“Hello Madam, I am Sukhiya speaking, your vegetable vendor. I just returned from my village a few days back and thought that I should call you and inform you about my arrival”, a middle-aged man’s voice came from the other side.
“You have probably dialed a wrong number bhaiya, I don’t know you”, replied Avantika, who had just brought in vegetables from outside her house. Asking for an apology he hung up the phone.
Just two minutes had passed when her phone rang again. It was the same number.
“You have again dialed my number bhaiya. Either the number you are trying to reach has changed or you don’t have the correct number”, Avantika said again picking up the phone.
“Madam ji, are you not Priya madam from Pratham Society”, asked Sukhiya in a slightly sad tone.
“No bhaiya, that is what I am trying to explain. I don’t stay in Pratham Society but in Luv Kush Apartments.
“Oh!! sorry madam, I think there’s some mistake”, saying Sukhiya hung up the phone.
Avantika did not get any call from that number again but that sad tone of Sukhiya kept echoing in her ears the whole day. She kept thinking about the same in the office as well. Who was Priya and what help did Sukhiya want from her?
After returning home in the evening, she called back his number.
“Hello, yes madam. What can I do for you?” asked Sukhiya.
“No, nothing much, I just wanted to know why were you desperately trying to contact Priya by calling her again and again”, Avantika asked.
“Madam ji, I am a vegetable seller, Priya madam used to buy vegetables from me every day. She had a very big family and used to tell me every day what she wanted and I used to deliver her vegetables and fruits. I used to make a good living too.
Due to some problems in my village, I had to go there for a few months, then got stuck there and came back only a few days ago, so I thought that I should meet all my old customers and tell them that I have come back. When I went to her place, her apartment was locked. The guard gave me this number. That’s why I was repeatedly calling on this number so that I could tell her that I have come back so that I could start earning some money. Many of my customers have already refused because now they all order goods online, so I thought that I would get some help from her. She was my last hope but maybe God did not approve of this either”, said Sukhiya with tears.
“Sorry madam, because of me you have suffered a lot in the morning”.
“Oh no, not at all bhaiya, what’s the problem with this. You just called on the number you had. You were just looking for your customer”, Avantika replied politely.
His words were piercing though, in some corner of Avantika’s heart. So she asked him, “If your old customers aren’t responding, let them not, why don’t you start afresh. If you go out to sell, you will definitely get new customers. Why are you wasting your time searching for those people”.
Sukhiya replied, “Madam, now what should I tell you about my agony. In this age of online business, our business has slowed down. Whoever I ask, replies that they order on the app and get chopped vegetables and other ready-to-use items as and when required and do not even have to pay cash to them. In such a situation, our families in the village will die of hunger”, Sukhiya explained his point while tears flowed down his eyes.
Avantika was able to feel his pain somewhere. She called Sukhiya to meet her the following Sunday at her place.
The next day, she went to her office and discussed about Sukhiya with her co-workers. Can’t we do anything for him, she questioned them.
“Avantika, there are so many vegetable and fruit vendors in this city. How many of them will you help and how. And do you think you can challenge these online companies”, everyone told her.
But Avantika was not the one who would give up so easily. For two days in a row, she kept on wondering what can be done for Sukhiya and other vegetable and fruit vendors like him.
Two days later during lunch time she again gathered all her co-workers and put forward an idea before them.
“Look, I have an idea. We all order fruits and vegetables online anyway. It is not that they are providing us with some very good quality products or that they are charging us less than market rates. And to be honest, how much we miss those free coriander and chilies that our vegetable sellers used to give along with vegetables.”
“The whole idea is that we can create our own WhatsApp group and add them also and in that group, we can place our orders on WhatsApp to those vegetable vendors. As far as payment is concerned, we will open an account for them and transfer the money to it. Those people will bring good fresh items from the market and give us discounts and earn themselves too. And if all those people also get together, then we can demand the same stuff from them the way we get ready to use items online”, Avantika suggested to everyone.
“This idea is good and there is nothing wrong with it. But will it be feasible? Okay, Sukhiya will provide us with what we want, but will the rest of the fruit and vegetable vendors also join him”, they all asked Avantika.
“I have asked Sukhiya to come on Sunday and will talk to him. Then let’s see what can happen”, Avantika said to everyone.
On the following Sunday morning, Sukhiya reached Avantika’s place. A middle-aged weak man, who might have hardly been able to feed his family living in the village by selling vegetables street to street.
How would he have tolerated the heat of the winds in the summer season??
