Black Colleges Use Esports to Attract Students and Hook them on Science and Engineering

Black Colleges Use Esports to Attract Students and Hook them on Science and Engineering

The holiday gift that keeps teenagers on the sofa with game controllers in their hands may help parents pay their college tuition. For some, training to compete in cyberspace contests like Fortnite and NBA2K could soon replace training for team sports — and create a new scholarship pipeline and professional opportunities after graduation.

Gaming and esports are becoming sources of camaraderie and competition for students at HBCUs. Three of the four HBCU athletic conferences have corporate partnerships with developers of gaming platforms that allow students to compete against on-campus peers as well as students at schools in their conferences. And this popular form of social entertainment is quickly becoming more than just a pastime.

“Having an esports presence is very important to our institutions in the future,” Southwestern Athletic Conference Associate Commissioner Jason Cable said.

Fortnite is a wildly popular videogame whose best players can compete for college scholarship money. (Epic Games)

Esports teams and individuals compete head-to-head in live online competitions. The industry has grown rapidly worldwide, with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion and global audiences of more than 443 million, according to research by Green Man Gaming.

Most conventional sports franchises took financial losses last spring as American sports leagues postponed events and slashed their schedules to avoid exposing players and fans to the coronavirus. Esports tournaments picked up the slack through sports network TV. College and high school students looking for new ways to live, work, learn and play turned to competitive video gaming more than ever, making esports a cultural force.

Total enrollment at America’s 101 black colleges and universities dropped by 6,000 in the 2018-19 school year. School administrators see a new way to help recover.

“Our institutions are looking to increase enrollment and retain students, and esports gives them a chance to do both,” Cable said.  “It’s the next big thing.”

Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said gaming and esports, which are grounded in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, benefit students academically.

“The move into esports aligns with the educational experience in STEM and overall strategic plan that remains consistent with efforts to continuously grow our brand and advance our students,” McWilliams said.

McWilliams’ athletic conference is one of three dedicated HBCU sports leagues that have attracted corporate sponsorships for competitive gaming platforms and tournaments while athletic sports remain on partial hiatus.

Gamers can compete in tournaments for scholarship money and for the attention of professional sports franchises that may hire the esports movement’s most talented competitors. There were 500 known esports franchises that earned between $95,000 and $36 million in tournaments by the end of 2019, according to Esports Earnings, which tracks the flow of money in the nascent industry. Some socially distant tournaments award as much as $750,000 in prize money.

Educators are more excited about the impact on black students’ professional opportunities when they embrace STEM fields as part of their immersive gaming experience. Programming, software development and cybersecurity can give them the inside track on lucrative career paths.  Some are groomed through academic programs as early as high school, preparing them for athletic esports scholarships.

More than 100 U.S. and Canadian schools offer esports scholarships, following the lead of Robert Morris University Illinois, an institution that has since merged into Roosevelt University. Robert Morris Illinois offered subsidies for members of its first varsity-level Sports League of Legends team in 2014. Some packages today can be worth as much as $76,000 over four years of competitive eligibility. The most talented gamers can defray half of their tuition, room and board.

HBCUs aren’t offering scholarships but want students to think outside their Xbox. HBCU Heroes, a nonprofit launched by former NCAA and NBA champion George Lynch and business partner Tracey Pennywell, raises money to help those schools level the playing field with competitive scholarship offers to student athletes. Now that platform includes esports.

The most talented gamers in America can earn college scholarships that cover half of their tuition, room and board expenses. (campuspartymexico/CC)

Larger universities have vastly more support from sponsors and alumni than most HBCUs.

“My experience at [the University of] North Carolina was on a whole other level,” Lynch said. “We played in the ACC [Atlantic Coast Conference], who had the big TV deal, then went to the Final Four and brought back millions of dollars to subsidize the Olympic sports. But most of the traditional HBCUs that we played when I was coaching didn’t have the funding in the athletic department to support the student-athlete’s needs.”

Lynch saw how tight budgets held back athletes at small black colleges while he was head men’s basketball coach at Clark Atlanta University.

“We learned that STEM and cybersecurity is part of gaming,” Lynch said. “Our goal is to fund 12 labs at HBCUs where students can have a curriculum in STEM and develop their skills that give them options other than [major universities] to learn about them.”

Texas Southern University in Houston has extended its sports management program to include an esports curriculum. The interdisciplinary approach is focused on the management side of staging events, designing games and developing sound systems.

Dr. Kenyatta Cavil, interim associate dean of academic affairs in TSU’s College of Education, said he oversaw development of the program to empower students.

