This morning I saw my favorite autowala sweeping in front of a flower vendor’s shop. After a while, waiting for my bus, I then saw him dusting and cleaning inside that shop. I was taken aback because I saw him standing next to his auto rickshaw last evening. Then I realized that he has decided to double-up as a worker in that florist shop. He is now sweeping the same steps where he used to enjoy his morning chai with owner of the shop! What an irony. But why?
Auto rickshaw owners lost major chunk of their daily business to cab hailing apps. The Olas and Ubers have taken away many of his loyal customers. His financial condition is moving from bad to worse. With growing kids and ageing parents he has little choice but to take-up some supplementary employment to maintain his family income. Then there are EMIs of auto loan and other personal loans to be repaid. Life is becoming more and more scary day after day for many autowalas like him. With little or no education to back-up their pitiful condition, most of them are in deep financial distress. Many are turning to alcohol, taking drugs, indulging in domestic violence and exposing themselves to crimes. Some, like my friend Rambhau, have the courage to become sweepers and workers but due to lack of proper education, most of them are susceptible to frustration resulting into severe physical and emotional disorders.
It’s a zero sum gain. When we celebrate success of startups we tend to ignore the plight of those who get affected due to technological disruptions. We fail to understand that their gain comes at the cost of old fashioned small scale entrepreneurs like Rambhau. Yes, these old fashioned guys do have a choice of upgrading their skills and joining the new forms of business but we must also appreciate the fact that such a psychological turnaround takes time. Not all auto rickshaw owners will have time, patience or age on their side. But it is possible if initiatives like StartUp India take an inclusive approach towards a mammoth change which is now at sight in coming years. Why not ask every Uber or Ola to bring Rambhaus’ under their fold, educate them compassionately and take them along instead of simply devising strategies to vindicate them.
Only then we can proudly say StandUp India in auditoriums and conferences.