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It is a small venture with a sound message. Forty-seven-year-old P Chinmayanandham from Madurai heard stories about unmanned shops in Russia while he was a boy. He has decided to give this old tale a shape. Two weeks ago, Chinmayananandam started an honesty shop where people can pick groceries and products, check out the MRP on the label, and drop the cash without anyone monitoring them.

P Chinmayanandham believes his honesty shop will make a difference

Chinmayanandham started a shop selling chicken some 25 years ago which was his family business. He, a BSc Mathematics graduate, has other interests, too, which have given him novel business ideas.

Chinmayananandam started an honesty shop where people can pick groceries and products, check out the MRP on the label, and drop the cash without anyone monitoring them.

A man who cares for the environment, Chinmayanandham does not give plastic bags to pack the chicken. To encourage his customers to cooperate, he offers four free eggs for every kg of chicken if customers bring pots to carry the chicken home.

For those who forget to bring vessels from home, he gives a plastic bucket for a fee. “I introduced this practice in 2000. I have seen customer behavior changing,” he says.

Chinmayanandham’s next venture in novelty was an “honesty” grocery business. Started with an investment of Rs 5,000, Chinmayanandham offers groceries next to his chicken shop. The grocery corner is left unattended. Chinmayanandham tells his customers to pick up what they want, see the MRP on the product label and drop the cash in a box. “I explain to them the concept and leave it to their honesty,” he says.

For those who forget to bring vessels from home, he gives a plastic bucket for a fee. “I introduced this practice in 2000. I have seen customer behavior changing,” he says.

Every day, Chinmayanandham closes the chicken shop at 2 pm and leaves with the grocery corner open and unattended. Customers can still come in, pick up their product, and pay for it in the cash box.

Chinmayanandham says he always finds that all the products customers have picked up have been paid for. Sometimes, there is a rupee or two more in the cash box. “I plan to put up a bigger shop that uses the same principle soon,” he said.

In the past, customers would wait to buy masalas and spices. But now, they just walk to the grocery corner and pick it up. “On Sundays or festival days, there is a rush. Unlike in the past, I just buy the meat, pick the spices and go home. It’s a lot quicker,” says C Chithra who lives nearby.

A rural school in Madurai has been running an honesty shop for students since 2004

The honesty shop is not new to Madurai. Two decades ago, in Karumathur, on the outskirts of Madurai, St Claret’s Hr Sec School opened a similar shop. Named ‘Nermaiyalar Kadai’ and run by students, the shop offers stationary items and candy to school students. The inventory and sales are matched. The honesty meter is clocked. If the meter dips, school students get a lesson in honesty.

Chinmayanandham says he heard about the St Claret school initiative after he opened his honesty shop. “I suggest schools across Tamil Nadu open such shops. Children can learn how to practice honesty,” he adds.


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