“Main pichle do saal se yahan hu aur pichle che mahinon mein maine mere kaarobaarme kaafi unnati dekhi hain”, says 31 year old Sharda while setting up her shop, which actually is an extension of her house. Sharda came back to Swargate two years ago, which is an area a few kilometres away from Pune.
When asked about her reason to move back, she told that Swargate was her hometown. She was married off early at the age of 17, as her father felt she was a burden to him. After which she moved to Kolhapur where her husband and his family resided.
“Meri beti hone k baad meri zindagi badal gayi. Ghar walon ka bartaav badal gaya aur mujhe roz ke khaane ke liye aur roz ki zarurton ke liye tak ladhna padhta tha”, she said with a heavy voice. By this time she had already addressed about two customers, one of which came to buy milk and daily groceries while the other was a young labourer who wanted to send money to his family in Satara.
Sharda always wanted to do something of her own given how bright and zealous she was. But, she only got this opportunity now after years of hardships and struggles. She separated from her husband about 7 years ago and worked at someone else farm on daily wages to sustain herself and her daughter. After her father’s death, she came back here to Swargate as there was no one to look after her mother. She has two elder brothers but both of them moved to Mumbai and hardly visit them.
So how many customers do you get on a daily basis? I asked her as she kept the money she received from the customer in her drawer. “aajkal mujhe kareeb kareeb150-200 customers mil jaate hai. Par pehele aisa nahi tha. Kuch mahino peheletak, din ke sirf 95-110 customers aate the”.
Sharda has completed her education till 10th grade in Marathi medium from a local school in their village. She had always been a bright student but never got an opportunity to make something out of her education. After her marriage, she was assigned all the housework and hardly had any time for herself. Soon after her marriage within two years, she gave birth toa girl child for which she was blamed by her husband’s family.
In order to support her mother and her 11 year old daughter, she took up what her father had left behind. She didn’t have much idea about how to run a shop since this was the first time she was stepping into something like this. The initial days were a little difficult for her but as days passed she started understanding the tactics of the trade.
Her business really took off when she was introduced to the digital way of doing business, while she was travelling. On her way to Kolhapur, during a halt, she got down to get a bottle of water and some biscuits. She didn’t have change with her and hence the shopkeeper asked her to pay via digital means. She was surprised to know that a shop similar in infrastructure to hers also accepted digital payments. Intrigued by the whole process she got into a conversation with the shop owner who was sailing in the same boat as hers a few months ago before getting on the Pay1 platform.
On reaching Mumbai, she found that many more retailers there were using the same digital method to boost their business. She got herself a simple smartphone and with the help of her nephews got onto the Pay1 platform. Given how sharp she already was, it was easy for her to understand the digital world of retail business and soon started providing additional in-demand services to her customers. She completely transformed the way the villagers looked at a retail shop and what it could provide. With the services she was giving, the footfall increased and a few other retailers in the vicinity also were curious to know about and get onto the digital bandwagon to increase their business.
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Sharda entirely revolutionalized the perception of people towards women and their capabilities. Finally, after years of hardships, she was doing something of her own that she was proud of. She owes a major part of her success to Pay1 because if not for Pay1 she would have still been stuck to the age-old method of retailer business. “Pay1 ne mujhe nayee sandhi dekar mera aatmavishwas badhaaya. Main Pay1 ke prati bohotbohot aabhari hu”.
By talking to Sharda, we realised that our efforts towards digitising the unorganised retailer industry are being paid off and are making a positive impact in the lives of the retailers while making the lives of people around them easy.