Smallest format Retail: Pani Puri Walas

While writing on retail, what attracted my attention recently is the mushrooming of the smallest format retail all over Bangalore. It is the ubiquitous Pani Puri stalls that have come up in last year or so. I used to miss good Gol Gappas in Bangalore and there were countable number of places in town where you could go and savor this delightful snack. But over last one year or so they have emerged in every nook and corner of the city. You can easily spot one outside almost every big retail store. 

These Pani Puri walas are probably the smallest format of retail. They just sell one item: Pani Puris and that too in may be not more than couple of variant i.e. khatta or meetha (sour or sweet). Format is simple, you stand around the stall and you are given a disposable bowl made up of dried and compressed leaves. So by eating a Pani puri you are not impacting the environment in anyway, unlike the more sophisticated places where you get disposable holders made up of paper, plastic or thermocol, all of which have a degrading impact on the environment. You will be served Pani puris in turns, and the last Pani puri is usually a dry one. You can ask for extra water at the end if you like having an extra serving of it at no extra cost. Pay Ra 10/- and make way for the people waiting for their turn.

The outlet or the stall occupies around 1ft X 1ft space on the floor and about 3ft X 3ft space on the platform. The way the compact space is managed is an excellent example of optimized space utilization. In that small space they have some thousand odd Pani Puris, which are stacked in such a way that these fragile beings are not hurt and lost. It is probably a good example of how packaging should be done. Along with this are at least three large vessels containing the yummy water in two varieties and filling of potatoes and chhole or chick peas. There is a box stacked on top of these vessels somewhere that stores the masalas. There are various polythene bags hanging from the bottom of the platform, which hold things like disposable bowls, paper napkins, lemons for that last dry pani puri, boiled potatoes and chic peas for refilling as and when the vessel goes empty. All the items are creatively tied with a rope and nothing ever falls.

They sell only in the evenings, typically from 5 PM – 9 PM, a neat 4 hour work day. I spoke a few of them and most of them hail from Allahabad in UP and are in some way or other are related to each other.One big family in business, literally dominating the Pani puri business in Bangalore. The typical turnover per day is about 800-1000 Rs a day for a strategically located stall. Owning a stall costs around 2000-2500 Rs. Pricing of the items is interesting, a plate of Pani puri is always priced at Rs 10/-, and what changes from vendor to vendor or rather location to location is the no. of puris that you get for that 10 Rs. Now is this not an interesting pricing model, where the price point is fixed, no matter where you eat across the city, but depending on my costs and advantage points I change the quantity that I serve. The price point is small enough to attract repeat customers from every strata of society every time the stall is in their sight.

If you think I have written this piece with a huge bias towards Pani Puris and the people who provide them, you are absolutely right 🙂


Anuradha Goyal