Have you ever visited a shop which is not operated by anyone? A shop where people can purchase whatever they need and drop the required amount in a box at the counter. Doesn’t it sound impossible? But, such an arrangement exists in the coastal village of Azhikode near Kannur. Inaugurated on 1st January, this ‘self-service’ shop is located in Vankulathuvayal and is one of the pioneering initiatives which is spearheaded by the Janashakti Charitable Trust. This charitable trust is an NGO which is engaged in welfare activities especially for the differently-abled in the region. While it is undoubtedly very interesting that this shop words without a shopkeeper but this is not its only unique characteristic.
Four differently-abled individuals along with students of the Asraya Special School in Kannur have created every product in this shop. This shop manages to rake in a minimum of Rs 1000 every day. You can get various products in this shop like soap, washing powder, toilet cleaner, phenyl, hand wash, candles, cloth bags, and many other items on offer. There is a board at the entrance of this shop which states that “This shop has no shop keeper or salespersons. You can pick up what you want, check the price tags and deposit the money in the cash box.”
The convener of the trust, Sugunan PM, while speaking to The Better India said that they have been working with the differently-abled community in Azhikode and are very much aware of their lifestyles, problems, and struggles. One of their physically-impaired beneficiaries make utility products and pencils from paper but seldom found buyers. And due to his disability, the possibility of marketing or finding bulk orders seemed bleak. The trust wanted to change this entire scenario and give a chance to all such enterprising entrepreneurs. That’s how this idea of the self-service shop came up.
This initiative has got great support from people across Azhikode. The shop is opened daily at 6 am by the shopkeeper selling vegetables in the adjacent shop and remains open throughout the day. This shop shuts down at 10 pm. The community has also installed a CCTV camera for preventing any untoward activities. The physical presence and support of nearby shopkeepers have been central for the success of the shop. The Janashakti Trust members have established an excellent and reliable working structure as well. There are so many people who have reached out to the Janashakti Trust from around the Kannur district for opening similar shops in their neighborhood.
By: Preeti Narula