CHENNAI:‘Wanted energetic hands to sell peanuts on pushcarts around Adyar, Chennai. Salary Rs 12,000 per month. Inexperienced candidates will be trained and accommodation is available.’
Curious as it sounds, the above is an advertisement that appeared in a Tamil daily. And, this is the fifth time this year that Perumal, the man behind the ad, has given a shoutout for hiring more workers. City Express caught up with Perumal on a busy Friday morning to hear his story.
“It was a hand-me-down cart, which my family threw away,” says Perumal. But today, it stands as a mini business empire, thanks to his tireless efforts braving the Chennai heat and rain. The 54-year-old father of two now runs 10 peanut carts in his name.
Hailing from Madurai, he came to the city and decided to pick up the family business that all four of his brothers had long discarded as unprofitable. But he decided to try his hand, and years down the line, Perumal has managed to multiply his business over the years.
Perumal refuses to acknowledge his success, but the many carts attracting a crowd of people in Besant Nagar and ECR speak for itself. However, as years go by, it has been difficult to find hands for the job. For instance, he has given the advertisement for over five times so far this year; the latest one fetched a response from only one or two persons. “It’s a Friday; work starts early. It’s almost the weekend,” says Mani, one of the workers who has come all the way from Thanjavur. “I like being here. We are treated well and some of us have been given a place to stay,” adds the 28-year-old, who has been with Perumal for two years. “I have been involved in this for 33 years now. I can understand the practical difficulties,” Perumal says. This is perhaps why some of his workers come all the way from different places in and around Chennai like Puzhal and Tirusulum, and from districts like Cuddalore and Thanjavur. Perumal, who has a busy day ahead of him, has instructed his workers to station themselves at the regular haunts — parks, bus stops, and of course beaches, where children and families spend their evenings. Even as he plans the day and gives instructions, he keeps checking the phone once in a while for that caller, who wants the job.