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Community Ethnography

Sakshi Khurana
PGP 15 223
Shabnam Khawaja Shaikh
Class VII
Roll no 843
Juhu Galli, Andheri West

Introduction to Ethnography
Webster defines ethnography as the study and systematic recording of human
cultures or a descriptive work produced from such research. Ethnography is the
systematic study of people and cultures. It is designed to explore cultural
phenomena where the researcher observes society from the point of view of the
subject of the study. Ethnography is a means to represent graphically and in
writing the culture of a group.

Ethnography and management

As budding managers, at first sight, the idea of conducting an ethnography study
in an under-privileged society seemed a little far-fetched and unnecessary
addition to the burden of the B-school life. But the objectives of the study were
explained to us very clearly at the beginning. We were supposed to have an indepth understanding of the community in which the Sitara lives and through that
understand the aspects of urban poverty manifested in the growing slum
population in cities like Mumbai. The study was not only meant to make us view
our Sitaras and their surroundings as subjects, but also derive deep and
meaningful business insights from the study as the growing business in India is
getting generated from the bottom of the pyramid. The urban poor are, in all
certainty, the ultimate source of many of the jobs most of us will be getting,
irrespective of our specializations.

The process
This study was conducted in the slums of Juhu Galli through observations over
several visits and interactions with the Sitara(Shabnam), her mother, 3 of her
neighbours and 3 of the shopkeepers in the surrounding market, who were all in
different trades. The questions from each of the individual were asked based on
various aspects of community ethnography which were meant to be studied.
Following is the list of people who contributed to this study:

Shabnam sitara
Shabnams mother
Parveen neighbour
Champa neighbour
Farah neighbour
Usman owner of a local butcher shop
Praveen owner of a local paan store
Abbas owner of a local kirana store

The following section is the set of observations related to the Sitaras and the
communitys economic condition.
Bangle-making machine at Shabnams house

Occupations/Trade: Most men in the community either work as daily

wage earners at various construction sites or at jobs such as drivers,
tailors/cutting masters in areas
near to the locality. Though most
women in the community are
housewives, some of them work as
household help for people in and
around Andheri, some work as inhouse nurses and others have
taken up co-operative work like
18-20 women in the locality work
with a local NGO, which assists them
with the machinery and material to
make bangles. They take a minimum
pre-decided quantity fr om them
each day, but the volume might
increase based on the seasons.
Shabnams mother also is a part of the co-operative and her father is
tempo driver. Like any other household in the community with 2 earning
members, they are able to earn anywhere between Rs. 10000 to 12000 a
month, out of which her father earns Rs. 6000-7000 a month and her
mother Rs. 4000-5000 from the bangles. In a typical household, with only
the male working, the earning is about Rs. 5000-6000 a month on an
average. There are certain households where both the parents are not
working and the earnings come from other sources like rent, family
money, etc.
Savings/Debt/Investments: Most of the people living in the community
have negligible knowledge when it comes to savings or
investments. Most of them are daily wage or minimum wage earners,
who are living in these homes on rent. They neither have the knowledge
nor the resources to invest in any form. Though all of them have bank
accounts in the nearby banks, including the most popular, Syndicate
bank, they dont have any substantial amount of money or assets in the
bank. Most of them have long term savings accounts, where they have no
more than 4-5000 rupees worth of assets.

Most of the people in the community take debts on occasions like

marriages or while they are purchasing a house. Since they dont have the
resources to take loan using collateral from a bank, they borrow money
from each other or local businessmen. This mutual borrowing often
leads to disputes among the members of the community as well.
Most of the people in the community are living on rent. But there are some
who own the houses they live in. Shabnams family, for example has their
own house. The 3 floor house is in the name of her grandfather, out of
which one floor her family has taken. The rest of the 2 floors have been
given out on rent. The one floor that they have was also given to them
after a lot of dispute, after they were kicked out of their ancestral home
and ran out of the capacity to pay rent.
Insurance: The people in the locality are majorly unaware about the
concept of insurance, as they are about savings and investments. But
Shabnams parents have recently started to think about insurance as they
have been exposed to a lot of new things through Abhyudaya.
Infrastructure: The
infrastructural issues.









More than 500 people of the locality have to share less than 50
common bathrooms, available at 5 different locations around the
society. People have to wait for between 10 minutes to 1.5 hours
to use the common bathrooms every day.
1 water connection is shared with 9 households. Each household
on an average gets flowing water for less than half an hour a day. In
case they run out of water, they have to go outside the slum to the
common water tanker to fetch more water.
As per the members, drinking water is not a problem. They get
clean drinking water from BMC and they are satisfied with it.
The condition of the roads is abysmal. The lanes are not lit at all.
The pathway to the slum is so dark that even during daylight, one
has to use torch light to get through. The roads are filled with
potholes and one has to walk almost a kilometre to take a rickshaw
as rickshaws do not enter the area.
Many complaints regarding water, roads and applications to build
toilets have been made to BMC and the local politicians, but no
substantial actions have been taken.

