Billions of Micro Entrepreneurs

Chaadni Chowk and adjoining areas in Delhi is well-known for its ecosystem. Here roads and streets are narrow but business activities are extremely intense. Entrepreneurs do businesses in a range of segments like spices, grains, garments, books, sweets and many more.

Few months back, I ventured into this area and I reaslised that a revolution is taking shape in this Walled City, unfortunately that is ignored by many. Entire business activities are revolving around the pushcarts (Dhakka). This frugal innovation or Jugaad innovation is lifeline for entire area. Labourers supply goods and products at their door steps. Further they make food and tea. They sit at their carts or discuss various things in spare time and sleep in night.  Roughly, there are about one lakh pushcarts in these areas. One pushcart engaged three people. However, there is no estimation or data on people involve in this trade.

In these areas, there are numerous wage workers who migrated from various states due to a lack of gainful employment. Expanding such pushcart business in the walled city is attracting such unskilled labourers. Further it meets a local demand.  

It is a single wooden carrier for goods which is appropriate for narrow streets. These pushcarts are prepared by local carpenters. Almost all pushcarts are distributed from nearby Singhara Chawk for commercial purposes. There are various dedicated shops for repairing these pushcarts.

There is a hierarchy among owners of pushcarts. Some owners have 10 pushcarts, some of them have 100 pushcarts and even big owners have 1,000 pushcarts. They provide services to shopkeepers.

One pushcart has carried about 10 to 15 quintile Nag (just like carton) and involves three to four people. Each labourer receives a 350 to 450 per day. It can carry an array of items like salt, flowers, spices, frozen fruits and bundles of cloth etc.

Labroures carry salt in the early morning, and then they carry transport goods at the night, they categories themselves accordingly products like salt, spices, flowers etc.

Some well-off labroures have their own pushcarts in Singhra Chawk. But increasing inflation is putting enormous pressure on them. They survive by hustling on the streets and on the mercy of authorities. Anyone can easily understand the absence of social safety nets and lack of unionism among this heterogeneous and vulnerable workforce.   

Using frugal innovation or Jugaad innovation, the Dhakka business is gaining momentum in these enclaves. Its strengths are low capital requirement, higher employment generation and ecofriendly nature of transportation in narrow streets. However, in existing setup, it is an absolute domain for male labourer. 


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