Mumbai Local Trains- True spirit and lifeline of this city

In our last blog we presented our take on the stress we Mumbaikars face while commuting and using the public transport. – In our last blog we presented our take on the stress we Mumbaikars face while commuting and using the public transport.

Now let’s look at another side of it… Life in a Mumbai Local… Millions of people who have been and will be using this amazing mode of commuting in this city of dreams will feel deja vu and for other non-Mumbaikars this will be little insight that ‘it’s not just a train ride to work but so much more’…

First of all, a big ‘thank you’ to the British Raj – for giving Mumbai its ‘lifeline of commuting’, the Railways. Nobody’s a real ‘Mumbaikar’ if they have not travelled in the local trains and come home smiling or sometimes, frowning.

Millions of people use this vast and extensive Mumbai railway daily to commute to work and so. The western, central and harbour railway networks are the lifeline of the city. The city would come to a near standstill of these networks would stand still even for a day.

Some Mumbaikars literally live in these trains if you consider the time they travel to work and back. It’s an altogether different social world that evolves during the peak morning and evening traveling hours and
dissolves thereafter to evolve again the very next day.
People from varied cultures, from various parts of the country who have migrated to Mumbai… The Rags… The Riches… and the Middle class all become a Mumbaikar when they board a Mumbai local…

It sometimes frustrates you, but at the same time the train ride also gets a smile on your face. To know what I mean, one needs to sit at Church gate station or Borivali station or VT or Virar and observe people. Here, people become marathon runners; they don’t want to miss that 9.25 local. It’s a matter of life and death to miss a train – even if the next train arrives in just 4 minutes.

If you are a newcomer, the crowd will probably make you feel claustrophobic, but if you are a regular, it will make you feel everything is fine. Remember, a lack of crowd at Mumbai’s railway stations indicates either a public holiday or that something is amiss.

Local trains in Mumbai are the best place to learn life’s lessons. The train teaches you how to fight your own battles and make a place for yourself in the crowd, it teaches you how to make friends with people, strangers mostly, and adjust with all species of people, something we humans need the most for survival. It teaches you how to handle a dominating mother-in-law, how to love your naïve daughter-in-law, how to cook, how to bargain, the inside and out of share markets, gold prices, and many many more things and of course, it teaches you how to sing in front of strangers. The cost for all this is simple bear the push and punches in the local trains, overcome claustrophobia in crowded places, get used to the crowd and noise around you and be ready to share, care and listen.

In these local trains, you see the real face of Mumbai. It tells you about the kind of people Mumbai is made of. One could be a stern boss in the office, but he is a friendly person in the train. The nice woman who is always ready with a smile for a stranger could be a strict, dominating person at home. You get to see nice, caring, and friendly people always ready to help and you also see scary, bitchy, frustrated people who always want to pick fights.
Here people make friends out of unknown people, share their life’s sorrows, and throw parties when they achieve something. People make these small train compartments and the people inside them their extended families, a part of their lives. Those 45 minutes to two hours of travel time become their welcome break from the hectic lives they lead. Movies and TV serials have been made on Mumbai locals.

Hence it becomes a matter of life and death when people miss their regular local. The Mumbai local teaches us Mumbaikars how to survive, how to live and enjoy no matter what.

It truly reflects the Spirit of Mumbai.

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Life in the fast lane in Mumbai – Running to reach on time to work or Running towards death!!

Lifestyle disease is no longer a strange term to we Mumbaikars. The principal cause is ‘Stress’. Stress affects every sphere of our life starting from health to happiness. It leads to hypertension, diabetes mental depression, obesity, chronic diseases and other stress related chronic diseases which are popularly known as “Lifestyle diseases.” We all know how fatal they are.

In a city like Mumbai, where people swear by each minute, there’s one major factor contributing to the stress levels of its citizens apart from the lifestyle habits that’s not being discussed and considered with due importance. The government and the municipal bodies also have their role in it.

‘It’s the time and manner we Mumbaikars commute to work.’

About Fifty seven per cent of Mumbai’s 125 lakh resident population lives within three kilometres of their place of work; 69% within five kilometres and 81% within 10 kilometres. 89% live within fifteen kilometres from their place of work and only 1% lives beyond.

44% do not use any other mode of transport for their daily work commute, they walk. 3.1% use bicycles, 2.8% use personal motorcars and 8.5% use public transport such as auto-rickshaws and taxis. The rest use the suburban railway system and BEST buses.

These statistics already reveal a lot. But there is one more statistic that needs to be mentioned before embarking of the topic of this write-up. As per a recent survey and estimate by a leading publication house there are about 75 lakh people who travel by suburban railway system daily, nearly equal to the rest of Indian Railway system users. At peak period extended over three and a half hours in the morning and another three and a half hours in the evening the crowd that travels in the tidal direction is about 360 thousand persons per hour while the capacity of the system is close to about 160 thousand per hour and will attain a capacity of 180 thousand per hour by 2014.

During the off-peak period, the frequency of trains is reduced, but consequently the crowd density in the trains and on platforms does not reduce significantly. There are about 40 lakh bus commuters, three-fourths of who travel by the suburban railway.

With this as background, let us get on with the topic.

Practically everyone walks in Mumbai even most of car users and two wheeler users—short and very short distances if not those three kilometres. There is no doubt that the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has improved footpath surface by providing good quality and aesthetics interlocking concrete paver blocks but at many places poor adherence to specifications in laying them have resulted in dangerously unevenness of the surface. These new narrow footpaths have not only retained older encroachments but added new ones, compelling pedestrians to walk on the carriageways. Motorcars do get parked on the footpaths which is not at all safe or comfortable. Many places have garbage dumped on the footpaths and the stench and unhygienic conditions also gets a pedestrian go on the carriageway; the stench itself creates some degree of stress. There is this lurking fear that one may get hit by an heavy vehicle, car or two wheeler, good reason for STRESS to get built within without realizing it.

Waiting for a bus and boarding it is also stressful as the noise level on the roads are unbearable, fear of bus starting off before one has boarded the bus and then the noise level within the bus after boarding it. Crowd density in the bus is not comparable to the one in railway system but during peak time it is still high and this also is a reason for creating STRESS.

Negotiating the crowd on staircases, foot over bridges, platforms and the train plus the anxiety while boarding a train or getting down the whole process is STRESSFUL

With walking back home from the railway stations and bus stops becoming an tedious task, not getting a taxi or auto-rickshaw, especially when it rains which keeps roads wet and full of potholes is also a reason adding to STRESS. After reaching home, is there scope to DE-STRESS ?

The noise levels from loudly playing TVs and sound systems give no respite. The only time one can really de-stress is at night time as defined in the noise rule—10pm to 6am. The quietness does provide the necessary restful sleep to cope up with the onslaught of next day’s series of stresses. 
The remaining stress accumulates resulting in ailments such as cardio-vascular as well as high blood pressure, opening up possibilities of stroke. Stresses also triggers off diabetes.

Please give a thought about the analogy I have cited below when you travel in a Mumbai local the next time.

Airline pilots have a strict schedule of number of flying hours they can log per week. After all they do carry between 100 to 300 passengers and their lives cannot be put to risk due to physical fatigue of the pilot. There is also a co-pilot. They are also provided with many other luxuries. All this for persons who are actually concentrating only during landings and take-offs. Most other times the plane is flying on auto-pilot.

On the other hand the motorman of the  railway system is not only stressed up like any citizen of Mumbai for various reasons mentioned above but has to be drive the train with full attention all the time. Slowing down, speeding up at different locations, stopping at stations and starting off every three to five minutes, keep attention on the tracks for any technical snag and possible track crossings by commuters lost in thoughts or in conversations on mobile phones or listening to music on earphones. A motorman has barely three to five minutes before the return trip begins. This motorman carries about 3,500 persons and sometimes nearer 5,000 in the train he is driving. I need not discuss the amenities provided if any to these motormen to de-stress.

The amenities and breaks in work are after all to de-stress themselves and lower the risks to commuters, is it not? 

Railways apart, what is government doing to lower the stress in the stressed up Mumbaikar?