Consumption: The consumption patterns of the society were highly

interesting. Following were some of the key observations made from
interactions with members and business owners in the area:
o The people in the community usually buy all their necessities from
the nearby market. The market in the area is extremely wellrounded. There are local stores for groceries, meat, toys, stationery,
jewellery, tailoring and other daily utilities. Hardly anyone from the
locality goes out of their surroundings to shop, except in case of

special occasions like shopping for wedding, which they do at

Andheri Lokhandwala market.
Unlike one might assume, the buying is not done in bulk. Most of
these people are daily wage earners or people with very limited
resources. Hence, they buy only what they need, when they need
and only how much they need at the moment. Shopping trips are as
frequent as every 2 hours.
Another interesting observation was that the people in the locality
are not brand loyal, but are brand conscious. As per the
shopkeepers, people buy mostly branded stuff, in case of daily
utilities like soap, shampoos, etc. But among the several brands,
they buy the cheapest ones.
In terms of SKU, shopkeepers prefer to stock smaller SKUs like
sachets, 250 gm packs, etc as the buying doesnt occur in bulk.

Household types: Most of the families living in the locality are nuclear
families. Usual composition of a family is: mother, father, 3-4 kids.
Life-stage of family: Most parents in the family are in their early or mid
40s. They have all their children either in school or fresh out of
school(some of them are in college, some work and some do both).
Shabnams family for example, has 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls. 2 girls are in
school. The eldest son studies in a Madarsa and the 3 rd son works as a
trainee at a tailor shop.

Culture: The locality has a very vibrant culture. Though dominated by
Muslims, the society has substantial population of Hindus and Christians
as well. The community celebrates all festivals alike. Eid is celebrated
across religions with much zest and so is Christmas. Juhu galli sees one of
the most vibrant navratri and ganesh chaturthi celebrations in Andheri, in
spite of being a Muslim dominated community.
I was amazed to see Shabnam calling a hindu elderly woman maasi.
When asked, she very innocently replied, meri mummy ke liye behen se
zada hain, which means that that lady is more to her mother than her
own sister.
Group/Caste dynamics: As per the members of the community, they
have not yet seen a communal clash in the community. All religions and
castes live in unison at Juhu galli and they couldnt be more proud of their
unity. There are some clashes among the members regarding money and
water issues at times, but they are usually
small scale and are resolved by the elders of
the community.

Issues: The most wide spread health issue
faced by the community leads from

infrastructure failure. Due to potholes, broken roads and lack of sanitation,

there is major mosquito infestation in the community, which leads to
diseases like dengue and malaria. Malaria has been the worry of the
people there for the longest of times.
Medical facilities: There are 2-3 local clinics in the vicinity and around 8
pharmacies, out of which 1 is open throughout the day and night. But
usually the people do not prefer to go to these clinics as they are
expensive and charge anywhere between 3-500 for one visit. The
preferred hospital is cooper hospital in Juhu, which is a free government
hospital. Apart from that, BMC municipal hospital is the next best choice,
which charges approximately half of what a local clinic would.

A local clinic

Cooper hospital

Facilities: The community lacks availability of good educational facilities.
The government schools in the vicinity are not up to the mark and all the
other private schools are too expensive(500-1000 a month) for the people
to afford. Most people send their kids to school/college in localities as far
away as Borivali due to lack of opportunities in the locality.
Aspirations: Almost all the families in the locality are sending their kids
to schools and want them to have a better future that they do. The
families are highly aspirational and so are the children. More and more
kids are going to college after finishing in school. They also work
alongside, to support their families, but also have a will to make lives
better for themselves and their families.

Management learning
The study of the community made me realize that as a manager, no matter what
your field of work is, you cant ignore the bottom of the pyramid. The next source
of big business is the urban poor. They are young, aspirational people, who strive
each day to make their lives better and get their kids out of poverty and into a
better world. With their income, their consumption is rising and as business
managers, we cant afford to ignore the wave of upliftment, which might change
the face of business as we know it.

Personal learning
This study has given me more than management lessons. By listening to people,
who struggle to use the bathroom and get clean water has made me appreciate
the little things I took for granted. I have been blessed with so much and I still
complain and here are people, who make do with so little, with nothing but
smiles on their faces.