In India, there are 5.77 crore unincorporated non-agriculture enterprises (excluding construction) which employ 10.798 crore workers across the country.(1)
Such unincorporated entities goes through various stages. In this entire process, they adopt several approaches but these are unexplored terrain in India. Street vending and its transformation into an enterprise in rural India is truly inclusive in nature. But researchers and media are not concern about their approaches.
This blog’s basic purpose is to provoke and offer a nuanced explanation of what is happening in the unincorporated sector. In following lines, I am narrating two stories. I will take help from Hernando De Soto which is based on his book – The Other Path in an attempt to give theoretical perspective on street vending.
De Soto writes in his book: “The people who start out street vendors do not do so with the idea of remaining on the street forever, but with the intention of moving at some point to markets away from the public thoroughfare in order to conduct their activities under better conditions. All the traders now working in markets worked on the street at one time or another.”
Recently, I went to my village and I saw Lallan has opened his shop in the town which is close to near T Point. In other words, it’s an interaction zone and people from various region come here and gather or shop. Lallan was a street vendor when I was a small child and he regularly visited the nearby street of my home. At his cycle, he carry a range products from utensil, plastic toys to sweets and pea nuts. We generally bought delicious stuffs from him. His approach was largely based on barter system. One can bought something in exchange of small iron rod or rice. Since form beginning, he worked very hard and devoted several decades in this journey without any regret or disappointment.
Lalan’s story from street vending to his march towards starting a small business in rural India is an apparent trend in India. It’s story of many entrepreneurs. Having nothing to lose, such street vendors start their journey from scratch. Their aspirations is to build own enterprise and own market in rural hinterland is not adequately chronicled and recognized. But no one can’t ignore them.
Street vending and unincorporated entities face several challenges in country like India. One big challenge is attitude of the Government especially the Urban Bodies towards these establishments. To these micro entrepreneurs, such challenges are very severe in many ways. I following lines, I am trying to narrative a story of micro entrepreneur who hails from Allahabad.
Few months ago, I visited Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, EDII, Ahmadabad in Gujarat. EDII Campus is located at the outskirts of the city. After two days, I decided to visit city. After crossing Indira Bridge, I find a shop which was close to EDII Campus. I entered into shop and I asked to Bhaiya (Brother) to save and set my hair. After initial conversation with him, I realized that he not ‘LOCAL’ and he either belong to Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. And I asked him about his native place. He responded to me, ‘I am from Allahabad.” (Allahabad is holy city for Hindus and after 12 years of interval this city hosts a religious Prayag Mela which is very popluar in the world for its management and Millions of devotees come here during Mela from India and rest of the World.)
My guess was right and Allahabad was not new for me. Conversation started and he asked me about my work and what I am doing here? I responded on his queries. When I asked him, Bhaiya why you are here? Is any better prospect or else here? After few seconds, he narrated his story which is very pathetic and I can say that it is not isolated case.
My shop was located in Allahabad, which was near to Prayag Mela. There were scores of shops on both sides of roads. People were earning and saving from these establishments. And fulfilling their everyday needs. In a beautification drive, the State Administration and the Urban Body demolished these shops and evicted their owners from quickly. No mercy. No compensation, nothing. In short time span, these micro entrepreneurs lost everything. Their dreams shattered by their own Government. When Bhaiya narrated his story his eyes were full of tears. He loves Allahabad but he can’t start anything from his beloved place when he born and brought up.
He was very humble and during 10 days of stay I visited him fours times. He never forget to bring TEA for me from nearby shop. Even after my resistance, he brought tea…We finished tea…
His shop is set to run in Gujarat but there is a loneliness of leaving his birthplace, one can easily observe.
Above narrated stories show that how micro entrepreneurs are running their shops or venture after several decades of hard work and toil. But they are unable to resist legally when eviction drive starts. They cannot challenge it in the Court because they are not registered and they don’t have rights where they running their shops. More important thing is lack of political bargaining power. At the considerable extent, they are heterogeneous groups. They don’t have organised associations which can put their demand in an organised manner.