“We want the students to get out of the mindset of just being on the couch. We want them to know what’s on the other side of the games,” Cavil said. “We’re trying to be intentional about getting HBCU students into the business segment of the [esports] marketplace.”

(Edited by David Martosko and Jameson O’Neal.)

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Halloween Fight Night: Leo Santa Cruz Battles Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis in Texas

Halloween Fight Night: Leo Santa Cruz Battles Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis in Texas

If you can’t trick or treat on Halloween night, you can catch a treat of a boxing match featuring two highly skilled world champions fighting for both the WBA super featherweight and lightweight championships. Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 knockouts) is set to headline his first pay-per-view event in his 40th professional bout.

Santa Cruz is a high-energy fighter known for his high volume of punches. His fan-friendly style has helped him land several high-profile televised fights. ‘El Terremoto’ is trying to win a title in his fifth different weight class.

Santa Cruz last fought nearly a year ago, when he defeated Miguel Flores by unanimous decision on Nov. 23. Gervonta Davis, Santa Cruz’s next opponent, is 23-0-0 with 22 knockouts. Expect 4th of July-like fireworks on Halloween night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

During a recent conversation, Santa Cruz opened up about his fight with Davis, how his father’s health struggles motivate him and much more.

Percy Crawford interviewed Leo Santa Cruz for Zenger News.

Santa Cruz is a high energy fighter known for his high volume of punches (Photo courtesy of Mayweather Promotions)

Percy Crawford interviewed Leo Santa Cruz for Zenger News (Photo courtesy of Percy Crawford)

Zenger: How are you doing, Leo?

Leo Santa Cruz: I feel good. I just got done training, so I feel great. How are you?

Zenger: I’m great. Thanks for asking. I know you have a tight schedule, so I’ll keep it short. When you look at footage of Gervonta Davis, what are your takeaways?

Santa Cruz: He’s a great fighter, great talent, great skills, great puncher, great power. He has everything that a fighter can ask for. The only thing is maybe his stamina, but he’s been training hard for this fight, and it shows. Hopefully, he’s in great condition. I don’t take anything away from him. He’s a great fighter.

Zenger: You seem to live a very comfortable life right now. At 32 years old, what keeps you motivated to continue to fight at such a high level?

Santa Cruz: What keeps me motivated is my family. We grew up really poor. We struggled a lot, and I don’t want to go back to that. I continue to train hard in the gym, make great fights and keep my family straight for them to live and create a good future.

Zenger: We just watched Vasiliy Lomachenko, a 32-year old guy, move up in weight and lose to a 23-year old fighter who was bigger than he was. You are 32, and Gervonta is 25. You’re moving up, as did Lomachenko. How do you prevent having the same fate as the perception of the bigger and younger fighter having the advantage?

Santa Cruz: Yeah (laughing). I think the difference is I have a heart. I have that Aztec Warrior Mexican heart. I’m going to go out there no matter what. I’m not going to be scared to throw punches. No matter if he is the bigger guy, I’m going to go out there and throw punches and be on top of him. We don’t back down from nobody. We are going to be there with him with that Aztec spirit.

“I’m going to go out there no matter what. I’m not going to be scared to throw punches,” said Santa Cruz. (Photo courtesy of Mayweather Promotions)

Zenger: This fight will take place on Halloween night, which is the last day of October, which marks the last day of essentially ‘Cancer Awareness Month.’ Your father’s health issues and battle with cancer are well-documented. Are you using them as motivation to fuel you for this fight, or do you feel it’s best to leave those emotions out of it because that can be a dangerous approach?

Santa Cruz: I don’t have to fight emotional. My dad is great motivation for me because he has struggled going through everything he’s going through. What I’m going through in the gym, training hard and everything, is nothing compared to what he’s going through and what he’s been through. So, when I feel myself feeling down or a little bit tired, I think about my dad. I do this for him. I know that if I get this win, he is going to be very happy, and it will be extra motivation for him to continue fighting against cancer, and that’s what I want. But like I say, this is boxing, and you never know. Anything can happen out there. I just want for hopefully both of us to come out healthy from the fight. And I want my dad to not worry about me if anything goes wrong. I want to motivate him and make him proud.

Zenger: Most observers are viewing this fight as a volume-versus-power fight: Your volume against Davis’ power. Do you agree with that, or do you see this fight as being more than just that?

