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#EaglesInTheStorm - Survival on a daily basis.

Anchal Jain in conversation with Kabir, a fruit vendor based in Gurgaon

Kabir, along with his two brothers Asif and Rashid, has been nurturing a fruit shop in Gurgaon for 12 years. His shop is a good distance away from home, he is at least 50% more expensive than the local grocery, but we still get most of our fruit from him.

Kabir is our Eagle of the day.

They have so far, touch wood, escaped the wrath of the virus. With a complex operation on a daily basis involving “phal mandi”, jostling with crowds, uneasy public commute, shop level engagement and home deliveries, I was happily surprised to hear this. The method adopted to stay safe and most efficient for the business during this last one year, was arduous but effective.

Asif’s only job was to be among the first at the Azadpur mandi every morning, choose and buy the fruits, load up a delivery vehicle bound for Gurgaon and go back home. He would avoid any contact with the shop, the other two brothers or any customer. Kabir himself was responsible to stay at and mind the shop, take the morning fruit delivery, manage shop sales and take customer delivery orders. Rashid would only take care of the home deliveries in Gurgaon. This meant that when home is in Ghaziabad, buying in Azadpur and shop in Gurgaon, Kabir and Rashid would sleep at the shop itself.

The only time he could give me for the interview was either after wrap at 10pm or before 7am when the delivery reaches them. Even when talking to me at 10:10pm, he wore a mask.

Sales have dropped to about half in the last one year, but he still seemed satisfied with what the brothers are able to earn, which is about Rs. 70,000 - 80,000 between them.

“Kamai zyaada kam nahi hui”.

I was surprised, obviously he has been able to fetch higher prices to earn more contribution. How?

“Sir, hum ne covid se thoda pehle se apna tareeqa badla tha....

We tried to modify our strategy already, a little before covid. We by-passed the aadatiya (middleman agent in the mandi set up) and started to buy directly from the farmers in the mandi, not for the better price, but for the choice of A1 quality fruits. The middlemen all sell “mixed quality fruits” to maximise their profits. Which meant that while we were paying more to pick out the best fruit, we said that this is the only way we can survive tough competition in Gurgaon, where there are customers who appreciate good quality fruit and are willing to pay.. Kam log lenge, par sahi log lenge”

“During covid, we started to be even more picky in what we brought to our customers.” He added.

I remembered the first time, just last week, I found “Imam Pasand” in NCR... thanks to him.

“It has saved us Sir. Our customers are loyal and even though hey are not buying as much as before, they are generous and it has allowed us to survive.”

When customers visit the shop, which they used to before, they would be enticed by the selection they could not just see, but also touch and smell. They would invariably buy more than now that they are ordering over phone for home delivery. He believes he has retained most of his customers, in fact, has added more through word of mouth within a condominium.

He does not say it, but I know and perhaps he knows too, once the pandemic lifts and same customers visit the shop again, his sales would increase substantially, his contribution even more.

Well done, Kabir.. I told myself silently, for he has cleverly distinguished himself, not just survived but even soared above the storm.

The world beyond the pandemic looks promising for him then, right?

I asked if he doesn’t feel the fear today, I asked what his aspirations are for the future of his business. His answer to both the extreme questions was the same:

“Hamari dukaan ek kaagaz ki kashti hai Sir, kabhi bhi doob sakti hai, par us dar se jo bas mein hai woh karna thodi bund kar denge... haan bas khwaab dekhne ki himmat nahi hoti”

At IIMA, an early lesson we had all learnt, “When there is no option, there is no problem”

Indeed, pandemic or no pandemic, for people like Kabir the storm rarely relents. They are the true eagles that keep India flying.

No place for fear, no room for doubt. Just wake up every morning keeping the mind clear, resolute and doing our very best.

A lot of us are blessed for we have a safety net in case things were to go sour for a while. It is that safety net that prevents us from saying to ourselves, “I have no option, so I have no problem”, and therefore from spreading and locking our wings.

The truth is that it is within each of us to become an Eagle. We just have to find our, “I have no option”. We saw in case of Irinder Singh Ahluwalia, it was a “purpose”. What is yours?

This is for all the Kabirs in our country!

Eagles In The Storm: About the Series

India’s Resilience amidst adversity. We know that while all the other birds fly away from a storm, eagle is the only one that actually flies into the storm. In these testing times, there is a large community full of samaritans, businesses, frontline workers and more who have inspired us and taught us different ways in combatting this storm. This series invites the stories, journeys and lessons from these very eagles in the storm. Everyone is welcome to contribute!

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