By Lin Oo
A young lady who lives in my neighbourhood smiled at me and greeted me when I met her. I asked her where she was going. She surprisingly said that she was on her way to an essential uncle at the corner of the street. When I heard her answer, a confused look appeared on my face. She noticed it and laughed.
It is just a man who repairs umbrellas and shoes at the corner of the street.
Then, I noticed the umbrella in her arm and I told her with a smile, ‘‘Oh! I see”. Then, it reminded me of my flip-flops stuck on my shoe rack which need to be repaired. The low-income and middle-income households in the suburban areas need a man who repairs shoes and umbrellas. He is the essential man as the young lady said.
U Thein Tun, 60, who lives in Lanmadaw Township, runs a repair shop on the corner of the street and near the market. He gives repair services for umbrellas, footwear and keys. That kind of business in the rainy season rarely attracts people. It is hard to find them in the rainy season.
U Thein Tun, who comes from the opposite side of Yangon Port (Dala town) to downtown areas, runs his small service business on the pavement. He put his equipment down the side of the road and operates his repair shop without needing a facility. “I kept my equipment below the stairs of the apartment near my working place. I have to give K5,000 for that. The number of repair shops is declining. The majority of the young people disposed of them and bought the new ones instead.
‘‘However, only old people come to the repair shop,” U Thein Tun said.
That kind of small business can be seen along the pavement near the Iron market and Mawtin market.
People can get the umbrella, footwear and various home keys repaired easily.
“Umbrella malfunction is mostly witnessed in the rainy season. I have to sew footwear in the summer and rainy seasons. Some old people get the old umbrella which was discarded by the young people repaired and use them during the rainy season.
I earn only K500-K1,500 from the repair service. If the cost is higher than that, people are not interested in the act of repairing,” said Ko Win Min, a repairman.
We can make a gross profit after subtracting the food cost and transportation fees as there is no need to pay shop rentals.
“Some customers came to the shop at closing time. If it takes a long time to restore the broken things to a good condition, I schedule an appointment the next day. People mostly have their umbrellas repaired and reused”, U Thein Tun stated.
Low-cost umbrellas which are given by companies as a sales promotion are of poor quality yet people seldom get them repaired.
‘‘I have to fix the broken umbrella ribs and frames. Customers who get the umbrella cover changed are rarely seen. ”
A quality large umbrella with a six-month warranty is priced at K100,000 maximum, said Ko Phoe Zaw from Mayangon Township.
The medium-sized umbrellas which are commonly utilized at the betel quid shops are worth around K40,000.
The promotional umbrella is distributed free of charge to roadside shops. Those large umbrellas (circle and square structure) are available at the shops near the Post office in Pazundaung Township.
Those shops also provide repair services and service charges are estimated at K10,000-20,000 depending on the conditions. ‘‘I run repair shops to mend footwear and umbrellas and earn a regular income throughout the year.
‘‘The repairs of footwear are charged K500-3,000 depending on the conditions and types. Furthermore, keys are required for the apartment stairs in Yangon Region.
I have to give key duplication services frequently, said Ko Hla Min, a repairman.
“I have to make seven to 15 duplicated keys depending on the apartment units.
‘‘The service charges are K2,000 for a key. I will give discounts if they ask me to duplicate more keys,” Ko Hla Min elaborated. However, key-making businesses on a large scale are opened downtown.
Therefore, the small shops receive customers once in a while. He also give door-to-door service to fix the broken keys and it costs more than K5,000. Nowadays, people use security keys for the staircase in apartment buildings.
The roadside repair shops can be considered as unremarkable businesses.
Nevertheless, this business on a manageable scale is a small enterprise which brings a benefit to those involved.