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On Trust, Mistrust and Money
Meera buys her vegetables every Tuesday from the same vegetable vendor. Everyone calls him Ramakant Kaka. Tuesdays are the days when Ramakant Kaka gets fresh vegetables from the farm. They have a lovely ritual — of scrutinizing and selecting the vegetables, discussing their merits, the weather, haggling a bit over the prices and then closing the deal — both parties happy and satisfied with the transaction.
As the summer holidays arrived, Meera decided to take her kids to their grandparents’ town for vacation. She packed the bags, her kids and hailed an auto for the bus stand. As the auto crossed Ramakant’s cart Meera spotted some lovely fresh mangoes arranged in beautiful yellow heaps. She requested the auto to wait for five minutes as she rushed to Kaka’s cart to buy the mangoes. They would make a lovely present for the grandparents, she thought.
Both Ramakant Kaka and Meera picked the fruit carefully, and weighed them, talking all the time, Meera filling him in on the vacation plan and how excited the kids were. When it was time to pay, she realized she did not have enough cash. If she paid for the whole lot that she had hoped to buy, she would not be left with enough money to pay for the auto and the bus tickets.
“Oh! I don’t have enough cash, Ramakant Kaka.” Meera was dismayed.
“It is ok bibiji. You take the mangoes and pay me when you are back,” offered Ramakant.
“Oh I could not do that! I will be back only after 2 weeks! Maybe I will just take a lesser number of mangoes.”
“Oh no! It is absolutely fine. You take the mangoes. And pay me when you are back. And please convey my regards to your parents!”
Meera, filled with gratitude and love, thanked Ramakant Kaka profusely and went on to have a wonderful vacation. Throughout the time, she kept thanking Ramakant Kaka in her mind, for his unexpected generosity and sure enough, the first thing she did on her return was pay him back.
Meera is now older and maybe a wee bit slower. Ira, Meera’s teenaged daughter, is teaching Meera online shopping. Meera wants to buy a torch as these days the electricity cuts have become longer and frequent.
Meera is not too convinced about buying things online.
“How do I know if the torch works? What if it is defective? A shop will let me try the torch once.”
“Chill Ma!”, exclaims Ira, “this is the leading online shopping site. Everything is verified. You can count on it to send you a good product.”
Meera grumbles, “OK.. Now what?”
“Now enter your credit card no.”
“Why! So you can pay for the torch! That is why!”
“Why can’t I pay when it is delivered, after checking it?”
“They don’t have cash on delivery option, yet. I am sure they will start it soon.”
Ira is exasperated, “I don’t know. Maybe they are not sure that people will pay for their orders. What if they send the delivery boy away or something!”
“I don’t get it. Why will I not pay for what I order. I ordered something, which means I want that thing, which means I WILL pay for that thing. I don’t get it! And tell me then, what if I pay now and they don’t deliver???”
Ira, ready to pull her hair out, “IT IS A REPUTED COMPANY. They will deliver. You can trust it!”
“But they don’t trust me? They don’t trust that I will pay? I must say I am not very pleased with this treatment.”
And so it goes, the trust story. The beautiful trust that lies intrinsically in people is somehow missing in this age of technology.
There are hundreds of such stories about disgruntled users, users struggling to make transactions that refuse to go through for some baffling reason or the other, identity crises at having to prove your identity for every transaction, the scores of “intelligent” passwords that one keeps getting confused about.
Life was simpler when cities were smaller, less crowded, the neighbourhood kirana-store guy would give the residents groceries on a tab, which ran for months. Often, students maintain a tab with the college canteen uncle. Sometimes some small amount may even get waived off! Just like that. Like the time when Ira was little and she wanted to buy a Rs. 5 ice-cream but had only two Rs. 2 coins.
What if there was a way to bring back this cozy blanket of trust in this age when more and more transactions are taking place online? Where people carry more cards and less cash? There is very little or no face-to-face interaction at a check-out counter, as most check-outs happen at a virtual level.
These are some of the questions and experiences that led Nitya Sharma and Chaitra Chidanand, to set out to make trust, and not mistrust, the foundation of our financial transactions today. This is the story of Simpl: how the inherent good in people can be the most powerful asset.
Stay tuned for The Simpl Story — Part 2, where we’ll talk more about making money simple, just how it used to be in the good old days.