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I am not an economist but here’s why my small business isn’t thriving

"I believed in India’s call for entrepreneurship. It’s now India’s job to fix everything that’s wrong in the system. And what I will do? Well, I will keep trying"

 

Shivam Singh

The big businesses are not growing as much as they used to. A certain car company had halted productions for a day. Some top tycoons are under bank debts of thousands of crores and big ventures are failing. But hey this is not what should actually be worrying. These big companies are facing a mere slowdown but small businesses with little reserves are on the verge of collapsing. These small business support way more lives than these so called big companies.

I own a very small food outlet in Delhi. I am not mentioning the name so that you don’t think it’s some sort of promotional trick. It’s the only air conditioned café with seating in the area. That’s one place to sit and eat for easily thousands of families. In my short tenure of operation not one customer has ever complained about the taste. In fact, my burgers are quite famous in the area. So we have got the taste covered.

But are we hygienic? My kitchen is an open one, pretty similar to popular chain Subway. So we just can’t keep it in a mess. The customer can always peep in. We use the freshest vegetables and branded raw materials because again the customer can see each and everything. And are our interiors any good? I can vouch for it. The place is easily the most comfortable one in the area with tables well-spaced from each other and chairs that swirl. Neat matting on floor, texture paint and surface lights, we pretty much resemble a brand. In fact, a regular customer once enquired about my other ‘franchises’.

Okay so that looks alright until now. But people are preferring takeaways and delivery in this busy world, so how good is our packaging? Let’s put it this way. We use capped glass bottles for shakes that cost just 70 and cardboard boxes for sandwiches which start from 40. We aren’t doing it cheap. And yes one more thing, big delivery companies are simply exploiting small business with offers and unreasonably high ad rates. Somebody really needs to pull their ears.

I can be biased, obviously. But how does my business sound like? I would say an economical place with comfortable seating, hygienic food and top notch packaging. Chances of succeeding are pretty much high. But again it’s a business and you can never always know where you are lacking. But from my side I can say I have got pretty much most bases covered. And yet my business isn’t really thriving. Why? I thought and thought hard and this is what I could come up with. The raw material costs are super high and add to that GST. Secondly, the real estate prices are really not so dynamic that they would crash with a slowing economy. The rents are quite high and they only go one way, upwards. The electricity rate is 8 rupees per unit for commercial setups which simply means hefty monthly bills. I wonder when Arvind Kejriwal would shower a little subsidy on us too. And trust me, regardless of what the media portrays; there is no cheap labour in the market. Add all this and you would understand that the overall cost of running a small business at present is just too high. But that can still be fine if one makes enough money. So am I making money?

Customers are the backbone of any business. I have done pretty much everything to attract customers and yet the growth is negligible. There are thousands of people on the road that skirts my outlet but they are just people not customers. Or at best they are potential customers, people returning from offices or going to college. But that’s how they have been for a long time now. There is not much to read into this. The answer is simple. People will only spend outside their necessities when they have that little surplus money. And perhaps the big companies that they are working for are just not paying enough. I wonder why the government wouldn’t just raise the minimum salary bar for these big companies. They are really paying pennies to their employees and making billions.

I am a small businessman. And this is not just the way I feel. I often get into conversations with small ice cream sellers to neighbourhood shop owners. They are all saying the same thing. There are people on the road, lots of them but not customers. I am still not sure why I chose to write this article. Perhaps I just wanted to put my heart out. I chose to be a businessman after completing engineering. I made a choice then. I believed in India’s call for entrepreneurship. It’s now India’s job to fix everything that’s wrong in the system. And what I will do? Well, I will keep trying.