A lot is needed and can be done for a more efficient and stress free transport system for the financial capital of India.

The government seems to be busy trying to meet the needs of the very small section of our population, perhaps not realizing that its inaction is leading to a majority of people getting stressed up affecting their health. Under Article 21 of Indian Constitution that is unacceptable.

Kindly share your views and opinions for the same.

Some details about Indian e-tail

It’s raining Diwali offers from some of the Indian e-retailers like Flip kart, Homeshop18 (B2C), Jabong etc. but here are some aspects that consumers might be missing out on.

Want to buy a digital camera, a smartphone, a tablet, a part of furniture, apparels, accessories, home ware kitchen ware, you name it or Google it and there’s a sweet deal offered by one of the many e-retailers ( as we call them) trying to be a part of the big future retail business of India.

It’s true that these ventures-websites have so far managed to prove their original critics wrong that the Indian consumer is averse to online transactions and an Indian would always prefer to physically inspect and buy his merchandise.

The new age generation having high disposable incomes, tech savvy are pretty comfortable swiping their plastic cards online. Concepts like cash on delivery and the return policies have also played a key role. We can say that the last year has been really exciting for the entire industry. Certain estimates state that apart from the handful 10-20 leading e retailers there are currently more than 4000 websites in the b2c segment in India. I call them the e-retailers!!

These are over and above the actual brand and product owners of the consumer goods industry having their direct platforms and websites for e retail. Like Croma online, Samsung, HP and others.

We think the smartphone revolution (credit to android-goggle) in our country which led to high internet penetration (3rd biggest internet user base in the world) has also played a key role in taking the e-retailing industry a step ahead.

During this festive period traveling in a Mumbai local first class compartment will confirm this view. People of all age groups from 14 to 40 are talking about flip kart, e-bay, amazon, olx and numerous websites. Comparing and even placing orders on their smartphones and tablets. Picture this with an entire country. One of the biggest consumer markets in the world. Whoa!! We are looking at one of the biggest business opportunity in our country in the last couple of decades.

So can we say that the time has arrived for the big leap for these e-retailers? Has it? Let’s try and dig in.

First a closer look into the internet surfing statistics shows that the conversion ratio of booking a product online after researching it and comparing prices is still pretty low.

Analyzing the purchasing pattern online it is very clear that maximum purchases are affected only when sweet deals or attractive discounts compared to local markets are offered, thus squeezing the margins of the online retailers. So managing their costs both procurement and operations simultaneously and scaling up volumes has become the key for survival in this industry and not all start-ups have been able to successfully manage that.

Also the recent boom in the industry is restricted to a very select group of product categories of Electronics, Apparels, Accessories, Kitchen-ware and also more of the branded goods – the organized sector. So a large pie of the Indian retail – consumer goods industry has still to find its footprint in the online space.

Even though internet penetration has increased significantly and there’s this phenomenon of the changing tech savvy plastic money user (Youth of India). But it’s still restricted to the metros and certain tier1 towns. The real challenge for the online retailers now is to go beyond these markets and tab the rest of Indian consumer markets.. If they can find a way to make inroads there then surely they have the biggest business opportunity in our country in the last couple of decades at their helms.

Right now it’s a buyer’s market out there.

We feel at this stage we can compare this industry to the story of the Indian air travel carrier industry. Since the last decade many major players or new players have wanted or have tried to tap this industry and we all know their fate.

It’s similar in the online e-retail space. There’s been a lot of funding and capital raised by the major and small players in the industry in the last couple of years. But looking at their PnL’s they are not just losing money but bleeding. They are pitching and justifying by market share and valuations and long term horizons.

But just as in the case of air carrier industry we all know that this business logic is not universal for all industries.

Except one exceptional player (Deccan), it has succeeded to be profitable because it was able to understand the Indian market. It’s peculiarity and controls its cost excellently while striking a balanced between its price offerings and quality of services.

So it will be pretty interesting to see who manages to be the Deccan of the e retail industry and also the fate of the numerous smaller players in the coming few years. Till then it’s a buyer’s market out there. So let’s sit back enjoy the sweet deals till they come, especially this Diwali it’s a carnival out there!!