Auto driver’s survival strategy

When the pandemic slowed him down, A. Muthukumar took a different route to self-sufficiency

When the lockdown was on him, 43-year-old Muthukumar became a driver-cum-caterer, following a long stint in the financial-services sector.

Muthukumar is impressed and thankful for the way his catering business has shaped up over the last few months.

Before the pandemic began, Muthukumar lost his job of 14 years with a financial services company in Chennai.

He tried to start his own business but that did not take off. After mulling over whether to run a cab or an auto service, he chose the latter. It was a bumpy ride in the beginning.

“Twenty days after I brought home an autorickshaw, lockdown came into force and I could not drive the three-wheeler,” says Muthukumar, a resident of Kolathur.

An opportunity came from an unexpected quarter. Migrants from Orissa living next door to Muthukumar sought his help in meeting their daily needs and the family obliged by serving them food until they left for their hometown. Word soon spread around the neighbourhood about the family’s cooking and thus was born Maniammal Catering.

Muthukumar now does both – rides the auto and also does home delivery of food, the latter has been fetching him a reasonably good income.

With a regular clientèle of senior citizens and bachelors ordering food from him, “I deliver lunch to 20 people a day; this apart I get orders for special occasions.”

Over the last nine months, Catering Muthu, as he is known, has expanded the scope of his business through technology.

“I have registered with Zomato and also tied up with Dunzo,” says Muthukumar, who has a food licence, and even expanded his kitchen by 120 sq ft to cater to his growing customer base.

“Initially, I was helped by my wife and son. Now, I have two of my relatives helping us whenever we have a big requirement to meet,” he says.

Muthukumar hopes this good run continues, and plans to open a restaurant.

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