How would he have sold his vegetables while facing the fury of rains ??
How much his throat would have dried up by screaming the whole day to sell his vegetables.
Avantika’s heart was sinking at this thought and many thoughts were flooding her mind.
“Come in bhaiya”.
Sukhiya took off his slippers outside and entered inside with slow fearful steps. Avantika gave him a chair to sit on and water to drink.
“Why are you panicking, bhaiya, I have called you here just to know about your condition”.
Tears welled up from Sukhiya’s moist eyes as Avantika said this.
Wiping his eyes with the cuffs of his torn kurta, Sukhiya started narrating his sorrow.
“Madam ji, for the past many years, by selling vegetables in the city, I used to make a living for myself and my family living in the village. I used to go to my native for only about ten or fifteen days a year, but when I went to the village the last time, due to lock down I could not return to the city for the past whole year. And now when I have come back, so many of my customers have switched over to online shopping.
He added, “Everyone finds it very easy to buy goods online. Priya madam would have definitely supported me but I do not know where those people have gone and the number that I got was wrong. If she had been there, she would have definitely helped me during these times.”
“Look, now that Priya is not there and can’t be located, so one thing is for sure, you have to start afresh. I was thinking about a plan for you and if you want we can make a fresh start”, Avantika told him.
Sukhiya’s eyes started gleaming while saying “how can we do it madam ji”??
“Look, I am thinking that I will create a WhatsApp group and will also include you. Whenever we people need something we will message in the group. But one thing, you alone will not be able to handle this pressure. It will take some more people like you. So, if any of your fellow companions are ready, then make a group of five to ten people, then this task will be very easy. It will be just like online shopping. We will also open your bank account separately in which every buyer can transfer money, so there will be no hassle of paying cash.”
Avantika continued her point and said, “You all will also have phones and you all will be included in that WhatsApp group. So as soon as any order is placed, you all will come to know. Now if someone wants a ready-to-prepare cut vegetable, then you or any of your friends can buy the vegetable, cut it, pack it and deliver it. I hope this task might not be that difficult for you guys. And it can also be done that you wait for all the orders till the night, then bring fresh goods from the market early in the morning and prepare them as the buyers want. We will fix the time of deliveries, so you will have to deliver their goods at the same time. If you are ready, we will take the matter forward.”
“Madam ji we are five to six friends. You have talked about giving us life. I will go and talk to everyone now and if you don’t mind, I will bring everyone here in the evening”, Sukhiya said with gleaming eyes.
“Hey, what’s there to mind about it, if I would have felt bad, then why would I take such an initiative for you guys. Okay now you go and talk to everyone and bring everyone in the evening, till then I will also consult my friends ”, said Avantika.
After Sukhiya’s departure, Avantika put a message in the WhatsApp group she had created that Sukhiya was ready to proceed further, now she wants to talk to all of them to take forward the conversation about how to go about it. She also messaged her suggestions to everyone in detail.
Now while buying goods online, we have neither seen the seller nor you have any relation with him. Yes, if you do not like the goods, there is definitely a scheme of refund, but there are also some terms and conditions attached. And if any familiar relationship cannot be enjoyed, then it is better to make some people familiar and in return for it, get some fresh products. Both parties can enjoy the advantages.
Avantika chalked out a lot of details of do’s and don’ts till evening. Now all she was waiting for was Sukhiya to arrive with his friends. She had also called some close friends of her society so that everyone could decide together on how things would proceed.
Before the scheduled time, Sukhiya also reached there along with his friends. Seeing Avantika, everyone folded their hands as if she was their life-giver.
“Madam ji we are all together, tell us what to do”, all said in unison.
“Let’s all go sit in the garden and talk comfortably there. Also, some more people from the building are also coming so that everything can be decided”, Avantika said and took them all to the garden.
After everyone arrived, Avantika began to present her idea.
“Look, all of you vendors go to the market early in the morning and bring vegetables. Then throughout the day, you walk around the streets shouting on top of your voice pushing your carts, tiring your throat and feet. And then the vegetables which are not sold, you either throw them away or sell them at a cheaper price. You might be suffering losses too sometimes. And you pay the rent of the carts, also separately.”
“Now, if you become a member of this WhatsApp group, then all the people can message their requirements and their address on the group.”
“It can be anything: vegetables, fruit, flowers, or groceries. Now by making a list of all the orders that come till night, you people should bring as many goods from the market early in the morning as required and then pack according to people’s demands. If someone wants chopped vegetables, then cut and wash them and then deliver them to everyone’s place on time.
