It all started with a forward. Apparently, a tea-seller at Vile Parle station accepted money via Paytm. This was new and unheard of. Tea, hardly costing Rs 5, now sold through Paytm? Digitally, that is? I had to investigate this interesting turn of events, and went looking for vendors who’ve now moved from cash to cashless transactions, all in the wake of the government’s demonetisation policy.
My first stop was Bandra’s Bazaar Road, where I met a vegetable vendor. Pramod Maurya, 23, has been involved in this business for the past 15 years. I inquired about Paytm, and how he came about using this app. He told me, “Representatives from Paytm approached me one day, introduced the app, and told me that it was free of charge. Transactions would also be free of cost. Since I have had this installed, my business has improved a little. Most of my regular customers now pay me via Paytm. An additional advantage is that we receive cash back as well, so it’s a win-win situation for us.”
I walked a little further down the road and came upon Apna Stores, a general kirana store. The owner of the store, 38-year-old Jeetendra Nandu had a different story to tell. He confessed being utterly dissatisfied with the way things were going on. He said, “Most of our customers pay in cash still, only a few pay via Paytm. We have installed Paytm for a month now.” Installing Paytm has done little to improve his business.
At Jaffson Pickle and Masala store, I met 45-year-old Naeem Jaffar, who served his customers enthusiastically and always with a smile on his face. He believes that there are many benefits to Paytm and its uses, but not everyone is aware of how it works. “We are visited by several educated customers who don’t know how to use the app. Sometimes they aren’t even aware that Paytm requires an Android phone and Internet for it to work.”
This was in remarkable contrast to what the fruit vendor Ramesh Jaiswal, 38, had to tell me. Jaiswal has been selling fruits at Vile Parle for the last 15 years. According to him, only the educated smartphone users use Paytm. The others pay in cash.
Paanwala Ishwarlal Chaurasiya, 47, who sits at his shop outside Vile Parle station, downloaded the app because it was the buzzword in the days post demonetisation. “About 20% of my customers are now paying me via Paytm,” he said.
I stocked up on some fruits and then headed towards Ram Mandir Road, where I met Sagar Gowda, another tea-seller who took recourse to Paytm in times of cash crunch. However, Gowda is not happy with the way things are. The customers paying via Paytm are dreadfully low. He says, “In the two months that I have had Paytm downloaded, about five to six daily customers use the app to pay. Customers can shell out Rs 6 for a cup of tea, they don’t need to use Paytm.”
At Bandra’s Bazaar road, I watched 18-year-old Badru Khan quietly manage his family’s shop selling chicken. He was among the first broilers who used Paytm keeping his customers’ comfort and ease in mind. For him, “There has been no change in business. It is certainly not improving. But, it isn’t worsening either.” However, he believes that with Paytm, business will definitely improve in the future.
At Hill Road, I observed roadside vendors accepting transactions via Paytm and FreeCharge. I spoke to Shoaib Sayed, 26, who deals with men’s clothes. He told me, “Customers are able to come and shop here only because of Paytm. They know that we have installed Paytm, and it makes things easier for the both of us. Currently the bank is charging us 1% for using Paytm. But if even Paytm starts charging us, then we will stop using it as it doesn’t make any sense at all and we will barely earn anything.”
It is the end of another tiring day and I sit, card in one hand, smartphone in another, debating how I should go about paying my mobile bill. Am I ready go digital yet? Are you?