Sunday, December 21, 2014

Every Bag Has a Story to Tell

Charmi agreed to be the model
and promote this bag
There is a bearded, well mannered old man in Madurai. He has inherited the art of making cloth canvas bags. For three generations he says, his family has survived on this business. His bags are not for the very rich, but for the traders who need a strong companion to carry their stuff.

He goes to the cloth market and sources good quality canvas cloth. He is worried as the price per kg of this cloth has shooted above Rs.200. This old man in his early fifties brings the cloth home in a cycle (the cycle looks half as old as him).  He carefully cuts it and stitches to make awesome bags like the one shown in this picture.

He carries couple of dozens in his cycle. Hangs them in the front handle bar. He has made it the right size so that the bags can swing , but not touch the front wheels of the cycle. It is a customer expectation for him. His customers will not buy if it is long and could touch the front wheel. Now, he says it is a market standard size for these bags.

His place of business lies about 9kms from his house. He does not ride his cycle. He just walks with the cycle. Walking with the cycling slows him down, but attracts the passers by and shop keepers. He could sell 1 or 2 bags on the way to his place of business. He reaches his place of business by 9.00am. He makes sure he is ready to be there till 7.00pm. It is an old and dynamic trading spot. You could see people selling everything from onions to ornaments. The sellers and the buyers would need a bag. His bags are not sold in super markets or in the shops. They all have moved on to plastic bags. Those who see the value of Rs.120 in his bag are his customers. They negotiate and he will be happy to sell it at Rs.110.

Once the sale is made, he makes a value addition. He says, "I can attach rivets to the handle. My bags are strong enough , but the rivets will make it stronger for ever". If the customer is convinced with this sales pitch, our bag maker earns Rs.10 extra.

At the end of the day, he is happy to sell 4 or 5 bags. I asked him, "Why not 40 or 50 bags a day?". He replied "These are expensive bags, do you expect to sell 40 or 50?". I saw the business-man missing in him, but I could see a man who loves his livelihood. He has to now walk back the 9kms home. I asked him, why not leave the goods and cycle somewhere nearby. He says, that will cost me Rs.25 a day. Why spend that when I can make some extra money by walking my way back.

Do you want to meet him? You should  go to Thermutti in Madurai. You could locate a cycle  on the platform near the first Ther (Temple Car).  You might see a cheerful, bearded old man with colorful bags near that cycle. He says, I'm open 9.00am to 7.00pm every day.

Such wonderful people, makes us believe further in our initiative. Happy to be the messenger.

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