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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Kuruvis in the limelight

The Kuruvi (hand- carrier) menace at Singapore's Changi Airport has made it to The Straits Times. In an article in its Sunday edition, the newspaper highlights the growing problem. Usually there will be a bunch of 5 - 10 kuruvis hanging around check-in counters of airlines not having luggage restrictions. Even full-service premium carriers like Jet Airways and Singapore Airlines are not spared. The primary target of these kuruvis is a single male traveller (mostly Indian workers) with limited luggage. They spot such travellers at a distance and approach them with their request. Just outside the check-in counters there will be multiple trolleys full of LCD TVs, Plasma TVs, Hi-Fi systems and musical keyboards. The average kuruvi is a middle-aged male (maybe pot-bellied) and his shirt is usually not tucked in. This may amount to stereotyping, but this profiling holds good for majority of such touts. 
Mostly male Indian nationals from Tamil Nadu, these touts are known to accost Chennai-bound Air India passengers with light baggage.

They offer money if the passenger agrees to check in items such as rice cookers and large Sony Bravia and Samsung LCD television sets.

Passengers are paid $7 per kg, which works out to about $140 for a 32-inch TV set and $40 for a rice cooker. 

When The Sunday Times visited the airport last Friday evening, we spotted at least six men touting outside Row 6 and Row 10 in Terminal 1, the check-in counters for Air India and Air India Express flights.

Business seemed brisk. More than 10 people holding air tickets were seen carting the TV sets to the check-in counters.

The touts, mostly in their 30s to 40s, tend to target male travellers. According to observers, they turn up at the check-in counters every morning and evening when flights to Chennai depart.

They arrive with airport trolleys stacked with boxes of the items, which they park at one side while they scout for passengers. (Link)

Just before the Diwali weekend, I was at the Jet Airways check-in counter and spotted the kuruvis approaching few educated young men. The passengers refused to carry the luggage. Few other workers accepted the offer and were promised Rs. 1500 upon arrival at Chennai airport. The kuruvis then made some distinctive marks on the packages so that their counterparts can identify the luggage upon arrival in Chennai. Jet Airways is the only India-bound carrier flying from the shining new Terminal 3 which started operations this Jan. The presence of such kuruvis is an eyesore to the new terminal. Once the check-in process was over, the Kuruvis took back their unshipped goods with them. Maybe, it was check-in time for another Chennai-bound flight. (All pics courtesy: The Sunday Times). 

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  • Good to see you back !

    Hav seen these kuruvis myself in Singapore ...
    I came back to India from Singapore 4 months back and was suprised to see some 15-20 ppl carrying Sony Bravia TV during check in :)
    later came to know about this system , but the rates offered were only Rs.1000 !
    Agree with the stereotyping mentioned , I happened to travel to India once during last jan with just my laptop and one bag with 2 other friends , but no one approached us with TVs !
    And why only to Chennai ? ppl travelling to other parts were not approached at all ! Is it a Tamil network ?

    By Blogger anush, at 4:23 PM  

  • Singapore - Chennai has the highest volume of flights and the Burma Bazaar network is strong. That's the reasons for the thriving business. The guys here need to have colleagues / business associates in other Indian cities to collect the goods and pay you the commission. Since they can't post people in other cities, they operate from Chennai and Trichy.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 11:00 AM  

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