Training At-risk Youths and Micro-entrepreneurs to Improve Their Livelihoods
Established in 2015, Masala Wheels is a social enterprise founded by four friends as the first social enterprise food truck in the country. Six years later, they have grown into a multi-award-winning company with SE.A Plus accreditation with multiple ventures that address their social impact mission. They are truly a model social enterprise to look up to.
“Our main focus is to give impact to the B40 community through food and beverage entrepreneurship. Masala Wheels does this by providing sustaining skills to the marginalised communities. We also provide employment opportunities to at-risk youths,” said Kuhan Pathy, co-founder of Masala Wheels.
How It Started
Masala Wheels was founded in 2015 by four young professionals who were friends. They were the first social enterprise food truck in the country. They endeavoured to not only feed the community but empower it at the same time. They offered delicious South Indian and Sri Lankan specialities while providing meals to the homeless along their routes at the same time.
Eventually, the novelty of a food truck faded and the friends realised it was difficult to operate it as a sustainable social enterprise model. Therefore, they expanded their business to open a restaurant in Petaling Jaya in 2017, with a borderless kitchen concept.
Business at the newly opened cafe was slow in the beginning, as the community in the area consisted of many elderly people who were not in the habit of dining out. However, the team’s aggressive marketing on social media platforms attracted customers from the whole of the Klang Valley. It grew into a popular eatery that was always full.
Growing the Social Enterprise
“Masala Wheels was started because the co-founders wanted to help a friend. Then, they realised many youths needed help too. The initiative has expanded to five countries. We have also been published in over 50 publications,” said Gevitha Ananda Roe, project coordinator of Masala Wheels.
“Our beneficiaries have had improvements in their livelihoods because of the income generation. They are getting upskilling and continue to gain experience here, which will enable them to grow,” she added.
In recognition of their good work and stellar performance, Masala Wheels has won a long list of awards, including Malaysia’s Top 10 Most Innovative Young Leaders Awards 2016, The Star Golden Heart Awards 2018, Perdana Young Indian Entrepreneur Awards 2018 for Social Enterprise Excellence, Prestige 40 Under 40 (2019), and Anugerah Perdana Belia Negara 2020, to name just a few.
Masala Wheels’ social enterprise model now focuses on at-risk youths, who are 16 to 18 years of age, including school dropouts, the underprivileged and those involved in social ills. They have an ongoing collaboration with the MySkills Foundation in Klang, where the foundation selects and proposes suitable candidates to Masala Wheels. These students will be trained to work in the food and beverage industry. After finishing their training, the students can choose to continue working in the restaurant or leave to work elsewhere.
“We have been able to expand our kitchen to meet the standards for on-site training. We engaged professional chefs to help us develop SOPs and course structure,” said Gevitha.
In addition, Masala Wheels is a part of the Pemangkin Usahawan Sosial Hebat (PUSH) programme, and supported by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) and the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC). PUSH is a scale-up programme with an ambition to grow social enterprises and increase their social impact through a personalised capacity building and skills development training.
“PUSH has provided us with a platform of opportunities to run as an established social enterprise. We set up a training arm, which is now our most profitable arm. We were able to put our past actions and experiences into a systematic document and this has helped us to replicate our success formula as a franchise system,” said Gevitha.
How You Can Help
Everybody is invited to try their delicious banana leaf rice, which is their signature meal for lunch, served from 11am to 3pm. Masala Wheels is also open for dinner from 6.30pm onwards, but the menu is more limited, with offerings such as nasi lemak, roti canai and chapati. Sunday would be the day for briyani lovers to drop by.
You can order food directly from Masala Wheels at https://masalawheels.oddle.me/en_MY/. You can also buy ‘pay it forward’ meals and ‘pay it forward’ provisions to help those in need at this website too. During the pandemic, taxi drivers and lorry drivers who have lost their income have been recruited to delivery food for Masala Wheels. You can also order food from Masala Wheels through Grab and FoodPanda.
During the pandemic, Masala Wheels decided to lend a helping hand to those in need by providing meals at subsidised costs to the urban poor, students and others facing difficulty because of the nationwide lockdown.
“Thanks to the generosity of the public for supporting Masala Wheels’ #foodwithoutborders initiative, which uses a ‘pay it forward’ system,” said co-founder Kuhan Pathy.
For more information, you can visit their website and social media pages.