Ishtiyak Ahmed is a Meru Cabs driver. After paying a fixed daily contribution of Rs1,000 to the company and footing the fuel bill, Ishtiyak gets to keep the rest of the earnings for himself.
And these earnings have been shrinking over the past six months. Six months ago, he earned as much as Rs22,000 in a good month, but in September, he made Rs8,000 — just enough to survive in the city, and just not enough to put away a bit for his dream of buying his own private taxi.
Ishtiyak says that in the past three years that he has been driving cabs, things have never been so bad.
One man has who is partly responsible for Ishtiyak’s dwindling earnings is Saumitra Ghosh, who has done away with the services of the radio taxi because his organisation has done away with him.
Saumitra’s multimedia outfit in Andheri went on a sacking spree in September and the marketing professional was one of the casualties. Not that he did not see it coming — a handful of outsourcing contracts did not come up for renewal, business was sinking and after failing to meet the target for two consecutive quarters, Saumitra himself had become a failure.
If sitting at home and scouting for a job is bad, the man who rendered Saumitra jobless is in a worse situation. After quitting a cushy job with an IT major, the academically brilliant executive turned entrepreneur. Not only did he invest his savings and reputation, but he also took on loans to build up economies of scale and buoyed by the clutch of contracts from American firms, he expected that it would all add up to one big success story.
The western counterparts fell on bad times and there was not enough work to outsource to the Indian firm. The revenues have fallen, but the loans remain and the prospect of going under looms large.
Higher up in the value chain, while corporate India is doing its bit to keep its neck above the water, the government is doing a tightrope walk in its bid to balance population and growth. But there’s only so much you can do to pump up an economy — and a nation.
While we may have seen downturns in the past, India has never really seen a full-blown recession ever since we took off in the early 90s. With inflation inching up by the day, incomes shrinking and a government struggling for survival, things are unlikely to look up anytime soon.
And given the simmering situation across the world — right from China and Japan to Europe and the US — if things take a turn for the worse on the global scale, we will really be staring at an unprecedented crisis.
Of course, economics and politics being as predictable as astrology, things could just take a turn for the better. The bailouts across the world could start paying off, the UPA or the NDA — or the third front — could get a clear majority and ensure five years of good governance, the Andheri entrepreneur could get his contracts from US, Saumitra could get a new job and Ishtiyak may get his own taxi after all. But something tells me this is all wishful thinking.