South Asia | Hired help startup cashes in on India's huge bank queues
People queue as they wait for the bank to open to exchange their old high-denomination banknotes in the early hours, in the old quarters of Delh. Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
People queue as they wait for the bank to open to exchange their old high-denomination banknotes in the early hours, in the old quarters of Delh. Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Hired help startup cashes in on India’s huge bank queues

The company originally launched as an online platform for people to hire temporary helpers

November 23, 2016 4:37 PM (UTC+8)

Long queues snaking outside banks have become an everyday sight in India since the government’s shock decision to withdraw the two highest denomination notes from circulation on November 8.

But a New Delhi-based startup has a solution for those willing to pay someone to stand in line: BookMyChotu — a play on the Hindi word “chotu” meaning “little one.”

The company, originally launched as an online platform to help people hire temporary helpers, is now cashing in on the cash crunch.

“Are you short of cash? Need a Helper to stand in queue for the bank/ATM till the time your turn comes?” reads an ad on the company’s Facebook page.

“Our boys will not go inside the bank, they will just stand in the queue for our customers as we understand that there can be some emergency and our helpers can help you by saving your valuable time.”

A “chotu” costs 90 rupees (US$1.30) per hour — or 550 rupees for waiting for a maximum of eight hours.

All are well trained and over the age of 18, the company assured prospective customers on its Facebook page.

Indians have until the end of the year to exchange their old 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee notes — 85 percent of the cash in circulation — for the new 500 and 2,000 rupee bills, or deposit them into accounts.

The shock decision was part of the government’s assault on “Black money” — undeclared, unaccounted cash — and aims to bring more money into the formal banking system and ultimately boost the economy.

Positive responses

But it has caused a rush on the banks, while shortages of new notes and problems recalibrating ATMs to fit the new bills have seen hours-long queues form outside banks nationwide.

Since BookMyChotu, which is only available in Delhi and neighboring cities, started its latest ad campaign, the company has received positive and curious responses, said founder and CEO Satjeet Singh Bedi.

“It started when my mother was ill and I immediately needed cash,”  Bedi told the Hindustan Times.

“I requested my teammates to stand in the queue in place of me and quickly replaced them when my turn came.”

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