Cleaning up the Dadar Flower Market Madness: A case study in doing the next-to-impossible

October 8, 2008 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

The Flower Market outside the Dadar train station (West) is a one of a kind business ‘district’. As soon as you exit the station on the West side, the intensity of the crowd hits you like a bat outta hell. In the 2+ months I have had to navigate through it to reach my office, I have to admit I have no clue as to how I do it and I don’t think I will ever get used to it. I wish I could put up pictures of the terrifying crowd but pulling out a camera to take a snap amidst the madness is probably not safe for the camera. (None of the Google pictures I am getting are doing justice to the truth either.)
Anand, discussed 2 ways to rid Mumbai of the Flower Market Madness, in his SG post
  1. A voluntary incentivized agreement between the pedestrians heading in and out of the station AND the flower sellers
  2. Enforcing of civil laws by the government

He has also very effectively detailed how the first approach which champions free market ethos is very likely to fail where as the second option is not attractive as it goes against free market ideology. (Besides most things the governments gets involved with simply deteriorates further.)

I am going to stay away from getting the government involved in this as well and suggest possible solutions to the Dadar Flower Market Madness.

I am a strong believer in all that technology has to offer. I believe that the Flower Market problem can be eased in part, if not solved, by proper application of technology and innovation. Right now the vendors sit with baskets full of flowers on the side of the road. The basket along with the vendor takes up a huge amount of space on both sides of the road thereby leaving very little space in the middle for pedestrain traffic in both directions. If the road-side space can be utilized better it could free up the walking space. To do so, we need a cheap invention that these vendors can afford. Say a plastic case that dispenses flowers and can be set-up on the walls lining the streets would be helpful. This is just a raw example but if inventors could put their heads together they could come up with a practical invention for this.

Another way to tackle the issue is to reduce the traffic. Right now vendors transport their flowers from the nearby wholesale market by means of human carriers who deftly carry the large masses of flowers in bags placed delicately on their heads. It also seems that each vendor has a separate carrier person. The ‘supply’ of flowers needs to be co-ordinated better among the vendors. They could band together and transport larger quantities of a particular kind of flower in few carts at one go. On reaching the market, instead of pushing the cart through the tiny roads, vendors can come collect their share of the flower. This would eliminate the throng of carriers who obstruct pedestrians with their awkwardly large flower bags and ease the traffic a bit.

The next question how can we get the flower vendors to agree to aggregation of the supply? Following Galdwell’s Tipping Point approach, there has to be Connectors, Mavens and Salesman within this chaotic community. Identifying these people and getting them on board with the idea of supply aggregation can ‘tip’ the market to adopt it as well. In fact if the voluntary regulation approach, proposed by Anand, could be sold to the Connectors, Mavens and Salesman it could work just as well.

What I have mentioned above are short term solutions that are similar to patching up holes on clothes only for them to rip open again. The underlying problem here is a collection of more serious social issues. Lack of education and Poverty are two big ones. To attack the root of the problem one would have to educate the children of these vendors for their better future, provide alternative skills training to these vendors and consequently employment opportunities so that they can live a decent life. This is rightfully where the government needs to come in. And as clearly evident, it has remained indifferent towards the problem while commuters and pedestrians suffer daily.


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