While I’m writing this, I’m on a solo trip, travelling in a train from Goa to Howra-Kolkata, which is nearly a 40 hour train journey.
I didn’t have a confirmed train ticket, so I had to shift in the general compartment.
And when you are travelling in a general compartment, your journey can be anything but boring!
The train was passing through Coimbatore to reach Chennai (almost a 9-hour journey) when a 40 year-old looking woman entered the general compartment.
I had to wait for almost 30 minutes before I could actually see her face despite being in the same compartment as I was facing the direction of the travel and she entered from behind me.
She had a harmonium with her, which she was playing as she sang, along with an associate to accompany her. (I got to know later that she was her younger sister.)
She mostly sang Bollywood songs and used to perform for around 5 minutes near each row in the compartment.
Passengers in General Compartments:
On an average, there are 10 rows in a general compartment and on each row there are 4 seats in perpendicular (seating capacity 16) and 1 seat placed parallel (seating capacity 2).
This means in a single row, 18 passengers can sit. Considering 10 rows in a general compartment, 180 people can sit comfortably.
Now if you know the situation of general compartments in India, its super crowded as a lot of people travel standing, sit on the floor or even underneath the seats.
So, considering the extra no. of passengers, I’m increasing the average no. of passengers in the general compartment from the initial 180 to 200. (Though the actual no. can be much more than this!)
As I said above, she spends around 5 minutes near each row.
But she doesn’t start immediately.
She greets the audience, first in the local language (Tamil/Malayalam) and then in Hindi. (Since this is a long distance train, people come from different geographies.)
She’ll then crack a joke or two to lighten the mood.
Once she is assured the audience is ready and involved, she starts her performance.
While performing she makes eye contact with everyone, smiles a bit, so that the audience feels more involved. (However, in the video I shared below she is only looking at the camera and at the floor as she was camera shy!)
I observed that since she had already managed to build a strong connect with the audience, the audience came forward willingly and donated money.
Average Earning in a General Compartment:
Out of 18 passengers in each row, around 6-7 people gave her 5-10 rs. each.
Thus, I’m considering the average earning per row to be Rs.50.
Conversion rate: 33.33% (Out of 18 passengers, 6 people pay)
This means, she earns around Rs. 500 in one general compartment (50 per row multiplied by 10 rows)
On an average there are 4 general compartments in a train (2 at the front-end of the train and 2 at the tail.)
A) This takes her earnings to Rs.2,000 per trip only from the General compartments.
Average Earning in a Sleeper Compartment:
She keeps moving from one compartment to another and covers all the compartments (General and Sleeper) except 3AC, 2AC and 1 AC as street vendors/performers are not permitted in these compartments.
The sleeper compartments are less crowded as compared to general comps.
Again, the layout of the seats in sleeper is same, but since people sleep here, there’s only 1 passenger per sit.
Thus, in sleeper, 1 sit = 1 passenger.
There are 8 seats in a single row (6 perpendicular, 2 parallel) and around 10 rows in each sleeper compartment.
Thus, there are 80 people in each sleeper coach.
Out of 8 seats in each row, around 3-4 people pay her around 5-10 Rs. each. Assuming average earning per row to be Rs. 20.
This implies Rs.200 earned in each Sleeper compartment. (Earnings of Rs. 20 per row into 10 rows)
On an average there are 8 sleeper compartments in a long distance train.
B) This takes her earning to Rs.1,600 per trip from the Sleeper compartments.
The Math: Earning 78 Lacs A Year
Joining A and B we come to know that she earns approx. 3,600 in a single trip of 8 hours.
I had a chat with her and she told me that daily she takes 2 trips: From Coimbatore to Chennai and return.
Considering the same math for the return journey as well, she would earn Rs. 7200 per day and still sleep for the remaining 8 hours!
Another interesting thing she told me was that she lives in a joint family and singing and playing instruments is their family business.
2 of her family members travel on 2 different routes in 2 different trains playing harmonium and flute.
C) Assuming the same math for them as well, they’ll earn Rs. 7200 per day each.
Thus, combining A,B and C we get to a figure of Rs. 21,600 per day for a family of 4 with all 4 getting a good 8 hour sleep every-day!
I was curious to know her story so I inquired more and she told me that the 2 harmoniums and the flute cost them Rs. 10,000 in total.
That’s it! This is the ONLY investment they’ve made.
No other fixed charges, no office setup, no staff payments….and the best part; no-one really asks them if they have a train ticket.
Summarizing all this, the family of 4 earns almost 6.5 lacs per month or 78 lacs a year and the best part- They broke even on Day 1!
And they are doing all this with a dignified job- Singing and playing music.
They don’t beg nor do they try to sell something which passengers are least likely to buy.
Learnings From The Story:
- They are earning all this money with sheer skill and hard-work with ZERO marketing
- For the right skill, the doors are always open. Just keep your eyes and ears open and SENSE the market opportunity and tap it immediately
- It is very important to create quality content and SHARE. Don’t stress too much on promotion. At times you won’t even need promotion
- Biggest learning- Why did I pay so much for my MBA 😂
Recently I did a Solo Trip to Kerala and it was an experience of a lifetime.
Of all the amazing experiences I have had there, I decided to write about a select special moments.
You can check out the blog posts below:
Solo Trip, Day 1:
Solo Trip, Day 2:
Solo Trip, Day 3:
Solo Trip, Day 4: