Archive for December, 2010

Shoestring

Posted: December 8, 2010 in Innovation, Management
This is typical Mumbaiah (related to Mumbai)… and whoever has ever commuted through local train to work would have noticed it. Whenever one gets out of a local train during morning hours… ‘tak tak tak…’ there is this familiar sound of wood knocks around. It doesn’t take much time to figure out the source of this unusual sound – couple of shoemakers on the platform. Curiosity took me to one of them and what a skill they have… 3 mins flat to get done with a pair. I was delighted with the service and their efficiency. And what they get for it is just Rs.5. This left me wondering about shoemakers’ daily/monthly income.
If we observe we could see that these shoemakers get good footfalls during 3 hours in morning (8 AM – 11 AM), then moderate footfalls for next three hours and minimal footfalls thereafter. Based on a rough calculation we can say that on a good day a shoemaker would make Rs. 450 – 500 (20shoes x 3 hrs x Rs.5 + 5shoes x 3h x Rs5 + 3shoes x 3h x Rs.5). Out of this most of the earnings (60-65%) happen during peak 3 hours. So, 2/3rd of earnings happen in 1/3rd of the working time. This gives us another food for thought… is there a way out in which these shoemakers can use remaining 2/3rd of their time more productively?
Couple of crude alternatives I can think of: (Please feel free to add…)
1. Switching between stations based on time of the day – Shoemakers can render service on stations toward town during peak hours and they can probably shift to stations in suburbs during evenings. (There are more commuters from suburbs towards town during morning hours and opposite movement happens during evening hours). But point to consider here is that a person going to office in morning is more likely to get his shoe polished compared to a person coming back home. So again attractiveness of this alternative during evening hours has to be validated.
2. Alternative work after peak hours – Shoemakers can seek out work in some other areas like mills, factories, etc. after peak hours. Problem here could be their limited skill set and availability of such type of opportunities.
3. A new ecosystem – Another option is to build an ecosystem to productively utilize their skills. Why do we need to have leather tanning / polishing industry limited to some specific areas in town? What if there are leather work related shops close to some of the stations? This could give shoemakers an opportunity to be involved in regular source of income as well. Again, the problem to consider in this case is whether there is really a need/demand for so many shoemakers? Is location (distance to work) really a constraint?
I could think of only above 3 alternatives off the fly. Brainstorming could help us to come up with few more options and further refining the identified alternatives. If at all anything can help to increase productivity and ‘Shoestring’ income of these shoemakers!! 

subtag: Social Innovation, Ideation

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