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Late night customers at Akash Auto Biryani in Sholinganallur.

Late night customers at Akash Auto Biryani in Sholinganallur.
| Photo Credit: B. VELANKANNI RAJ

An auto-rickshaw puttering around the streets of Chennai is not an unusual sight, but this one, with its bright, orange paint, LED lights, and metal tub where the passenger would sit, is sure to raise a few eyebrows.

Akash Auto Biryani has been serving biryani to the people of South Chennai in a unique way, through the back seat of an auto. K Akash, the owner and founder, is 23 years old, and has an impressive list of jobs under his belt. “I am a bike stunt-rider and mechanic,” he says, apart from his work with his restaurant. “Before this, I used to work at Bai Veetu Kalyanam, the famous biryani restaurant in Navalur, and I used to drive an auto.”

Since his college and diploma days, Akash has always wanted to start his own business. “There are so many new concepts for food trucks, like bike barbeques, but nobody had done anything with an auto,” says Akash. He redesigned his auto, removed the seating area, and added shelves and platforms to keep the large tubs of rice. The ‘food truck’ is located on Old Mahabalipuram Road, near the Sholinganallur junction, and has been there since October 2022. It is open at night, from 8pm to 2am, and largely caters to the residents of the surrounding suburb, and the late-night employees of the nearby IT offices.

After realising that his customers would need a place to sit, and to serve the daytime crowd, Akash opened a restaurant near Thoraipakkam under the same name. It is a cosy, yellow-walled nook on OMR, with the front half of an auto popping out near the restaurant doorway. If it was up to Akash, the entire space would be auto-themed. “I want people to sit in auto-seats, and have headlamps and small fans along with it,” he says. His ultimate goal is to raise enough funds to open a restaurant in Anna Nagar, and make it as yellow, and auto-filled as possible.

Akash runs the restaurant and food truck along with his brother, K Vignesh. “I have five years of experience in the hotel and food industry, but have always wanted to create a new and unique business,” says Vignesh. Everyday, a fresh batch of biryani is prepared by 7pm, with 50 kilograms on weekends, and 30 on weekdays. The food truck has a fragrant stock of both chicken and beef biryani, with raita, brinjal curry and an optional side of Chicken 65.

Akash credits YouTubers for helping boost his popularity when he first launched the idea. “I came after watching a vlog, the concept was interesting,” says Manoj Kumar, a customer at the shop. One of the videos had nearly 4.4 lakh views. And, those who come for the auto, return for the biryani. Prices stand at ₹120 for unlimited biryani, with additional costs for add-ons like Chicken 65. R Gowri, an HR professional, lives in Medavakkam but travels here for biryani. When asked why, she giggles. “It’s good biryani, I do not need another reason.”

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