Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are seeing the Street vendors in Mumbai, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is a bustling city with a population of over 22 million people. Known as the financial capital of India, it is also famous for its iconic landmarks such as the Gateway of India, Marine Drive and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. However, in the midst of the city's glitz and glamour, there is a lesser-known side that is equally fascinating and integral to the city's identity – the tin shack shops.
Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is a bustling city with a population of over 22 million people. Known as the financial capital of India, it is also famous for its iconic landmarks such as the Gateway of India, Marine Drive and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. However, in the midst of the city's glitz and glamour, there is a lesser-known side that is equally fascinating and integral to the city's identity – the tin shack shops.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on May 27, 2024

Street vendors in India

Tin shack shops, also known as 'Basti shops' or 'Jhopadpatti shops', are makeshift stores made out of corrugated iron and other scrap materials. These shops are a common sight in the slums and low-income neighborhoods of Mumbai, where the majority of the city's population resides. These humble structures are the lifeline of the community, providing easy access to essential items and services.

When did the tin shack shops begin in India?

The tin shack shops came into existence in the 19th century during the British rule, when the city faced a rapid influx of migrants from rural areas. These migrants, mostly labourers and workers, settled in slums and shantytowns and started small businesses to make a living.

The basic needs of the community in India
With the lack of proper infrastructure and affordable accommodation, the only viable option for them was to build their shops out of whatever materials they could find. Initially, these shops mainly catered to the basic needs of the community, such as groceries, vegetables and household items. However, with the passage of time, the range of products and services offered by these shops expanded to meet the demands of a growing population. Today, one can find anything from clothing, electronics and furniture to tailors, cobblers and hairdressers in these tin shack shops in India.

Despite their humble appearance as Kristian Bertel | Photography was seeing, these shops are a hub of activity and the center of the local economy. They play a crucial role in providing employment opportunities and generating income for the shop owners as well as their families. Many of these shops have been passed down through generations and the owners take great pride in their businesses, no matter how small they may seem. Moreover, these tin shack shops also serve as a social gathering place for the community.

People often come to these shops not just to purchase goods but also to share their stories, discuss current events and seek advice from the shop owners. It is a place where people from different backgrounds and cultures come together, breaking down social barriers and promoting unity. However, running a business in a tin shack shop is not an easy feat.

"These shops face a myriad of challenges, including extreme weather conditions, lack of proper sanitation facilities and the constant threat of eviction. Despite these challenges, the shop owners work tirelessly to keep their businesses afloat, often working long hours and enduring harsh conditions"

A crucial role in the socio-economic fabric of Mumbai
The tin shack shops not only provide convenience and employment but also play a crucial role in the socio-economic fabric of Mumbai and they are a representation of the resilience and determination of the city's working-class population. However, with the rise of modernization and development, these shops are slowly disappearing, making way for shiny malls and supermarkets.

While this may be a sign of progress, it is important to remember the significant role these tiny enterprises played in shaping the city and supporting its inhabitants. In conclusion, the tin shack shops in Mumbai may seem like nothing more than a cluster of makeshift structures, but they hold a deep-rooted history and a significant place in the hearts of the locals. They are a testament to the spirit of entrepreneurship and community living that is engraved in the city's DNA. They may not be around forever, but the impact they have made on the city and its people will not be forgotten.

Mumbai, also known as the 'City of Dreams', is a bustling metropolis that attracts people from all over the country. The rich cultural heritage, the vibrant nightlife and the diverse food scene make the city stand out. However, amidst the glitz and glamour, there are some humble, yet charming, street shops that add to the vibrancy of the city. From street food to clothing and accessories, these simple street shops offer a unique and authentic experience to the people of Mumbai. These shops can be found in every nook and corner of the city, from the bustling streets of Colaba to the narrow lanes of Bandra.

"Street vendors, with their colorful array of spices, fruits and textiles, harken back to centuries-old trading traditions. The air is thick with the aroma of freshly ground masalas, mingling with the fragrance of 'Marigolds' and jasmine from nearby flower stalls. Rickshaw pullers, their cycle bells ringing cheerily, navigate through the throngs, reminiscent of a simpler time before the advent of motor vehicles"

Food streets in Mumbai
One of the most popular street shops in Mumbai is the 'Khau Gallis' or food streets. The intoxicating aroma of various delicacies, ranging from the iconic 'Vada pav' to the mouth-watering 'Pav bhaji', attracts people from all walks of life. These food streets are not just a hub for local Mumbaikars, but also for tourists who want to taste the city's renowned street food. Apart from food, Mumbai is also known for its vibrant textile market. The city is home to numerous street shops that offer a variety of affordable clothing and accessories.

The streets of Fashion Street and Linking Road are bustling with people looking for the latest fashion trends at budget-friendly prices. These street shops are a fashion paradise for college students and budget-conscious shoppers. While the 'Khau Gallis' and fashion streets may be the most well-known, there are several other street shops in Mumbai that are worth exploring. Chor Bazaar in Mumbai, also known as the 'Thieves Market' is a treasure trove for antique lovers and bargain hunters. The market is a maze of narrow lanes lined with shops selling everything from vintage furniture to quirky art pieces.

"For those looking for a cultural experience, the street shops in Mumbai offer a range of traditional handicrafts and artifacts. Colaba Causeway, known for its vibrant street market, is a popular spot to shop for traditional Indian jewelry, home decor items and other souvenirs. The best part about these street shops is the bargaining culture that prevails. Tourists and locals alike can put their bargaining skills to use and get the best deal for their purchases. It adds to the authenticity of the experience and makes street shopping a fun and exciting activity"

A source of livelihood for many people in Mumbai
Apart from being a hub for shopping and food, these street shops also serve as a source of livelihood for many people in Mumbai. Most of the shop owners are small-scale entrepreneurs who have been in the business for generations. They have perfected their craft over the years and take immense pride in what they do. One of the reasons why street shops in Mumbai thrive is because they cater to a wide spectrum of customers. From students to office-goers and tourists, these shops offer something for everyone. It is also a reflection of the city’s diverse and inclusive culture.

In recent years, Mumbai has witnessed the rise of malls and upscale shopping centers, but the charm of street shops remains unmatched. Even with the changing times, these simple street shops have managed to retain their place in the hearts of Mumbaikars.

See this video about street vendors in India made by

The photographer's own experience with India
"- As a traveler, I've been fortunate enough to visit many exotic and diverse countries, each with its own unique culture, sights and flavours. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer joy I experienced during my trip to India. From the moment I landed in Mumbai, I was captivated by the vibrancy and chaos of the city. The bustling streets, the honking of cars and the myriad of colors and smells were a feast for the senses. But what struck me the most was the warmth and friendliness of the people. Everywhere I went, I was greeted with smiles and gestures of welcome", the Photographer says.

"- Amidst the chaotic streets of Mumbai, I was amazed by the hardworking and determined individuals I encountered. From street vendors to businessmen, everyone seemed to be busy chasing their dreams and making a living. It was inspiring to see the resilience and determination in the faces of these hardworking people", the Photographer says again.

"- In a city that is always on the move, these street shops provide a break from the chaotic city life. It is a place where people gather, interact and create memories while indulging in some retail therapy and delicious food. In conclusion, the simple street shops in Mumbai are an integral part of the city's culture and heritage. They add character and vibrancy to the city and offer a unique and authentic shopping experience. These street shops are a testament to the city's spirit of inclusivity and diversity and they will continue to be an essential part of Mumbai's charm for years to come", the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Boy in a village portraiture

Boy in a village portraiture

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India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of an Indian woman in Uttar Pradesh. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.