The ‘Thela Wala’ is an essential part of the informal economy in Pakistan. By a Gallup estimate, at least 75% of people have access to a street vendor, underlying the existence of a large number of street vendors in Pakistan. By creating a new modern design and zoning at various locations, this can generate income, which leads to poverty alleviation. In spite of being present in all major urban cities of Pakistan, little effort has been made to formalize and institutionalize ‘Thelas’ in Pakistan and to catalyze innovations. By innovating and formalizing the ‘thela’, the bottom of pyramid will be governed by a better mechanism, where they understand the rules and regulations, which prevents the authorities removing them from various locations.
Efforts in this regards have been made by the Punjab Food authority when it launched its model pushcart pilot project. Research does indicate that zoning in location is important because it ensures continuity that leads to higher income generation. The local authorities through these permits are able to increase their revenues resulting in a model that is both scalable while being sustainable. Various countries have adopted their approaches, which have been successful in institutionalizing and formalizing the pushcart.
Vietnam has championed the ‘Sharing Cities’ initiative to facilitate vendors in Ho Chi Minh City through training, improving access to financial services, access to markets and giving them access to the formal sector. Several countries are organizing street vendor food festivals and giving them hygiene trainings. Boston and Los Angeles in the United States are similarly recognizing the importance of street vendors and incorporating them in their wider urban planning. It is evident that the pushcart needs to become part of cities, and this is achieved through zoning.
In Pakistan, although street vendors have existed since the creation of this country, little effort has been made to create a structure for street vendors that will allow them to operate without fear of eviction, extortion by police. Little has been done to create vending zones, and space utilization for better footfall for street vendors. There needs to be a holistic model for street vendors that creates incentives for the Thela Walay and there is ease of doing business for them. Innovations in design of the Thela is an important aspect of this.