Here's a post about big brands being ripped off because people buy fakes. To my mind, if fakes are cheaper people will buy them. However morally wrong we might feel (and say) it is, we'll succumb.
The same applies to buying goods from roadside stalls rather than shops. We, the consumers, know those aren't legitimate businesses, but we can't resist the cheaper prices.
If shopkeepers present us with the facts about their overheads forcing them to make goods more expensive, we might make sympathetic noises but when it comes to shelling out a hundred rupees more for the same item from our tight budget, that's all it will remain - sympathetic noises.
Shops have to factor in the rent of the shop, the electricity, employee wages, (the extras like a cup of tea to beguile the customer, plush seating), tax, a minimum profit margin... BUT, that's their problem.
How do shops compete with that mindset? How do shopkeepers coax the budget conscious Indian consumer to buy from them and not from illegal stalls? Very difficult, unless they put up their own illegal stalls outside their shops.
Would shopkeepers be able to rely on the police to stop these illegal stalls from stealing legitimate trade from them? They haven't been able to as yet. We see roadside stalls filling every inch of the footpath that isn't occupied by beggars. We, as pedestrians are relegated to the roads.
We, as consumers, love our bargaining prowess - the adrenaline rush from stealing a march over other, "weak" bargainers or over the stall owner by driving a hard bargain, is irresistible. Besides, in India, we happily bargain at shops too. The thought of not being able to bargain is alarming to us.
So, why stop roadside stalls at all? In one word, middle(wo)men. The mafia is definitely part of the scenario now. The roadside stalls pay a hafta to gangs so that their stalls are ‘safe’ and so that they are allowed to operate. And if there are rival gangs trying to gain control of a road, the cost to the original gang to keep the roadside stalls in their own hands increases. Wonder if a cut goes to the police and some shadowy ‘leaders’.
The result? Not only inflated prices but a mafia that gets bolder by the second. They’ve taken over our roads. We are so busy bargaining to save our pennies we don't want to know.