Santa Cruz: I think it’s a little bit more. I’m not only just volume. I can box. If I throw my volume, he will catch me. I can get caught with something, and he could catch me with a good power punch. I don’t want to go out there and just throw a lot of punches. I just have to go out there and be smart, pick my punches and fight a smart fight. But once we’re in there, we know we have to fight him; and whatever is working, that’s what we’re going to do.

Zenger: Obviously, Floyd Mayweather can’t fight for Gervonta, but his presence in this camp has been instrumental — or it appears to have been instrumental in how Gervonta has trained. Do you think Gervonta could possibly get caught up in trying to impress Floyd too much and that could lead to opportunities for you?

Santa Cruz last fought nearly a year ago, when he defeated Miguel Flores by unanimous decision on Nov. 23rd. (Photo courtesy of Mayweather Promotions)

Santa Cruz: Yeah, hopefully he does make mistakes because of that. When you have someone like Floyd Mayweather around you … if I had Floyd Mayweather in my corner, I would be trying to impress him so much that maybe I would get too carried away and do something wrong. Or get too frustrated trying to do what he’s telling me, and I can’t do it. So, it’s a little bit of both. It can be extra motivation, and it can be a distraction. We’re going to see fight day how it plays out.

Zenger: You’re adding weight and muscle to your frame. Physically, how do you feel?

Santa Cruz: Physically, I feel great. I feel strong. I look strong. People are telling me I look really big, and I’ve been looking strong in the sparring and on the mitts and everything. I like to hear that because I’ve been working hard and doing everything that I have to do in the gym to go out there and give a great fight. We are happy with the results right now.

Zenger: You always give us your best. I appreciate the time. Good luck on fight night, and I hope both you and Gervonta walk away healthy.

Santa Cruz: Thank you, man. I appreciate it and have a great day.

(Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Allison Elyse Gualtieri)

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Distribution Deals Bring Black-Owned Whiskey Brand ‘Guidance’ to Store Shelves in 5 States

Distribution Deals Bring Black-Owned Whiskey Brand ‘Guidance’ to Store Shelves in 5 States

NASHVILLE—Black-owned brands are suddenly in demand, and serial entrepreneur Jason Ridgel is in high spirits after sales of Guidance, a whiskey brand he owns, skyrocketed in recent months.

Guidance is making a name for itself as one of the few black-owned premium craft small-batch whiskey brands available for purchase online and in stores in Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and California. It’s part of a growing black-owned spirits movement.

Since launching in 2018, Guidance Whiskey has made its product available for purchase online in 43 states. The company recently inked a deal with Kentucky-based distributor Legacy Wine and Spirits, which helped expand its availability in stores to 50 retail locations in five states.

Ridgel said the deal is historic because it marks a rare partnership between a black-owned whiskey brand and a black-owned whiskey distributor.

“I was told ‘no’ by a bunch of distributors,” said Ridgel, who developed his product with the idea of appealing to the unique taste preferences of African Americans. “They told us that would never sell because the market was saturated and there are tens of thousands of spirits.”

Jason Ridgel, founder of Guidance Whiskey (Zachary Staben/Zenger)

Based in Nashville, Tennesse, near the Jack Daniel’s whiskey distillery in Lynchburg, Guidance received its big break in June 2020 when it partnered with black-owned distributor Legacy Wine and Spirits. The partnership expanded Guidance’s distribution to 10 stores in Kentucky.

Ridgel’s success is part of an up and coming black-owned spirits movement. There are dozens of black-owned liquor brands in the U.S. but many have yet to gain entry into the mainstream. They are often shut out of the distribution deals needed to place them on store shelves.

In June, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery and the Nearest Green Distillery announced the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative to increase diversity within the American whiskey industry.

Both companies are supporting the initiative equally with a combined pledge of $5 million to help create the Nearest Green School of Distilling, develop the Leadership Acceleration Program for apprenticeships, and create a Business Incubation Program focused on providing expertise and resources to African Americans entering the spirits industry as entrepreneurs.

Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey honors the first known black master distiller, Nathan “Nearest” Green. The Nearest Green School of Distilling at Motlow State Community College in Tullahoma, Tennessee is awaiting approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents. They could begin classes as early as fall 2021, according to the company.

Legacy Wine and Spirits owners Kelvin Young Sr. and DJuan Ditto say they want their platform as black-owned distributors to be a gateway for up and coming brands.

“Once we met with Jason and actually had a conversation about his vision for Guidance and the whole black-owned spirits movement, we knew that we definitely wanted to play a part in that and also be a distribution partner for Guidance,” Young said.

