Economy

How do unemployment, inflation and economic inequality affect the lives of urban residents? How does government policy impact local economies and livelihoods of the people? Gain insights into these through community stories, reports on urban economic trends and developments as well as expert commentary.

Among Asia’s largest perishable good markets, the Koyambedu Wholesale Market Complex (KWMC) was in the news last month following reports that traders had dumped unsold stock of vegetables and flowers on the road. Wholesalers pointed to a drop in demand, underlining that apart from other factors, commercial demand from hotels and catering services had dropped by 50 per cent during the pandemic – a figure that is presumably recovering at a slower rate than expected given the volume of wastage. The President of the Koyambedu Market Licensed Merchant’s Association S. Chandran has been quoted saying “We receive the same quantity…

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Everyday from 12 am to 3 pm, Mayank* works for Tokree, a grocery delivery app. He then switches to the ubiquitous black-and-orange Swiggy t-shirt, and from 3 pm to 12 am delivers food from restaurants to homes. “For every Tokree delivery, I get paid Rs 35. But with Swiggy, I only get a minimum of Rs 20 per trip,” he says. Mayank is one of the 3+ lakh strong workforce in the country suffering the brunt of low wages and poor working conditions in the food delivery and e-commerce industries. Unable to make ends meet, many of them are switching…

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“Bad for shop assistants, good for shoppers. That is the obvious inference from the upheaval in retailing that is leaving shopping malls and high streets…” says The Economist (March 13, 2021). The article goes on to admit that it may be an over-simplification of the crisis in retailing and how consumers will continue to crave for human attention and help when they shop. The bigger question, however, is ‘will retail-linked jobs disappear totally’? Or will they become more complex and nuanced? When the Indian economy opened up in the late 1990s and car brands started flooding the market, one of…

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Sushant Jare, a gas cylinder delivery worker in Goregaon, Mumbai, was bedridden in late July for two weeks due to a severely pulled muscle (tendinitis). That is a consequence of his job - lifting gas cylinders, which are about 30 kilos, often over several floors.  “I joined the  gas agency about three months ago, when I left my village to come to the city in hopes of earning a better living to support my newborn child. I dropped out of school in 9th grade, so I couldn’t get any office job, hence I had to resort to physical labour” he…

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India’s rapid urbanization has led to a significant rise in informal urban settlements, with over 35% of the country’s urban population occupying them. Characterized by makeshift infrastructure and poor hygiene conditions, these settlements are often the only affordable option for people who also work unsteady, non-contractual jobs. Women in these informal settlements, in particular, play a huge role in protecting the physical and financial health of their families.  Under the shadow of potential eviction and financial struggles, these women are almost always engaged in labour — both paid and unpaid. In many cases, their homes — comprising single rooms for…

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Earlier this month, the automaker Ford announced its decision to close manufacturing operations in India, which at present are at Sanand in Gujarat and Maraimalai Nagar in Tamil Nadu. The decision sent what media has portrayed as ‘shockwaves,’ given that the livelihood of several employees is at stake. In Chennai, this will mean around 2,700 permanent employees and a few hundred contract staff will be thrown out of jobs. While that is no doubt regrettable, what cannot be denied is that this was bound to happen sooner or later, given the performance of the company in India. Also, what is…

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Tridisha Goswami, a 2021 film school graduate from Deviprasad Goenka Management College, a college in Suburban Mumbai, has now started to apply to social media manager positions at small startups as a way to generate pocket money. All this, thanks to cancellations of film shoots and her having to move to her hometown in Guwahati. Tridisha is one of thousands of young students who graduated in an economy deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For such students, a grueling battle lies ahead. Many find it hard to find their desired jobs, compelling them to look for work other than their…

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Every local business in Mumbai needs a license from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).  BMC’s License Department issues trade licenses under various categories including food and beverage, wholesale businesses, medical stores etc. These licenses are issued in consultation and with advice from other departments like the Fire Brigade, Health, Engineering, Estate, to name a few. The application for the license must be received from the business establishment three months prior to starting the business. For a business owner to get a trading license in the city, he/she has to approach the nearest Citizen Facilitation Centre (CFC) set up by the civic…

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There was this interesting little advertisement in the Times of India that offered training in the use of spreadsheets which caught my attention for several reasons. As a young product manager in a pharmaceutical company, I had access to a fair amount of data. But I had to do a lot of the data analysis using calculators and large sheets of paper with columns and rows, making my own version of spreadsheets. The year was 1983. IBM had launched their revolutionary new PC in August 1981 and a few had found their way to India. Remember, in the mid 80s…

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The first urban commission in 1988 visualised development of cities by linking them with manufacturing and industrialisation. The current scenario, however, is more service-driven where the bargaining power of the workers' vis–a–vis the state has shrunk drastically. Basic necessities considered as essential deliverables by the state are being privatised. Housing, water, health, education and such other sectors have seen massive privatisation, both vertical and horizontal, leading to an ever widening gap between the urban rich and the poorer working class. In this process, the organised strength of the urban working class has been weakened and more informalisation has crept in.…

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