This charcoal vendor sources his charcoal from a larger broker who works out of a nearby downtown market. Although he needn’t pay any “tea money” for the right to sell on the street, the larger broker he sources from must pay, as technically it is illegal to source charcoal imported from the nearby area that supplies the broker. At this point, he had only been selling on this corner for one month, and was uncertain whether he would have to pay any fees in the future. Although his displayed inventory appears small, he has more stashed in a safe place nearby as part of a strategy to minimize his risk and maintain the appearance of a small size. He does this in order to insure that he stays “under the radar” and continues to escape paying any “tea money”.
At night, his small table is lit by the fluorescent glow of the nearby illuminated signboard for an expensive/high-class restaurant located on the street. His customer base consists primarily of some of the local households that still use charcoal to prepare their meals, as well as several sidewalk-based restaurants on the adjacent street whose owners do not live nearby and do not wish to shoulder the extra burden of carrying charcoal on their journey from their home (or storage site) to their store site. The bags pictured here sell for 500 kyat (~US $.60), one of which can supply a household for up to four days worth of meals on their charcoal stove.
With the small stick of incense stuck into the corner of the table, one is reminded of the importance of acknowledging there are other forces at work determining the success of your enterprise in this context. Could anything be taken away from this business and have it remain recognizable as a business? Is it recognizable as a business to you now? If not – what would it need for you to consider it so?