Nathan “Nearest” Green’s son, George (3rd L), sits next to Jack Daniel at the Lynchburg Distillery. (historic photo)

Ridgel said he created Guidance Whiskey to offer customers a different taste, which he describes as “no heat.”

“I wanted to change it to fit our pallet,” said Ridgel.  “Black people always have a different take on things. The spirit industry has been missing that creativity that comes from our people. You see it in the music industry, in the arts and in sales, but in liquor, we don’t have a lane.”

A graduate of Tennessee State University, Ridgel is a serial entrepreneur who started his first business at age 23. He has launched companies in the janitorial industry and medical equipment sales. He became interested in whiskey after seeing an opportunity to change the perception of what it means to be a Tennessee whiskey.

Ridgel chose the name Guidance, defined as “infinite wisdom that enables excellence,” as a reference to ancestors who pass down treasures throughout the generations.

“Our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles pour into us. Nothing that we create now would be possible without them, so Guidance seemed like the perfect name,” Ridgel said.

Ridgel funded the launch of Guidance using his own money.His first steps were finding a distillery partner and a signature taste.

Comprised of 88% corn, 10% rye and 2% malted barley, Guidance is made at a distillery in Iowa and aged for 24 months. Guidance’s website describes its taste profile as “dominated by smooth front-end vanilla with a light and smooth experience in the middle” followed by a “long, smokey finish.”

Ridgel describes Guidance as “love in a bottle.”

Legacy Wine and Spirits owners (L to R) DJuan Ditto, Kelvin Young Sr., with Guidance owner Jason Ridgel, and Robert Jobe (Deja Downy/Zenger)

“When you start with liquor it’s hard to figure out what you like but you know what you don’t like,” said Ridgel. He used to go out with friends who would buy him a shot of whiskey, which he would pretend that he liked. “Really my mouth would be on fire,” Ridgel said of the experiences that led him to create his signature taste.

While Guidance is available for purchase on its website for $64.99 per bottle, Ridgel said an important part of his strategy to grow the brand is to have it available in restaurants, bars and private clubs where customers can buy it by the glass. Guidance partnered with Nashville-based DET Distributing Company for sales in Nashville-area restaurants in 2019.

Future plans for Ridgel include mentoring other entrepreneurs and establishing Guidance as a brand that will last for years to come. Online sales of Guidance doubled in the months of May, June and July 2020, and Ridgel is focused on working to ensure that his brand will survive beyond the recently renewed interest in black-owned businesses.

“We are in the game of respect,” Ridgel said. “If we become a respected brand it makes it easier for us to help other brands. There is more recognition and support of black-owned businesses right now; we want to keep it that way.”

(Edited by Ganesh Lakshman and KC Morgan)

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VIDEO: These Penguins Are Ready for Their Close-Up

VIDEO: These Penguins Are Ready for Their Close-Up

SYDNEY—Could it be that “little penguins” have a big ego? That’s one possible explanation for the reaction some members of a group of such penguins had when a camera was placed in their midst of their zoo exhibit here.

While many skittered around nervously, several put their beaks right up to the lens in a show of unabashed curiosity.

The footage of the so-called “little penguins” Eudyptula minor, was recently shared by the Taronga Zoo Sydney. Laura Minns, the zoo’s senior media relations director, told Zenger News that some of the flightless birds were indeed “quite interested in a GoPro placed in their exhibit.”

Little penguins from the Taronga Zoo examine the new GoPro camera. (tarongazoo/Newsflash)

The video shows several of the inquisitive animals gather around the camera. Some place their faces directly in front of it before losing interest and walking away, while others are more nervous, and an especially skittish one is startled and runs away after it was apparently surprised by the recording device.

Another of the birds pushes through other penguins and runs towards the camera, only to immediately turn around and return to the large group.


Mainly found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand, the “little penguins” are the smallest members of the species, with average height of just over a foot and generally weighing about 2 pounds.

In addition to their diminutive stature, such birds are the only type of penguin with blue and white feathers, rather than black and white ones.

(Edited by Stephen Gugliociello and Matthew Hall.)

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Endangered snow leopard poaching, conservation efforts continue

Endangered snow leopard poaching, conservation efforts continue

Visitors to the Bronx Zoo in New York might meet Leo the snow leopard, but they will hardly know he came all the way from Pakistan. 

“I raised him like a child,” said Kamaluddin Rummi, an official of the wildlife department in the Gilgit-Baltistan area. “He used to sleep in my bed. He went to Bronx in 2007.”

