Understanding Mumbai’s Small Businesses

A look into how small businesses have managed to sustain in the competitive market of Mumbai.


Small spaced shops in the city's Crawford Market. Nishi Trivedi/NSoJ

Nishi Trivedi

Mumbai: Have you ever wondered how the gold chain you are wearing is made? Or even how the packaging of various products which we buy in the stores is decided? All these processes which happen in the background are done by the small businesses located in some of the wholesale markets of Mumbai. From dry fruits and spices to home décor to varieties of bags,every product is available in bulk and at a reasonable rate for retailers as well as consumers.

“We first melt the gold bar into small sticks which then are turned into a thin wire before a chain is made using a machine,” said Mr. Suhird, owner of a small-scale gold manufacturing unit. The small shiny chains seen in the large jewellery shops look simple to make when compared to big necklaces. But in reality, these chains are made with utmost patience and concentration. “Every step has to be carefully followed and the weightage of the final product should be taken care of because gold is very expensive and every milligram counts,” he added. Not only the manufacturing units, but these markets are also home to many small-scale businesses that deal with different products. “We import saffron and then pack it under our brand-name which is later sent to our distributors,” said Mr. Ashok, a seller of Saffron.

The wholesale bag shop which gives the customer tons of options to choose from. Nishi Trivedi/NSoJ

Mumbai which is known as the financial and commercial capital of India has not only helped big businesses evolve but also allowed many small-scale businesses to grow and succeed in this ever-changing market. “We have been selling bags for a long time now. Over these years, we have gained goodwill and loyal customers and that has helped us increase our sales,” said Mr. Maqsood, a wholesale seller of bags in Crawford Market. With time the e-business platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart have made online shopping much easier and trustworthy for the consumer. This has ultimately affected the sales of many small businesses but at the same time, it has helped many owners to showcase their product to the masses. “Amazon seller portal has helped me gain a number of new clients and is a good way to expand my business,” said Mr. Ashok. He also believes that packaging and the look of the boxes also play an important part in selling the product as it is a major part of the marketing strategy. “No matter how good your product is, if the marketing is not strong, there is no value to it,” he added.

"You have to be alert and be updated with what is happening in the business world for your product to sustain in the market,” Mr. Ashok stressed. One such economic change was the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) which affected every business differently. “It has created transparency in the business and also made the movement of goods much easier. Earlier we had a number of issues with a interstate transactions, and now because of GST there is some relief," said Mr. Nilesh, an importer and trader of spices and dry fruits. On the other hand, it has negatively affected the manufacturing units. “Our line of work has limited profits and owing to the introduction of GST, we have to hire a professional to work on filing GST and that is an added expense,” said Mr. Suhird.

Despite the challenges of a slowing economy these businesses are still finding other options and coming up with new ideas to sustain in the market. It is quite clear with the observations and personal accounts of some of the small business owners that these markets are an essential part of a thriving Mumbai.

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