Are you one of those who are waiting for the right time in their lives to start a business? The right money, the right education, right time, right age?
I have a short experience to share, for many aspiring entrepreneurs it may be inspiring or enviable, depending on how you look at it.
Youngest entrepreneur I’ve ever met
His name is Haja; a kid from streets of Gurgaon. When asked, doesn’t know his age (around 6 years, I guess). His father, Abdulah is a rickshaw puller in the city and mother is a cleaner in a nearby school. He has 5 sisters and 4 brothers. And he is a proud owner of a tea stall on one of the busiest roads of Gurgaon where all brands of cars arrive for repair!
He may not be a Internet or Hi-fi office entrepreneur, but has a preneur of his and running in his own style.
It was an hour job before my car could be repaired and so I decided to stay around and have a cup of tea to kill time. I saw a small stall which said “bread, ande, chai, fan aur sutta yaha milta hai” (written in hindi) (which means, Boiled eggs, Bread, Tea and cigarettes sold here), and the moment I entered I saw a cute little guy standing there behind the stove asking for what I may want to order.
This is an as-such conversation that happened with the guy while I was having my awesome cup of tea, originally in Hindi.
Haja: This is my tea stall and I am Haja.
Me: (Surprised) What’s your age child?
Haja: I don’t know. (with a cute smile, I am sure I was not the first guy asking this question to him)
Me: Where is your father? Doesn’t manage the shop; or your mother?
Haja: I do it myself, this is my stall. (I looked up it was a decent one, if it is his own). Will you please tell me what do you want?
Me: A cup of tea!
(When there were no other customers around, I asked him again whether it was his own shop – and he confirmed)
Me: Brother, can I ask you something? What does your parents do?
Haja: My father is a rickshaw puller and mom is a cleaner in school.
Me: What about your siblings? Do you have any?
Haja: Yes, I have 4 brothers and 5 sisters. 3 sisters are married to their grooms in our village; eldest brother is a truck driver, the second brother is a mechanic, third paints the cars on the very street and there is one smaller than me. (The smallest one was sitting there in a corner and having tea listening our conversation, around 4yr old)
Me: How come you opened the tea stall yourself, where did you get the money from? and your parents allowed you to do such work when children of your age go to school?
Haja: (He is an entrepreneur, a passionate one; and he just found his excuses) The financial condition at home is not good, we are a very poor family. My father rides a rickshaw almost 18 hours a day and mom also works hard but all money goes into the savings as it is time for my other sisters to get married. But recently, my second sister (who is married) got a baby and all savings went into the operation. Her husband is a drunkard and stays with us; we all want him to go away but he isn’t leaving my sister’s life. Moreover, my youngest brother is un-well most of the times.
So I decided that I will work for my brother’s medicines and sisters’ marriage. I asked my father to help me open a small tea stall here because there is no other shop around. He spent some money and got me this stall and we pay rent to the owner of a car repair shop man because we use his space. My mother taught me how to make tea and boil eggs.
Me: (Wanted to know how much is he contributing to the cause by leaving his education) How many cups of tea do you sell each day?
Haja: Around 400-500 cups each day along with some eggs and bread.
Me: (I continued a casual conversation but it turned into something else soon) Why did you open you tea stall here?
Haja: It is in the middle of the street and it becomes convenient for workers from both sides of the road to reach here. Also, I opened this stall when there was no other shop around so it made sense opening this shop here!
Me: Why don’t you keep other stuffs like patties, samosas, sandwiches etc?
Haja: It is all demand supply game. Initially we had all things, but came down to majorly tea and biscuits as it gave us maximum revenues and best profits. The rest are expensive and has un-quantifiable demands and perishable at the same time.
(Imagine these words from a 6 year old)
Me: You wave written that you sell cigarettes but I can’t see any in your shop.
Haja: The shop there (pointing towards other side of the road) has started keeping cigarettes of all brands. And now when anyone wants to have a cup of tea he first goes there, buys cigarettes and then visits my tea stall. I used to keep cigarettes but couldn’t afford to keep all brands together, which he could! So, he took away all my cigarette customers.
(As I asked him this question. Suddenly, he thought that I may want one.)
If you want, I can get it for you in no time. I usually run across the road to get cigarettes for my customers from there and I settle the accounts with that shop at the end of each day. This way, he also recommends some customers for my tea.
(A 6 year old taking care of his customers)
Me: I don’t want, thanks.
Haja: What do you do?
Me: (I don’t know what to say, he won’t understand it anyways – I wanted to say that I write for blogs) I write for newspapers that your father reads during the day!
Haja: So what do you write on the newspaper? Why don’t you write in a notebook? (He thought I pick up a newspaper each day and write something on it … lolzz)
Me: No No… I am the one who writes and prints news.
Haja: Ohhh, so you wrote about the guy who was murdered last week in New Delhi; my father was telling me about it.
Me: Yes, I wrote it! (Just finishing it there)
Haja: How big is your shop and how many people work with you.
Me: It is a big shop, in fact huge shop with 1000 people working.
Haja: Wow! (And he started thinking something)
Me: Do you want to work there?
Haja: No, I want 1000 people to work for me! (Now do you believe he is 6 year old, I don’t)
Me: What do you want to become when you grow up? (I couldn’t guess this one at all)
Haja: I want to open a big car repair shop and want all cars of the city to be repaired in my work shop. My elder brothers will work there and handle my business as they know much about the business already.
Me: But if you go to school and study, it will be easier for you to open that business.
Haja: Yes, I know. I am planning to save some money and invest in my education so that it can give me back much more than what I earn today. I was thinking about it already, I will now ask my mom to stay at shop for 4 hours after she comes from cleaning and then I will go to evening school.
(He was already aware of a school nearby which can be a nice investment of his hard earned money – he had done his research)
Me: You are running a shop and you have responsibilities at this age. Do you even know how to count numbers?
Haja: Not much but I can add and subtract numbers. Nothing beyond it. I can’t read or write any language.
Me: Alright brother. You are courageous and strong; but don’t neglect your education at any cost. Do find time to fit those school hours in your schedule.
I couldn’t write down the entire conversation here as it would make it a long post; however, this guy is an inspiration to me. At such a young age, he understands aspects of business better than many of our big honchos do!
What lessons have you learned from him?