Myself Deepak Patel, I own five stores in Bhagalpur. I think I am a successful small business owner and I have grown the business progressively since I inherited my first store from my father, a little kirana shop. That was more than thirty years ago. My family members work for me in my shops. Sure, I didn’t want to give a job managing one of the stores to Madesh, that good-for-nothing who married my niece Amrapali. He’s always on his phone playing video games, but what was I to do? I couldn’t disappoint my wife, Smita, and at the end of the day Madesh and Amrapali are my family.
Smita is a strong-minded woman. She had only a bit of education in her childhood but she has a shrewd business acumen. She’s always pushing me to expand the business. I could anticipate some of the same steadfastness in my daughter Rusha, who is attending the University of Mumbai and will soon to be running the family business.
I was very proud the first time our daughter came to visit after her first year in Mumbai. Nevertheless, I soon started wondering whether I had made a mistake by sending her to the big city. Rusha had all these crazy ideas about change. We need to do this, we need to do that, she’d say. We need to keep up with progress.
“If it’s not broken, break it!” she said once.
“Why on Earth would I break it?!”
I thought I was going to have a heart attack. It was constant fighting.
“You need to get a point-of-sale system, Dad. You cannot continue keeping track of operations by hand.”
“But that’s what Atul does,” my wife, Smita, intervened. “You want us to fire your poor cousin?”
Even she was now tired of Rusha’s stubbornness.
“You wouldn’t need to fire Atul. You would make his job more productive. He spends more than four hours every day counting cash and reconciling the books for the store he manages. It would allow you to grow.”
“Grow where?” I asked. “We have five stores already. Business is good.”
“Things are changing fast!” Rusha replied. “Shops in Mumbai are now dealing with an upmarket clientele. They are expected to stock more than one option, perhaps ten options, of each product. And on top of that, they are expected to showcase products efficiently. Customers prefer breezing in and paying in a hurry. No more chit-chat. No more storage in gunny bags. Shopkeepers are expected to store organic products. They have to know what is buckwheat, quinoa and chia. People are going digital. We need to modernise. We need better inventory control. We cannot be out of stock. Business is now made online. The delivery boy has to be able to carry a point of sale to the customer for payment at his doorstep.”
“We’re not in Mumbai.”
“It doesn’t matter. Things are changing fast. You need to at least start accepting mobile wallets and credit cards.”
“And lose money paying fees? What do they teach you at this university? I’m paying for your education to help us make money!”
Then demonetisation happened, and suddenly we needed to get rid of all this cash we had been putting away. Smita and I spent an entire week making lines outside the bank to deposit the money. We had too much cash that we didn’t want to report, but nobody wanted to take it. We had to deposit it all to avoid paying fines.
“If you went digital, you wouldn’t need to go to the bank again,” Rusha said when I spoke to her on the phone.
The worst was when Smita and I found out that Atul had been stealing. He too was desperate trying to get rid of a stash of cash he couldn’t account for and had tried to bribe other members of the family to take it. I had to fire him and, of course, half the family stopped talking to me.
“We better check on everyone else to see if anyone else is being dishonest” Smita advised me.
We started with Madesh, my niece’s husband. I have never trusted him, and I was ready to let him go if we found the smallest problem. We didn’t. My wife and I were surprised to see how clean and organized he and Amrapali had the store they manage.
“I’ve been using this app, ePaisa,” Madesh said, raising his smartphone. “Your daughter Rusha recommended it. It keeps track of all the money we receive and of the inventory. You can also use it to accept digital payments.”
A month before I would have gotten very mad. I don’t believe in paying fees to the banks. But after demonetization, my sales had gone down. People were gravitating away from cash, and my stores weren’t prepared to accept digital payments. We were losing many of our clients to the competition. Madesh’s shop was the only one actually making money. He explained to us that Rusha had set up his app with our bank account information, so he and Amrapali had been accepting mobile wallets and credit cards for months using a little device that connected to his phone, without me even knowing it.
“Your daughter thought you would get mad, so she didn’t ask for your permission.”
“How much are you paying on fees?” I asked.
“TWO PERCENT!” I cried. “Why don’t you better take a knife and kill us!”
After a lot of back and forth discussion, we decided to run the numbers. I don’t know much about apps or the Internet, I’m a man of pen and paper. Madesh wouldn’t know how much is two plus two if his life depended on it, but he’s good with computers. All those years playing video games, I suppose. He ran a report from his app and between my wife, he, and I, we realised that the little ePaisa app he had been using had actually been saving us money.
“It even warns you when you’re running low on an item,” Madesh said.
Behind him, my niece Amrapali came with some chai. She was smiling.
“We need to get ePaisa for all our stores,” Smita said. “We cannot afford to lose more business.”
I agreed. Madesh isn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but that ePaisa app had certainly helped him.
Later that night I called Rusha and thanked her for introducing ePaisa to my family.
“You’re welcome,” she laughed.
I promised her that the next time she came to visit, I’d try not to fight her on any more of her changes.