D91 Labs
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D91 Labs

#6 |Mohammed: Decoding Bharat 🇮🇳

If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.

If you’re interested in reading the complete interview transcript, here is the
complete transcript

Short story:

Mohammed is a 20-year-old from Assam working as a security guard in Bangalore. Being the sole breadwinner, he leaves no stone unturned to ensure a better future for his family. His enterprising nature enables him to get closer to his aspirations of making it big. This story revolves around Mohammed’s quest to turn his life around.

  • Mohammed discontinued studies to support his family of 7. He migrated to Bangalore from Assam in search of employment, in order to ease his financial burden.
  • He started working as security in Bangalore through a friend’s referral. He has been in Bangalore for around 2 years but has shifted around 4 different jobs in search of better salary and work environment.
  • He is bent on working hard to move out of poverty to meet his family needs and have a better life for himself.

Identity proofs as a barrier:

  • Mohammed had to struggle to find employment because he did not have any identity proof documents. He did not have PAN card or Aadhar card, which was crucial to securing a job. All he had was his voter ID, and he did not even possess his school certificate because of discontinued studies.
  • As a result, he was engaged in a lot of lowly jobs with low pay and unfavourable environment.

I studied for 6 months of my 9th standard and the next 6 months was spent working. I don’t have my 9th standard certificate with me now. It is still in school.

I wanted to open a savings account. The bank manager asked for address proof. He said I could get a letter signed by my room owner. After this, I had to get the document sealed and signed at a notary. I have never stepped into a court. How am I to know about all this?

Language as a barrier:

  • Mohammed found it difficult to express himself since he knew only Assamese and Bengali when he first landed in Bangalore.
  • Being a migrant, adapting to the local languages was a task. Not knowing the languages closed the doors to many opportunities. Every day was a struggle.
  • Having no common grounds to communicate with his peers, higher authorities and other officials left him in great agony. Even more so when language came in the way of meeting his basic needs and major activities like banking transactions.
  • He eventually picked up Hindi and Kannada from his colleagues, which eased his daily transactions to a certain extent.

I did not know how to speak Hindi. I was unable to express my feelings. This went on for 2–3 months. By the end of the 4th month, I realized that the ones who knew Hindi would talk and get their issues resolved. Due to my lack of fluency in Hindi, my problems would go unnoticed.

Income as a barrier:

  • Mohammed worked a lot of odd jobs to make ends meet. He ended up changing jobs frequently, because of their irregular and meagre income. He was living hand to mouth and growing increasingly dissatisfied with every job.
  • He is mindful that every minute counts. He wants to maximize his earnings and we can see he is relentlessly working towards it. Unlike some of his colleagues who have resigned to their fate, he is actively taking steps to craft a better future for himself.
  • He spends more than half his monthly earnings back home. It is mostly directed towards his siblings’ education. Despite his best efforts, 2 of them had to drop out because of insufficient funds.
  • His financial decisions affect the flow of money to his family. His purchases sometimes leave him with no money to send home.
  • He wants to start a business of his own or become a taxi driver because he believes this is the only way to put an end to his financial misery.
  • He estimates he might need a loan of Rs. 50,000 to set up his business.
  • He opened a savings account for the same. He had managed to save up Rs. 15,000.
  • He joined a network marketing gig at Safe Shop to earn money quickly. The nature of work gave him a major confidence boost, which was vastly different from the kind of jobs he was doing earlier.
  • His savings quickly depleted when he signed up for Safe Shop. It became a tipping point when his family needed money but he couldn’t send any.

Safe Shop says there should be one person on either side of me. And in turn, these two people should have 4 people under them. People at every level will multiply and this is how the business grows. When I reach a target of 10,000 people, there will be a diamond function. I will go to a 5-star hotel to celebrate. I will come back to my room and sleep without a worry. I will get 8 lakh rupees per month in my account. This is the company that is going to make my dreams come true.

Safe Shop:

Safe Shop operates on a recruiting model. For every 2 recruits a participant brings into the system, he will earn a commission of Rs. 1,400. There is a cap of Rs 2 lakh per week, which is given to the participant by the company on achieving 200 pairs of recruits. From our understanding, Safe Shop seems like a Ponzi scheme.

Credit as a barrier:

  • It is interesting to note that the topic of loan came up thrice in our conversation. Each time though, the loan was denied on grounds of not having a credit score.
  • Mohammed’s family has only one small piece of land as an asset which they couldn’t pledge, so his father was denied a loan when he had fallen ill and out of employment.
  • His father could not avail a loan for his children’s education either because they did not have the capacity to repay such a huge amount.
  • Mohammed is sceptical about taking a huge loan for his business because he is afraid of the financial burden that comes with it.
  • His family does not prefer moneylenders for loans because of their exorbitant rates of interest. The fear of getting trapped in debt prevents them from reaching out.

I spoke to the bank manager that I needed the loan to start a business of my own. He said that I needed to show him some money before he could approve my loan. I do not have the capacity to show such a huge amount.

Tech journey:

  • Mohammed is usually dependent on his colleague for help with online shopping.
  • He is an active user of social media apps.
  • He finds YouTube to be a reliable source of information and often consumes news through the mobile app.
  • His dwindling finances prevent him from indulging in online payments, even though he has the apps installed.

Aspirations:

Short term goals:

  • Mohammed has 2 well-defined goals that he believes that is his ticket to financial freedom — he either wants to start a business or become a taxi driver.
  • Not having a driving license is preventing him from pursuing this endeavour.
  • He finds the systemic delays and bureaucracy as an impediment to setting up his business in Bangalore, so he wants to move back to Assam.
  • He foresees that his business will require a loan of Rs. 50,000.
  • He had not only started saving up to fund his business dreams but also joined a network marketing scheme in his efforts to grow his income.

Long term goals:

  • Mohammed is sitting on the ticking time bomb of marriage. He is on a race to establish himself and become financially stable before he hits marriageable age, which is 26 according to him.
  • He fears that the responsibility and social obligations after marriage will come in the way of his earning capability.
  • It is his earnest attempt to provide his family with a better life while he is still young and energetic.

I cannot leave my house after marriage. There is nothing to do in my village. I have to either start a business of my own or work in our farm.

Lifestyle:

  • He stays in a company-sponsored accommodation, which only reduces his financial burden by a fraction.
  • His shift rotates regularly. He is unable to dedicate time to his aspirations because of his hectic 12-hour shift.
  • His lack of education closed the doors to more lucrative employment opportunities, like his educated counterparts.
  • All along, there is an underlying sense of urgency to turn his life around and helplessness that money is the bottleneck at every stage.

Back at home, there is one guy who is working on computer systems in a big company. He is well-read. Had I studied, I would have also been able to do the job. We lack the knowledge that you folks have, that is why we end up doing security guard job. We want to grow, and change our lives.

To read the complete transcript of the interview, please use the following link

Complete interview transcript

About the research:

This documentation is a result of the in-person interview along with the participants’ consent. The interviews might be conducted in their native languages and translated to English in the best possible way to reach a large audience.

Disclaimer: The name in this documentation is masked to honour the privacy of the participant.

About D91 labs:

This research was executed and documented by D91 labs. D91 labs is an open source initiative by setu.co to help Bharat build great fintech products. We organise and publish user research, insights and frameworks for fintech in India. Please follow us on medium for more exciting stories and insights on Bharat.

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