Not every snow leopard in the area is as lucky as Leo, though. Poaching and conflict with local communities threaten their lives and habitat. Only last month a mother and two cubs fell victim to poachers near the Hoper Glacier in the region over which both Pakistan and neighboring India lay claim. The poacher was arrested on August 6, after he uploaded a picture with the dead leopard on social media.  

The man not only confessed to his crime but also named his friends as accomplices, telling the authorities that they had set the cubs free after killing the mother. The poachers have been fined and jailed, and despite the local forest department launching a search for the two cubs, none were found. 

“We set up a camp near the place where the snow leopard was killed,” said Mohammed Mujeeb, a forest officer in the Gilgit-Baltistan range. “Twelve days had passed when the culprits were apprehended. The chances of the cubs’ survival were nil.” 

The officials managed to recover the skin of the dead animal. In the local black markets of Gilgit Baltistan, the hide would have fetched $2,000. But, according to Mujeeb, once shipped to other major cities like Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore, the price could go up to $6,000.

The efforts of the forest department did not go unnoticed by the World Wildlife Fund. 

“We are extremely saddened to learn about the recent poaching incident involving a female snow leopard,” WWF tweeted, following up with praise for the authorities involved in the apprehension of the poachers. 

Nicknamed “mountain ghost,” the elusive snow leopard is rarely spotted in the wild. Wildlife experts estimate about 3,500-7,000 of them are left in their natural habitat worldwide, according to the Snow Leopard Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that works towards the conservation of big cats in the country. And only around 200-420 of them are in Pakistan, the foundation says, quoting the Snow Leopard Trust.

“Our own survey has shown that number is not more than 200,” said Ali Nawaz of The Snow Leopard Foundation. “In the past, it was more a guesstimate rather than scientific. We have done a survey on scientific grounds. Having said that, it is very difficult to come up with exact or near to exact figure of such an elusive animal.” 

In Pakistan, the leopard’s habitat is spread over nearly 31,000 square miles (80,000 sq km), of which 60 percent is in Gilgit-Baltistan, the foundation says. Other provinces of the country where the leopards have been found include Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, two protected areas — Khunjerab National Park and Central Karakoram National Park — constitute the core snow leopard area. But exactly how many snow leopards are poached every year in these protected zones remains unknown. 

About 220-450 snow leopards might have been poached annually worldwide since 2008, says a 2016 report by Traffic, a global nongovernmental organization working for the preservation of biodiversity. This in turn means the number of poaching episodes is at least four a week. But this is likely a low estimate, the report notes, as wildlife crime is difficult to detect — especially given the difficult terrain and governance issues in disputed territories.

Nawaz likened it to coming up with a number for smuggling. “According to our poaching and trade survey, eight to 10 snow leopards are killed annually in Pakistan,” he said. 

Several programs try to preserve endangered animals in Pakistan by involving the local communities. The local population benefits from the funds only if they lend a hand to protecting wildlife. One such program is trophy hunting, introduced in the 1990s — but not hunting the snow leopard, of course.  

Every year, the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan issue licenses to domestic and international hunters to hunt endangered markhors, a large wild goat, which is the national animal of Pakistan. Communities that agree to prevent poaching of carnivores are given the lucrative annual permits. Across Pakistan’s snow leopard range, village cooperatives raised nearly $670,000 in 2019 from the permits, according to the wildlife departments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. 

“Earlier, markhor was just a large goat, but now it is a goat worth millions,” said Zakir Hussain, Chief Conservator of Wildlife for Gilgit-Baltistan.
He said four permits to hunt markhors were issued in 2019 for $667,000, of which 80% percent went to the local community. “They are bound to spend 50% of the amount on social development and another 20% on habitat development,” he said. “This way they feel ownership of the wildlife in their areas. And this ownership has resulted in an increase in the population of markhors in Gilgit-Baltistan.”
A growth in markhor population a win-win for goats and snow leopards, who need wild herd animals to sustain their population.

Locals help the wildlife authorities investigate poaching incidents, and communities that regulate their livestock grazing patterns efficiently tend to attract a larger population of wild goats and therefore more hunting permits. 

But the conflict between humans and animals continues. Every year there are reports of livestock attacked by snow leopards and of the big cat being shot by angry people. 

“Retaliatory killings are a knee-jerk reaction,” said Nawaz. “When they happen, communities try to cover it up to prevent trouble with the authorities and (conservation program funding) investors.” 

American organization Snow Leopard Trust runs livestock insurance programs with the Snow Leopard Foundation of Pakistan.