She continued, “By noon, all your work will be over. Then if someone needs some other items in an emergency or wants to get them from the market, then you can get those goods for him by charging a little money as a service charge. If you guys like it then let me go ahead”, Avantika asked them.
“Yes madam, that’s a very good suggestion. Our work will also be done, we will also earn money and we will also get time to rest. So tell us what to do next”, Sukhiya and his friends asked her.
Avantika said, “Look now you are seven people. I will arrange a smartphone and a cycle for all of you, whose money will be paid for by all of us together. It’s not that we will be doing you any favor. You will have to gradually return this money to us in installments. Now all of you must be having your Aadhar card etc. You will have to give a copy to me and I will get a mobile connection for all of you and also get your bank account opened. I would also like to see the place, where you all live so that I can convince everyone about this with confidence.”
“Then, I will add your numbers to this WhatsApp group and your work will start.”
Taking the matter further, Avantika said, “Now if all of you go together to the market in the morning, then you can easily come back early with all the items. Then in two-three hours, prepare the items the way you have been asked to and deliver them to everyone’s homes. For this, you can take all the items on a bicycle to everyone’s place and then leave.”
“Throughout the day, if anyone needs any necessary goods from the market, then he will WhatsApp you. You buy those goods from the market and deliver them.”
“The money will be transferred in advance to your bank account. Then you bring the items whose payment has been done. You may also take cash from those who want to pay in cash and keep adding it to a separate account. At the end of the month, after deducting all the expenditure, whatever is left out will be divided between all of you depending on the orders you have catered to.”
“If you all like this idea, come again tomorrow with your Aadhar cards and then I would like to see the place where you guys live”, said Avantika.
“Why tomorrow, Madam, come with us. We will show you our house today and give you our Aadhar card as well. We are also ready to start work as soon as possible after all our family members too are waiting for us to start work”, they told her.
On hearing this, Avantika took some of her friends and went to the place where they all lived, took their address and Aadhar cards. She was feeling a strange relief. She was feeling as if she had attended that wrong number for this very purpose.
The very next day, after talking to everyone in her office and society, she calculated the cost of buying mobiles and cycles and opening bank accounts. Some close people divided that money equally among themselves by consensus. Avantika ordered seven mobiles and cycles. She called all of them the next day and got their bank account opened and their phones activated and included them all in her WhatsApp group.
This is how she started for those poor vendors “Business through WhatsApp“
She became their first customer. She ordered vegetables and fruits on the group. And after that many people from her society and office placed their orders in that group.
Sukhia and his companions went to the market in the morning as they had been told, purchased all the items and prepared them as ordered, and delivered them to everyone’s place early in the morning by bicycles. By about eleven o’clock, all those people had finished their work and were free. So they put a message on the group that they are all free so whoever needs household items or any help can inform them.
Similarly, from a needle to tap to breakfast to biscuits to anything from the market, whatever anyone needed, he would WhatsApp it and those people would deliver it, in return either they would be given cash or the money be transferred to their account. Even if someone had to deliver a tiffin, he would call them and would pay the cost of delivering the tiffin.
In this way, those people were also saved from selling vegetables and shouting and screaming from street to street all through the day. Now neither their remaining vegetables rotted nor did they have to sell vegetables at a cheaper price. Rather, after selling vegetables on time and by doing all this work in the remaining time, those people started earning even more.
At the end of the month, the accounting was done and the cash which they had received was also collected. And as it was already decided, after adding the money spent for buying mobiles and cycles and whatever other initial expenses Avantika and her friends had done, they paid the fixed first installment to Avantika, and after that kept an account for spending, the leftover profits were divided among them.
In four months, all the seven of them together repaid all the money that Avantika and her friends had spent and the rest of the profit division went on as decided.
By now many more people had joined those seven people and the number of orders also started increasing.
That face which was reflecting tears of misery the day Sukhiya gad met Avantika, the same face now shone with happiness.
Avantika and Sukhiya’s meeting that day due to the wrong number led to their WhatsApp business and became a source of livelihood for Sukhiya and many other fruit and vegetable vendors like him.
There was also a comfort in Avantika’s heart that on that day she did not consider that wrong number to be a useless number and gave some of her precious time resulting which many people benefited.
Do not let the world but just your diligence and confidence judge you.-Ashu
How did you like this initiative of Avantika?
And what is your opinion about the business through WhatsApp idea?
Do share your views about this connection of hearts and minds and earning livelihood through social media apps.
-Ashu Verma Chaubey
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