I am enamored by migrants who are micro-entrepreneurs, who have their feet on the ground, understand the dynamics of the local market better than any macro economist. The dissecting of the contraction of the market in the light of the low oil prices, although the prices are high enough Hallelujah, is stunning as these guys operate coffee shops, garages and drive people around. These folks are always looking for brand extensions to their usual work; as handyman’s, service staff or home drivers. They have sponsored visas paid for by loans and cars which are purchased on informal credit, as most are not eligible for banking loans.
Most low-income migrant entrepreneurs mostly don’t have access to insurance or banking products. This is an untapped market. In the event of an accident or an emergency back home, they don’t have the money for a ticket. These entrepreneurs are proactive, running these micro shadow businesses through Whatsapp and are nimble, agile, and need no framework or theory to understand the market.
One micro entrepreneur driver whom I have been ethnographically studying for a year now, has a translation app, on his smart phone, to gauge the meaning of texts as most of his clientele are Filipino women who work as household helps or in restaurants. He is an Urdu speaking man from a North Indian metropolitan city, sharply dressed gym rat who started his career in the gulf as a cook. He moved to the transportation sector by investing his savings in an old car and maintains his vehicle as his family. He learned to speak English from his East Asian clients and speaks passable English in the kababayan intonation.
His USP is availability at all times, and punctual in his manners, a special value in this region. Costumer Relationship Management (CRM) is cutting edge with a smile, always on the look out for new customer acquisition. The ideal entrepreneur, a risk taker with a vision- he plans for market disruptions such as regulatory changes such as visa changes a decade down the line.
He will surprise his clients with complimentary meals, which they like and will do every thing for ensuring repeat business. For a person who did not even go to school, the migrant micro entrepreneur creates opportunities where he does not see one as he needs to support large families back home. He has built a large villa for his family. Entrepreneurship is innate as I can gauge after studying it for a year.