The People’s Shop – The New Indian Express

Express press service

ERNAKULAM: Malanirappu Village Friends Club in Edakkattuvayal panchayat – on the border of Ernakulam and Kottayam districts – has been active in the sport for almost 40 years. As the Covid outbreak has thrown life into a spin, club members have come up with a unique idea to help people with essential items. After launching a ‘Purusha Swayam Sahaya Sangham’ (roughly translated as Men’s Self Help Group) in 2019, they converted one of the club building’s two halls into a 24-hour store where people from the 30 neighborhood families can buy things from. The shop, however, has no salesperson or cashier!

Jineesh Gopalan, one of 13 members of the self-help group, said he bought essentials at wholesale prices and resold them at the same price. The idea was to ensure that all families in the neighborhood received basic necessities even during confinement. The shop proved extremely beneficial as the villagers normally depended on towns a few miles away. They’ve even managed to offer essential items at deep discounts to families affected by Covid, Jineesh said.

“Initially, we thought of hiring a salesperson. But his salary would cost at least Rs 15,000 per month. So we decided to run the store without a cashier or a salesperson,” he said. Instead, customers can choose items and deposit the money into a box placed in the store. “They have to enter the details in a book. If someone buys an item for Rs 50 and only has Rs 30 in hand, the person can mention in the book that there is a balance of Rs 20 to pay. There might be people who forget to write down the amount paid, even after depositing the money in the box,” the club member pointed out.

There have been cases where the amount received was higher than the amount recorded, because some people forget to write down the amount they paid. If customers don’t have change, they can also mention it in the book, which will be deleted the following week. The group had reservations about the reaction of small children to the concept, as they might be tempted by the toffees or cookies and might leave without recording the amount of items they purchased. To the surprise of the elders, the children went their own way.

“We were hesitant to promote this idea at first, fearing that a fault would ruin this beautiful concept of transparency. However, we are now confident to tell the world that we live in great unity and cooperation,” Jineesh said.

He said the children in the village were already connected to each other as all the children celebrate their birthdays together. “We also make sure that birthday cakes don’t cost more than £2,000 as that can give an idea of ​​the economic disparity,” he said. All are playing and celebrating together, naturally learning the basics of coexistence and unity, Jineesh added.

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