A version of this article was originally posted by Indian cycling blogger Vijay Malhotra on his excellent website Pedal and Tring Tring.
by Vijay Malhotra
Sanjay Sharma arrives at Carter Road, Bandra, to sell ice creams from his cargo trike. The 38 year old is seen at the same spot every night from 9pm to 3am, serving local tourists and people who visit the area for evening walks. Families travelling in cars and motorbikes often stop by to eat ice creams with their children. His bright red tricycle can easily be seen from afar as he mostly prefers to stand under a street lamp.
Behind him is a dog park where locals bring their pets to play and socialise. The park is fenced off and attracts children, excited to see dogs of all different breeds in one place. Pictures of ice creams on the mini fridge and roof attract kids to his trike. With almost no effort, children actively nudge their parents for an ice cream stick or a cone. Therefore, Sanjay finds this to be a strategic location which works in his favour.
Sanjay came to Mumbai seven years ago in search of work. With a lack of skills and education, and following the advice of a friend, he invested in a tricycle and started to sell ice creams to bring in some income. His family lives nearly 2000km away in Bihar while he stays here in a shared rented house. From the small income he generates through his ice cream business, Sanjay manages to save some to transfer back home to his wife and children. “Sales are not consistent and the volume goes down in certain months”, he says. He is well aware that consumption of ice creams is seasonal; weather conditions have a direct impact on sales. But selling ice creams from his tricycle is the only work he knows and he is content with what he earns.
Weather is not the only factor that works against him, he also faces pressure from the authorities. The local municipality has stopped issuing licences to street vendors and fines are imposed whenever enforcement officers are on their rounds. Every week Sanjay ends up paying fines in cash plus free ice creams – given away to ensure he can operate his business in peace.
A few metres away, several ice cream parlours sell expensive brands but he doesn’t consider them a threat. Sanjay explains: “Those who are confident about my style of business and product quality have shown trust and loyalty. I don’t understand marketing. My sole objective is to cater to my customers and ensure they never leave disappointed”.
He further elaborates “When I remove a candy from the fridge and hand it over to a child I can relate to their happiness. I forget my hardships. Their innocent eyes make me emotional. Children are not customers to me; I share the joy with them. My children are away from me in my hometown and one day they’ll be adults. I miss seeing them growing up. My customers keep me motivated” he concludes.
It is impressive to see how a common man has chosen a sustainable business model – using an ice cream trike – to make a living. Over the years this micro logistics vehicle has enabled Sanjay to establish himself as an entrepreneur and helped him to survive in testing times. The business might not be so profitable but his confidence has increased. There is limited dependency on others for money except the company which provides the ice cream stock. The novelty of ice creams automatically draws people in; a temptation that is hard to resist. So next time when you see an ice cream trike, think of Sanjay, grab a popsicle stick and bite it before it melts.
The original version of this article was originally published in August 2019 on author Vijay Malhotra’s excellent website Pedal and Tring Tring. You can also follow Pedal and Tring Tring on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (well worth it), and can connect with Vijay himself on LinkedIn.