Tucked in the midst of plush high-rises, the family of eight forges metal throughout the day, and is an enterprise in itself
Pritam, Santara and their six children have entrepreneurship running in their “royal” blood, if one were to believe Pritam.
He claims to be the member of the extended family of Maharana Pratap, the chivalrous Rajput king who ruled over Mewar in the 16th century. This “400-year-old” family business of blacksmiths has passed like tradition down the generations. However, Pritam is unsure about the generation he belongs to. This is not all. He does not even know how old he is, though his wife, Santara, believes he must be around 45 or 50. He also has no idea as to which city or town he lived in before the family moved to Gurgaon five years ago.
Quiz him about his second name and he unintentionally quotes Shakespeare, saying, “Naam main kya rakha hai?" (What’s in a name?). The family has no birth certificates and voter ID cards but is known to everyone as the blacksmith family. Despite the identity crisis, the family has been running their business in the Jharsa area of Gurgaon, tucked amidst the high-rise apartments and plush office complexes that make their existence even more ironical.
Work begins at 8 AM and ends by six in the evening. They produce different tools like hammers, spades, pruners, weeders, knives, wood saws, soil knives, and sledgehammers, apart from kitchen utensils like tongs, ladles and stoves. The prices range from Rs 10 to Rs 500, with an average price of Rs 50. The raw material needed is iron and wood. Coal is used to make a small furnace.
A tie-up with three scrap dealers in the Mayapuri and Lal Quila areas of Delhi and Bhiwadi in Rajasthan makes sure that the family gets their uninterrupted supply of iron. They buy as per customer demand, but the usual size of the order is 30 kg at Rs 40 per kg a month. On the other hand, buying charcoal is comparatively an easier task; one doesn’t have to go beyond the nearby bus stop to buy it. A quintal for a month at Rs 25 per kg is sufficient. Apart from these, there are hardly any other input costs of the business.
The tools needed for hammering, bending, cutting and shaping the iron, are all prepared by Pritam himself. On an average, they sell goods worth Rs 300 every day, making an easy Rs 9000 per month. However, saving is still a distant dream, with expenses mounting every day. According to Santara, sales are at the peak in the morning between 9 and 11 am.
As far as competition is concerned, there are four more blacksmiths in the vicinity of 100 meters. They all are Pritam’s younger brothers. Quiz him why he doesn’t relocate to a place with less competition and he says, “We don’t know what emergency we might have to face. There are months when we are not able to make ends meet. Having relatives nearby provides financial security,” he says.
Pritam’s trained hands carve out hammers, tongs, spades and knives with ease and the decades of experience shows on his wrinkled face. Sitting comfortably on a low stool, hammering iron and smoking hookah, one can easily believe that he would not have changed his posture in years. His wife, Santara has quite an eagle eye. She quietly sits in the corner observing passersby, standing up swiftly, the moment she notices a probable customer. The youngest daughter, Savita, is the most enthusiastic of the lot. She easily slips into the shoes of a sales girl, and enumerates the names of products that line up on a makeshift wooden table, right outside their tents.
The eldest son, Surender is the blue-eyed boy of the family and the successor to the family business. He is learning the tricks of the trade. Right hand to his aging father, he assists him while he works with iron, picking up key techniques in between. On the other hand, the eldest daughter has the job of burning the charcoal. Something about her tells you that she doesn’t quite like her job. The remaining three children don’t do much apart from smiling with exhilaration at every customer. But Pritam believes that “time will make them wiser and they will start concentrating on work.” He says his biggest responsibility is to train his children in the best possible way.
|< Prev||Next >|