We meet Shahid Bikapurwala, a resident of Gujarat's Kevadi village, who runs Ubha Seth's Shop, a unique general store that runs round the clock and has no doors, locks, and sometimes, even a shopkeeper.
In Kevadi village, located in Gujurat’s Chhota Udepur district, exists a provision store that functions round the clock. What makes it different from your average 24/7 store, however, is that this store has no doors or locks to secure it, and functions even when the store owner, Shahid Bikapurwala, is away from the village. One can simply go in, buy what is needed, and leave the cash at the register. Doesn’t this sound very utopian?
To understand the motivation behind setting up this shop, The Better India caught up with 50-year-old Shahid, the brains behind the store.
How it all began
There are many unique aspects of this store, named Ubha Seth’s Shop after Shahid’s father, who was a businessman and affectionately known by this name by villagers in the area.
Besides having no doors or locks, customers are under no pressure to pay up immediately, Shahid explains. “I make no profit on the goods I sell. Each product is kept on the shelf with the price mentioned. Those who come here to shop, buy what they need, and leave the money at the counter. I have implicit trust in everyone who walks into my shop.”
He adds, “When I started out, people would view both me and the shop with a lot of skepticism. They were not sure of what I was trying to achieve and the distrust seemed warranted. Early on, I went from door to door explaining what I was doing with the shop and how I wanted it to be accessible to everyone in the village.”
He continues, “The only rule of doing business that I follow is to trust without asking questions. This is a value that my father instilled in me and I am glad to be able to live by it. I have never wronged anyone and I have faith that no one will do any harm to me knowingly.”
Despite his unflinching trust in people, Shahid says that in 2015, there was a theft in the shop when he was away at Mecca for Hajj. “Surprisingly, the only thing taken were a few batteries – so I would not consider that as a theft even. Whoever came into the shop could have taken everything from there and yet they only chose to take the batteries,” says Shahid.
At his store, one can get everything other than gold and silver, he says.
“I stock all provisions, hardware products, tiles, water tanks and even asbestos sheets for construction purposes,” he says.
Even on those stray occasions that Shahid has been duped, he doesn’t stop to deliberate on it. He says, “Don’t we make mistakes? I am sure there have been several instances when unknowingly I have crushed a bug or killed an insect – that doesn’t make me a bad person. In the same way, someone who does something without knowing that it is wrong, or that it can cause harm to me, is not something that I think about.”
He says he’s a very well-respected resident of the area, and talks with pride about how he has named several children in his village. “So many people come to me and ask me to name their new born. That is a very big thing for me. In fact, even though my own family, wife and two sons, stay in Vadodara, the love and respect I have gotten from the residents of Chhota Udepur has kept me here for so long.”
Shahid is also a very proud father to two boys, one of whom is currently studying to become a pilot. He tells me as we conclude our call, “Keep my sons in your duas (prayers). I wish to see all their dreams come true and seeing my boys work hard is the best feeling ever.”
(Edited by Divya Sethu)