Unsung Hero - Sahuji Pohewale of Raipur, Chhatisgarh

27th Jul 2012
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On my travel through Chattisgarh, I reached Raipur from Bhilai, one early morning, after my day long workshop with about two hundred young b-school aspirants in Bhilai. My workshops usually end with my favourite session on entrepreneurship. And I am always on the lookout for new stories all the time to add to the session.

When I stepped out of the bus, it was early morning 7am. The roads were deserted in Raipur. In sometime, school children started emerging onto the streets to take their school buses. Since I had reached earlier than the schedule, I started capturing the children with my camera. I still had about an hour to spend before the CL office opened for the day. I decided to walk further along the road.

As I moved, about a couple of hundred feet, I noticed a huge crowd around a ‘thela’ (a hand cart). Also I saw that cars of various sizes and shapes were parked. I could just see the roof of the thela. This cart was parked in front of a large shopping mall, which was closed since it was too early in the day. I reached the place and started observing. The crowd was mostly a mix of youngsters – college students and, rich and wealthy who are on their way from their morning walks and workouts. The gentleman manning the thela, along with a young support staff, was too busy serving piping hot ‘poha’.

I was observing the action, as I clicked a few photos from the vantage point of the mall. A group of youngsters whom I could identify by their discussions as engineering college students from the nearby paying guest accommodations, finished their breakfast, packed a few more plates of poha and vanished. Crowd kept coming. Just then a group of four gentlemen, in their track suits, got down from a car, ordered for their breakfast and started stretching and relaxing. I approached them to ask a few questions.

“Are you all coming from your morning workouts?”

“Yes, we go for a walk at Gandhi Udyan, which is a couple of kilometers from here.”

“Do you go by this way every day?”

“The way back from our work outs, we come here for our breakfast every day.”

“For how long have you been coming here?”

“We have been regular here for the last four years.”

“What makes you come here?”

“After our walks we tend to continue our chat. What a better way than to do it over hot, tasty and healthy breakfast. And Sahuji’s poha is the best.”

Meanwhile Sahuji delivers hot poha for them to relish. And I moved on to the thela.

The crowd still kept coming. I went to another gentleman who was eating his third plate of poha and started asking him about the why and what of his choice of having breakfast here. He owns a Chevrolet showroom and has been a regular for the last two and half years.

While Sahu ji was still busy, I tried to elicit some information about his business. Though I shared with him that all data I need is for motivating youngsters, Sahooji was very reluctant to reveal any numbers. He was willing to share all the other worldly knowledge, very comfortably. While interacting with me, he refilled the hot pan with the next tranche of poha from the stock.

I pieced the heard and overheard and observed information together:

1. His day starts at 4am, when he starts making poha

2. By 6:30am He reaches the business location, with his thela well equipped

3. His wares get exhausted by 10am

4. Then he spends an hour shopping for the next day

5. By 12pm, he is free for the day

Numbers

1. Twenty Kilograms of poha made every day

2. Every plate of poha is about 50gms

3. So every kilogram yields 20 plates;

4. And twenty kgs yield 400 plates

5. Each plate, sold at rs. 20/-, yields about rs. 8000/- per day

6. His costs do not exceed 1500/- a day

On a conservative estimate he makes about Rs. 2 Lakhs a month

When I went for the motivation session in a college later in the day in Raipur, I started my session with this example. All of them immediately shared that the Pohawala is Sahooji and he is popular by the name Sahooji pohewale!

What would happen if a young MBA grad goes and sits with Sahooji and, helps him think big. With his popularity, I am sure we can launch ‘many theles’, mentored and facilitated by him. Each of these theles can be branded ‘Sahuji pohewale’ working on standards and consistency in taste and experience.

How many of us, well qualified B-school grads, are willing to take up such a challenge?

[Read more such stories about unsung heroes from Sreeni's blog.] 

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