Masala Wheels, started as a food truck in 2015, has now turned its focus to giving back to the most critical part of the society
by LYDIA NATHAN/ pic by TMR FILE
EACH day, in one of Petaling Jaya’s older residential neighbourhoods, an eatery comes alive with the hustle and bustle of cooking, packing and delivering food to people who need it the most.
Masala Wheels started as a food truck in 2015, selling South Indian and Sri Lankan specialties.
Today, Masala Wheels has turned its focus to giving back to the most critical part of the society — the homeless, the refugees, the medical frontliners and the urban poor.
Co-founder Kuhan Pathy said between purchasing a second-hand truck in 2015 and opening its first eatery in 2017, the whole idea evolved into not only an eatery, but also a social enterprise.
“Some of our employees are youths from juvenile detention centres or former drug addicts. It began when we found out one of the boys had gotten involved in a gang fight and we wanted to help him get back on the road of transformation,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview recently.
Kuhan said in that process, he and the other six founders of Masala Wheels — Kumaresh Pathy, Ravindran Subramaniam, Dinesh Pandian, Thanaselan Rajendran and Rubaneswaran Thevasenabathy — had met more people on the path of recovery.
“When we first asked them what sort of industry they were interested in, food and beverage seemed to be a common theme,” he said.
He said despite all the competition and regulations across the food truck industry, business was going well — until a virus literally brought the entire world to a halt, forcing the eatery to suspend operations.
“We encountered a deep problem when the Movement Control Order (MCO) began. Some university students who were stranded, approached us to deliver food to them.
“Since resources were tight, we put it out on social media and tried to raise funds,” he said.
Kuhan said within 15 to 30 minutes, people from all walks of life were contributing towards this cause.
“So, we initiated #FoodWithoutBorders through a ‘Pay it Forward’ campaign, where an individual or group could purchase a meal for RM5 and we would get it delivered to those in need.
“We were rapidly being alerted to the plights of many and realised it was not just university students who faced a dilemma, but many others who had suddenly lost their source of income,” Kuhan said.
The team felt a calling to act immediately and Kuhan said it was an honour when government agencies began extending their support in ensuring an open, transparent and accountable delivery system to deserving beneficiaries.
“Deliveries have taken place in three manners. Firstly, the Ministry of Youth and Sports helped connect us to various delivery companies.
“We are also using our own dispatch companies and outside delivery companies that we’ve labelled as priority cases because of loss of income, so we also want to help them earn something,” Kuhan said.
The enterprise now delivers about 700 meals daily, all across the Klang Valley from Cyberjaya to Balakong to various hospitals and all the way to some families in Hulu Langat. Kuhan said there are more than 20 riders each day, using motorbikes, cars and pickup trucks for the larger packages.
“Initially, we were only delivering food, but as this social movement became more significant, we had people donating clothes and hygiene products.
“Some sundry shops donated bottles of milk and food items as well, and a bakery called Haruka Bakery produces 200 items every day to donate to us, so we can distribute to families,” he said.
The team packages everything together in an aim to help sustain families even after the MCO is lifted.
“We understand that it will take time for the dust to settle on this horrible disease and we are looking at helping past the MCO. When our riders are on the ground, we try to get as much feedback as possible, so we can arrange for items based on needs like families needing baby formula or nappies,” Kuhan said.
He cited one unique case in Hulu Langat of a family who were victims of a fire, they were living in a community hall and could not receive any more welfare because of the current situation.
“Hearing that made us want to help, so we packaged hygiene items, clothes and whatever else they needed to deliver to them,” he said.
According to Kuhan, Masala Wheels aims to raise another 16,000 meals for the needy.
How to give or receive
For those wanting to help anyone, or if a family or individual is identified that requires help, donations can be made to Pepper Labs Sdn Bhd at CIMB Bank 8008957698.
The team has requested that the person emails the transaction receipt to [email protected] or send a WhatsApp text to 014-336 2109.
If there is someone you know who may need help, you can also get in touch with the team via that number.
Meanwhile, if you or someone you know needs daily support or meals, one can register beneficiary details at http://beneficiary. masalawheels.com/
Beneficiaries are identified on a daily basis and updated on social media.