. We keep the stall closed only on Monday. It took me six-seven years to establish the customers. There is a lot of competition in this business. What makes you stand out?

Gopal: I provide quality to the customers. That is the reason people always come back. At first, my brother and I worked together. He worked at a hotel before. There he learnt cooking. I learnt from him. It took me several years to be best at what I do. My recipes are different. The taste I bring to the food makes me different than the rest. Nobody can take the taste from me that I bring to the food. What advice would you give to the amateurs who want to get into this business?

Gopal: Learn the details of the Business. Form your customer base. Giving my own example, I cook a fixed quantity everyday. I never increase the quantity of food even when the customers are more. I have collaborated with bread sellers, egg venders and buy them on a wholesale rate. I have three helpers for quick service. I even tried to expand my business but failed due to lack of finances.

Also, I do not hesitantly ask for add-on money if the customer does not have a change. My strength are my local customers. People will test you and if they really like your product, they will always come back to you.

Know what your crowd day is. Mine is Saturday. People come here mostly on Saturday after their office hours. And being a weekend, it is a win-win situation for both of us.

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