For a herder living in the snow leopard’s habitat, the health and well-being of their livestock are inseparable from their livelihood, which a snow leopard attack has the potential to destroy. “A single attack can result in the loss of up to 25 domesticated animals,” the Snow Leopard Trust says, and given the poverty in the region, it is next to impossible for a family to recover from such a loss.  

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Cathy Jones.)

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Indian Restaurants Cook Up DIY Food Kits

Indian Restaurants Cook Up DIY Food Kits

Indians — especially from big cities like New Delhi or Mumbai — love eating out. But with a nationwide lockdown still in place in many sectors, it is not an option. Even home deliveries aren’t viable. Delivery agents have caused panic and mandatory quarantine.

So some restaurants have whipped up a delicious alternative.

To keep their patrons happy — and businesses running — restaurants are now sending food, not as fully cooked meals, but Do It Yourself, or DIY kits. The kits have detailed instructions and perfectly proportioned ingredients.


Food lovers just follow directions and have the meal they desire.

“At first I thought it was weird — why slog in the kitchen when you can order in?” said Nausheen Tareen, 35, a New Delhi-based public relations professional. Tareen and her husband, Amin Ali, ate out at least two or three times a week before the pandemic, patronizing both fine dining in Delhi and traditional small eateries in the capital’s historic Walled City.

“When you do it, you see it is so much fun!” said Tareen, now a convert to DIY meals. She is the rule rather than the exception among young, urban Indians. They are the mainstay of the country’s vibrant culinary culture.

The lockdown began March 24 and hit the restaurant business hard.

In 2019, India had about 2 million restaurants employing 7.3 million people, according to the National Restaurants Association of India’s Food Services Report. They generated revenues of $56 billion. But since the pandemic began, many restaurants in places such as New Delhi’s Khan Market — one of the most expensive real-estate locations in the world — have closed.

“With restaurants shut for more than five months, the sector has lost about $25 billion,” said Anurag Katriar, president of the association. “About 3 million people have lost their jobs.”

The CEO and executive director of private restaurant chain deGustibus Hospitality, Katriar said 30 percent to 35 percent of restaurants will never open again.

“Half of a restaurant’s expenses are overheads — rent, wages, taxes,” he said. “How can you earn nothing and keep paying these?”

People staying away from restaurants are not ordering in, either, Katriar said. “We are getting only a third of the orders we used to get.”

Food-delivery industry leader Zomato painted a similar picture in its State of Indian Restaurant Industry report. Some 10% of India’s restaurants have permanently shut, and another 30% may never reopen.

Tough times have forced businesses to innovate — the DIY kits are one example.

Kampai, which serves Japanese cuisine, is one of the restaurants in New Delhi that has offered the DIY kit to its patrons since June. On the menu: ramen, donburis, cocktail kits.

“The response has been good,” said Avantika Sinha, founder, and managing director.

The quarantine has seriously impacted the industry, but it’s also provided inspiration.

“The popularity of #quarantinecooking inspired us,” said Priyank Sukhija, MD and CEO of First Fiddle F&B, a private restaurant chain. The hashtag went viral on social media, with people posting pictures of what they were cooking while stuck at home.

Sukhija started the DIY kits at his Asian restaurant, Plum by Bent Chair, in July. “The concept was long overdue,” he said. “It is here to stay. Our kits are a careful selection of bowls, pots, gravies, entrees along with gyozas that can be easily cooked and enjoyed at home,” said Sukhija.

Such kits were already popular in New York and London pre-pandemmic — but new to India. And while they generate sales, restaurants are curating only the best options on their menus.

Restaurant owners in Delhi are also looking to the government for help.

“In the UK, the government is subsidizing eating out,” said Katriar. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme gives a 50% discount to anyone eating or drinking at a UK restaurant from Monday to Wednesday, up to a maximum bill of £10, about $13.

“This scheme will have a positive effect on other sectors, such as labor, agriculture, dairy and transport,” said Katriar.

In Delhi, restaurants have been allowed to operate at half the capacity since last month. But they claim an added financial struggle: No green light to serve liquor. Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on August 20 asked the excise department to allow restaurants to serve liquor at tables, though bars will remain closed.

“This will be a great help to the industry,” said Zorawar Kalra, founder, Massive Restaurants, which owns popular eateries such as Bo-Tai and Made in Punjab.

“Sales are at 10% to 15% of pre-Covid levels now. Allowing liquor to be served will attract more eaters. Dinner revenue will increase,” he said.

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Fern Siegel.)

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