India is full of entrepreneurs…they are everywhere. People here are bursting the edges of society and living on the streets, eating on the streets, working on the streets, and must work to survive on the streets. All over India there is a demand for innovative services that quite frankly fit into the definition and action role listed above. Granted many people just give up to the challenges of life, but there are some enterprising people with ideas and a strong work ethic who take advantage and if not thrive…. at least survive. This is evident just walking down the street….any street, in any city in India.
A man helping shoes last just a little longer.
A barber adapting by setting up shop on the sidewalk to shave and cut hair using the windows as a mirror. Does he have a line forming to wait for his services?
This man has an strong sewing machine to do those pesky jean hems.
An old woman whose only work is to beg as the sight of her, makes your heart ache.
Now I would like to introduce you to three men who are not of the poorest of the poor in Ahmedabad, but are entrepreneurs in their own right. The first is “copy man” because I don’t know his name, though he had a huge presence on the campus of Cept University. Designers need plans and copies made frequently. The dean told us his story. “CM” began in a small neighborhood copying shop. He learned from a friend of the need of such a shop at Cept. When he had the wherewithal, he opened a shop in a small building near the canteen.
Word spread quickly through the design student and faculty that “C M”, if notified of due dates, would stay open late into the night or open earlier in the morning to copy and plot last minute drawings! The dean told us that business was so good that just the day before, a very special machine was delivered. It is connected to a computer in Japan! Copy Man’s work ethic and commitment of service to his customers is paying off.
Next, I want to introduce you to Salim and Mohamed, who are Muslim, and are partners in a thriving rickshaw business in the old city. I mention their religion only in passing because much has been in the news lately, that Muslims have fewer financial opportunities under the present governor than Hindus. This is not true for these two enterprising men. They actually have a fleet of 20 rickshaws to accommodate large groups and their place of origination is in the front of the House of MG which is the Heritage Hotel of the old city. It is a wonderful location with elegant accommodations, but that is another post. There are lots of architects, academics, and other tourists ,who are interested in seeing the world renown architecture in Ahmedabad designed by two of the great modernists, Louis Khan, and LeCorbusier. Salim and Mohamed have made themselves familiar with architectural sites that tourists come here to see. They know the hours, places, details about the sites and can provide background information. They charge $3 an hour either to drive, wait, or serve as guides at the sites. When we were on one of the architectural tours to see Corb’s villas, Salim suggested a visit to a blood collection building that David was not familiar with. We went on his suggestion and it was wonderful piece of contemporary architecture.
These men work 7 days a week, They will come to pick you up for a reservation trip or you can find them at House of MG. They had no education in architecture, or art, but know their city, and what targeted tourists want to see. Their cards are passed out as ” must have guides.” They are bright, personable, and self-educated, as well as very hardworking. I don’t know any details about Salims family as he was the introverted one. Mohamed had quite the opposite personality. He told us very proudly about his children. His son is college educated and a manager at a new hotel. His daughter is a doctor. These men saw a need, made a plan, worked hard and they and their families are benefiting. They are “dreams and doers.”
Namaste. . . . .T I I