How Those Trendy LED Balloons Make It To India's Street Corners

They're part of a global supply chain of trinkets that starts out in Chinese factories. A vendor in India can earn a living by selling five a night.
Radhesham Singh, a homeless 28-year-old street vendor in New Delhi, saunters amid traffic, selling balloons. Source: Furkan Khan/NPR

Maybe you're not quite sure what an LED balloon is. But they're very popular right now — at birthday parties, weddings, holiday events.

It's actually a regular balloon with a string of multicolored LED light wrapped around it. The lights are usually powered by two AA batteries, stored in the plastic handle attached to the balloon, which is inflated with helium or an air pump. When you turn the lights on, they glow and flash.

"They are gorgeous," proclaimed Rachael Ray when she showed off the balloons on her talk show last spring.

You can buy a 10 pack on Amazon for $25 – or on street corners around the world for as little as $1.40 each. That's the price in New Delhi, where a vendor like Radhesham Singh can earn a

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