This picture was taken during a lot of driving today to visit a lot of different retail formats. Because of the mass of people here, the driving time between destinations is where you spend the majority of your time.
What you won’t see in the picture is that this big guy was not secured in any way. His owner was living in a tarp tent right next to him and hadn’t started his day yet. The driver of our vehicle, when asked, told us that he uses the elephant to charge people for either rides or hauling heavy items from one place to another. This is just one example of the way people work to survive. When I say survive, I mean just that. For a very large portion of the population here, their entire day consists of searching for food and the whole family is focused on that one task. I can’t remember how many kids would come up to the car at stop lights and point to their mouths. It breaks your heart, but we were asked not to roll the windows down at the first of the week.
I could use the time here telling you about a lot of what I saw. I could also tell you that everywhere you looked, if you smiled, everyone smiled back at you, regardless of their circumstances; much more so than in our country, where even in the direst of circumstances, nothing compares to what most of these people have to contend with on a daily basis.
I tell you this because it adds even more importance to this opportunity I’ve been invited here to explore. There is only 5% retail penetration in the entire country of India! That means that 95% of the population survives on what is called “street trade” rather than having access to basic goods in a modern retail trade environment. The potential of improving the lives of masses of people with an efficient, effective, affordable way of life is unlimited and desperately needed.
The primary task required here is to develop a retail infrastructure and then to teach and train those involved in how to implement and execute. It really is like the wild, wild west and pioneers are in short supply.
Truth be told, I continue to pray and ask for guidance; not just daily, but hourly.