Its been a while since we covered a story of our retailers. We were looking for a retailer who in specific had seen the changing phases of the micro merchant industry. We came to know about one such dynamic persona from our telesales executive who has been on our network for the past 6 months now. We were very much intrigued by the little amount of information we had about him through which we came to know that he had years of experience in the space and his story would definitely motivate other retailers on our network.
We reached his shop at around 11 am in the morning and after having a brief chat about each other’s whereabouts the conversation arrived on howRamlal entered the retailer business. “I have seen this place, (Ranakpur, a small village in the Pali district of Rajasthan) evolve from nothing to a town fulfilling at least the basic necessities of people within a radius of few kilometres. Back in the day, there were no vehicles, no electricity and no services. It felt like a barren land. You hardly could see an interstate bus pass by. I was 7 years old at that time and after school, I would usually spend my time at this small Kirana shop, which was run by my father back in the day.
Finishing this sentence Ramlal cleaned the two stools he had lying around in his shop hastily. He requested us to sit on the stool and make ourselves comfortable. Ramlal Chauhan belongs to a simple traditional Rajasthani family and has only completed his schooling till 8th standard. “Since then, until now a lot of things have changed for the better and I am glad that they did. After my father passed away, I had to take up the responsibility of my family” he says in a low voice expressing sadness. “The easiest and fastest way I could think of was to take this same Kirana shop forward which my father had set up, said Ramlal as he arranged the stock of biscuits that had just arrived. “I had no clue about how this business would turn up in the coming years since I was merely 16 back then. All I knew was how to handle the customers and give them the products they asked for.”
Ramlal wanted to study further and dreamt of being an engineer. His father’s sudden demise left him with no other option than to leave his education and support the family. Also, he had two sisters and a mother to look after. “Uss zamane me ladki kaam nahi karti thi” he added. After coming to terms with his situation Ramlal had started enjoying the business and was even happy. “I had the comfort of working out of a place close to my house and for myself. Things were fine when I had to only take care of a household of three ( as one of his sisters was married off early), but then I got married and had a family of my own. It was getting difficult to sustain a good and healthy lifestyle with the amount I was making which was only around Rs. 3500 to Rs. 5000 a month.” The cash flow was less and soon he realised that he was in a stagnant puddle hovering around the same box of limited cash.
“I had been in this business for the past 20 years and hence plunging into something new was like skating on thin ice, since I was also the only earning member of my family. My kids were growing up and so were their needs. I wanted to give both my daughters the best education and make them independent. But with the meagre amount, I was making, turning my daughters’ dreams into reality seemed difficult.” Throughout the conversation, whenever Ramlal spoke about his daughters his face shone with happiness and pride. Both his daughters were excellent in academics and had a dream of studying in one of the best universities. “There was a time when I had exhausted all options to grow my business and had no new ways left and hence took the decision of working under someone or taking up a job. I was well aware of the fact that a job would require me to shell out extra for commuting to the nearby city and would also take away the easement I had at my own shop. So I let this shop in my wife’s hands and taught her the basics, while I headed out for finding jobs every few days.” He had a couple of friends from school who were working in cities and it was around this time that he came to know about a company that boosts and supports the micro-entrepreneurs of our country. “One of my school friends who now operates a mobile shop in Mumbai explained to me about how digitisation helped him grow his business by being on the Pay1 network.”
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“Taking his advice into account I decided to gather more knowledge about the same and take a leap of faith. As soon as I was done submitting the required documents I like thousand other retailers became a part of the Pay1 network. I had used a mobile phone before but never a smartphone” he says with a grin on his face. Initially, he was very nervous about getting into the digital system. “It felt like a game I will not be able to play, but I slowly got familiar with the Pay1 app and the entire digital set-up. It took me just a few posters and a smartphone worth Rs.6000 to get onto the digital bandwagon.” It’s been 6 months that Ramlal has been on the Pay1 network, providing additional services from the same old 120 sq. feet shop. “My monthly earnings have skyrocketed with hardly any investment. Pay1 helped me turnaround my business completely and also gave me new earning opportunities.”
This conversation with Ramlal helped us gain a deeper understanding of the highs and lows faced by the micro-merchants and also indicate that our efforts towards empowering the micro-entrepreneurs our country is on the right track.