Sometime in 2004, the Rajkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) had formed a special committee to find ways to help businessmen and shopkeepers keep awake in the afternoons. Saurashtra’s biggest industry body decided to do away with this customary 1pm to 4pm post-lunch sleep, to keep pace with changing business environment.
Alas, the committee couldn’t find any solution and the joke goes that one of the meetings had too sparse attendance as it was in the afternoon!
So ingrained was the habit of taking a siesta that visiting cards of some businessman categorically carried a printed footnote: “Please don’t call between 1 to 4.”
Foreign buyers used to find it amusing how industry owners struggled to keep awake after 1pm, which probably would be peak business hours in Mumbai – the city that never sleeps!
However, there is a yawning difference between today’s Rajkot and its business culture a decade ago. Rajkot businessmen no more want to be caught napping by their competitors.
“I can let go of my afternoon nap, but I can no longer afford to lose my business,” said Bhupat Chatbar who was busy attending customers in his sari shop on Dhebar Road at 1pm. Chatbar and many other businessmen have woken up to new realities.
In fact, in 1995, a movement called “Samay Ko Badal Dalo (Change The Time) was kicked off to bury the siesta custom. It was a started under the banner of Rajkot Greater Junior Chamber by Parag Tejura, a young business consultant.
“Nearly 1,000 traders voluntarily signed up for the movement. Changes have become visible after more than a decade,” said Tejura who is now the president of Saurashtra Vepar Udyog Mahamandal (SUVM), the apex body of SMEs in the region.
Rajkot is India’s biggest centre of engineering goods and auto components. It is known for its investor-savvy businessmen who are active in the stock market and in commodity trading. Besides car parts, Rajkot is also a big centre of imitation and gold jewellery where traders of surrounding areas come for wholesale purchase.
“A few years back, Soni Bazar used to remain closed in the afternoon. Today, over half the businesses remain open,” said Bhayabhai Soni, president, Rajkot Gold Dealers Association.
Parth Ganatra, vice-president of Rajkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), said “The new generation doesn’t buy the idea of shutting shop at noon. Change has happened in the last few years, Now, only 30% of traders and businessmen still close businesses in the afternoon.”
The trend of siesta is changing but people still prefer to take break and go home for lunch; they do not like to carry tiffin at workplace
There are four peak hours in the city – two during noon-time and one each in morning and evening.
“The traders take turn to go home at noon for lunch. Even in manufacturing units we don’t have tradition of canteen, workers take one-hour break at noon and prefer to go to home for lunch,” said Parth Ganatra, VP, RCCI.
The trend of tiffin and canteen is developing in the new industrial areas coming in the outskirts of Rajkot.