A day in the life of 3 undercover hawkers

If you have hazarded an attempt to get that elusive glimpse of Lalbaugcha Raja this year, no doubt your pilgrimage was impeded, or at least punctuated by stopovers at the hundreds of establishments, set up brazenly (and illegally) by hawkers in every possible inch of free space in Lalbaug. These vendors have set up shop hoping to make a quick buck off the hordes of happy revellers thronging the area, lulled into making trivial purchases by the festive spirit.

Varun Singh, MiD DAY reporter

Ask any one who has visited the Lalbaug area in the last one-and-half weeks, and they will remark at the noticeable increase of hawkers’ booths, (some just sit on sheets) dotting the way to Ganesh mandals this year. MiD DAY’s office is located in the vicinity, and prompted by our observations, we decided to conduct a simple experiment: turning hawkers for a few hours. And going by our experiences, it is as simple as just finding a spot, occupying it, elbowing out other potential occupants, and starting to sell your wares.

Don’t bother with BMC permission. So if you’re looking to make a quick buck this festive season, hawking isn’t such a bad idea. If we could sell Chinese Bhel, imitation jewellery and plastic bags sans any culinary or marketing skills (or paperwork), so can you.

Reporter: Varun Singh
Time spent: 2 hours
Business: Rs 1,200
Sold: Foldable bags in the shapes of strawberries and roses I approached a vendor who was selling eye-catching foldable carry bags in different shapes. Without even asking about my background or for any kind of ID, he immediately agreed to let me join him in selling the bags. In the first 10 minutes he taught me how to unpack, exhibit and pack the bags. The strawberry-shaped bags were going for Rs 30 and the rose-shaped ones for Rs 40.

Varun Singh, MiD DAY reporter

I struggled with the art of selling, as in a minute, I had to open and shut the bags at least five times. My colleague for the day, Furkan could perform this action at twice the speed. He instructed me to exhibit the bags each time customers approached. This simple strategy worked, and within minutes I started getting buyers. By the end of two hours, I had managed to make sales worth nearly Rs 1,200. The owner Krishna even offered me money for my contribution, which I refused.

According to Furkan, the stall makes more than Rs 12,000 every day, with an elaborate system of eight-hour long shifts in place. Furkan, who hails from the Bijnaur district of Rajasthan, complimented by knowledge of English and Marathi, saying it helped him gain more customers. And oh, prices are fixed. No bargaining, please.

Reporter: Priyanka Dhomse
Time spent: 2 hours
Business: Rs 500
Sold: Chinese Bhel.
Swati, my boss for the day, stays in Lalbaug. Her stall, tucked in Kombadi Galli, sells Chinese Bhel, Idli and Sambhar Vada, and is set up every year during Ganeshotsav. Swati’s fare is on offer till late in the night, and she downs shutters at 2 am, only to start brisk business again at 5.30 am.

Priyanka Dhomse, MiD DAY reporter

She immediately welcomed me and we started selling. In half an hour, I was rustling up Chinese Bhel, with a beaming Swati saying I was good at it. By the end of two hours, I had made nearly Rs 500. Apart from some bizarre demands – some wanted a Rs 10 discount on something that cost Rs 15 – my stint was uneventful.

Reporter: Urvashi Seth
Time spent: 1.5 hours
Business: Rs 560
Sold: Imitation jewellery
This is Mumbai. Time (and location) is money. That is what I took away from my first foray into sales, which, even on a small scale at a tiny corner in Lalbaug, turned out to be territorial and competitive. After a few abortive attempts at convincing hawkers to let me join them, Mohammad Shamshad, a vendor selling imitation jewellery agreed. He went on to brief me about the items that he was selling and their respective prices.

Urvashi Seth, MiD DAY reporter

I had to pass the acid test first. Shamshad made me sit at the counter and told me to manage it, as he watched. Within 15 minutes, I had made sales worth Rs 100, a great coup for a rank newbie. Shamshad immediately complimented me for my marketing skills, saying, “I was tired today as I have been coming to Lalbaug for the last few days and have been sleeping on the footpath. I go to home to Worli for a bath and breakfast, and rush back.” He let me in on a secret, saying, “You came at just the right time. I am happy to have you here as I desperately needed someone’s help and you came at the right time. This is not my place, but before the other salesmen come, we will have to make most of business.”

Within an hour we had sold goods worth Rs 560, but were forced to shut the counter, as the ‘permanent’ vendor who had “booked that place first” had arrived.

No more licences
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has stopped giving licences to the hawkers for selling their wares on the road for many years now. All these hawkers, are intermittently fined and their goods taken away. A thoroughly neglected police notice on the road said that no one can cook in public places, unless they have obtained a licence from the BMC.  

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