MORJIM, India – Russians are present in almost all businesses related to tourism in the northern beaches of Goa such as Morjim, Mandrem, Ashvem and Arambol.
First, they paid as tourists; slowly, they captured the businesses, killed the competition and now monopolize the economy in the beach stretches of Morjim, Mandrem, Ashvem and Arambol.
One can find them in all businesses; be it providing SIM cards or DJs or designing flyers and advertisements, taxi arrangements, arranging night parties, dancers, hosting shows, lighting and fireworks, running hotels or shacks or restaurants. Most are illegal though.
“First, they came as guests and paid the normal payments for the goods and services they utilized. It was around 8-10 years ago, when the Israelis were dominating the drug business and were a majority among the tourists in Arambol,” said a local, requesting anonymity.
It was in Morjim (the quiet village with agriculture and fishing as main activities), where Russians slowly realized that they could dominate if they poured in some rubles and made the village their second home away from home.
“Russians started hiring houses to stay in. They started giving business to the shops. The face of Morjim village slowly started changing. Locals started welcoming Russians as they were able to see currency moving in and out of their hands.
Russians became partners in local businesses like shacks, hotels, restaurants. The advantage for locals was that they were getting more business as they (Russians) use their contacts to attract business,” said a local villager.
“They came as visitors, then they realized ‘Why be a guest and pay when there can be earnings, while also being a tourist?’ They understood the business, ventured into businesses and are now ruling business. The situation is almost that of a monopoly,” said a villager.
Russians first started living in houses and locals started to welcome them, especially in Morjim, as the village’s economy was very weak then. “Russians started taking houses on rent and letting them out to their Russian friends. They book houses prior to the beginning of the season and then rent them,” explained a local.
The Russians next ventured into the restaurant and hotel business in partnership with locals. “The Russian funds the business which is registered in the name of a local. The advantage, here, is that Russian tourists are directly diverted to these shacks, restaurants or hotels because of the Russian connection.
Then, they also started the tourist taxi business and tours, operating through direct online contacts with Russian tourists.
Currently, the situation is like this: Russians are there in every business and the locals can feel their dominance. But, if they say that Russians are not wanted in the business, who will give them business?
For instance, a late loud music party is organized. Though illegal, it is the order of the day during tourist season in Morjim and Ashvem.
Now, if there are no Russian DJs, there will be no crowd. No crowd means loss for the organizers and the local taxi businessman and for the locals who do some odd jobs at the party venues,” the local elaborated.
Presently, more Russians come to Morjim because it resembles a mini-Moscow; with the Russian people and environment (menus, music, people, language, and lifestyle) and the business cycle continues. In Morjim and Ashvem, the Russian New Year parties are much bigger than the ones held on December 31.
If there is no Russian partner in any tourist-related business in Morjim, Mandrem, Ashvem and Arambol, the entrepreneur is at a loss as majority of the tourists in this stretch are Russians and you require Russians to attract them.