Nostalgia: Part 1- Durgashtami

As I sit with a cup of tea on my balcony, I realize it’s my favourite time of the year. With my birthday and Diwali approaching I could sense the festivity in the air, except that this air isn’t something I’m familiar with. I’m habitual of a much higher frequency oscillating in the air, the frequency of the enchanting music playing in durga pandaals in every nook. That’s the difference between a metropolitan and a town. The euphony fades in the noisy, busy city. But it persists in a town in different forms.

For some, it is a religious belief; for others, it’s an awaited celebration filling excitement in the hearts of people. No points for guessing, I was among the latter ones. Every Ashtami, I and my cousins would plan to visit every single pandaal in the town, a sort of tradition that was bound to be followed. Surprisingly, I never came across such a tradition in 3 years of my life in a metropolitan simply because of a busy life stuck amidst clubs, malls and highways.

To be stuck in the crowd and wait in a queue for a glance of the idol is a memory I’ll always cherish.

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Kharab Chai

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We’ve seen sellers fighting to be the best in the competitive market, trying to serve the best of products and services at customers’ disposal. But how many of you have observed sellers trying to sell the worst?

Years back I was traveling by a train to the holy city of Varanasi. We had entered the borders of Uttar Pradesh and I started observing vendors selling different specialties of their cities. While some offered the famous ‘Agra petha’ others resorted to tea/coffee. Needless to say that Indians, who start their day with tea, wouldn’t deny for a sip or two. Myriad of sellers came to offer tea claiming to be the best. Some accepted the offer, some didn’t.

Then came a vendor shouting,”duniya ki sabse kharab chai”,”kharab chai le lo” (Try the worst tea of the world). Everyone started staring at him. After all, what sort of image was he creating for his product? He was actually using REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY to intrigue the passengers. Reverse psychology is a technique involving a behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject to do what actually is desired: the opposite of what is suggested. Everyone ordered a cup of tea out of curiosity to know how bad the taste of tea could be. This would work for the seller in two ways- first; nobody could claim their money for bad taste because he had already apprised them of it. Second; if they liked the tea, they’d recommend it to others or easily identify him the next time they travel by that route. With loyalty of customers it also provided him an edge over his competitors. I had the chance to taste the ginger flavoured tea and I indeed recommended it to others. I even heard a passenger praising him and advising not to claim his tea the worst as it could be misleading. Now when I recall the conversation I realize little did the passenger and I know how these sellers used smart marketing in a common market to survive. The strategy might have been copied by a lot more train vendors but I never saw any other line of business taking such an intrepid step.

A while back I was traveling via Madhya Pradesh when I heard a tea seller shouting ‘Kharab chai’. I smiled; reminisced the incident that took place ten years back; ordered a cup of tea appreciating the existence of this gimmick; looked through the window as the fog covered the stalls; and enjoyed the ‘kharab chai’ voraciously.

 

BREAKING BREAD @ TONY’S


If you’re a DU student living in the north campus, Tony’s is undoubtedly one of your favourite food joints. Those two slices of toast would give you a totally distinct delicious experience every time you try a new flavour. I’ve been observing Tony’s grow with the blink of an eye. To be everyone’s favourite takes a lot. If you kick off a startup and people start recognizing it, it’s then when you know you’ve done it the right way.

THE IDEA

“There are times when your life becomes so mundane that your conscience forces you to question yourself, “what the heck am I doing in my life?”, and mulling over that you start getting closer to your passion. In our case it turned out that we’re elated when we explore food while we travel across countries and that’s how we came up with Tony’s”, says Harsh, the owner of Tony’s when I asked how the idea of starting a food joint hit upon.

In setting up a brand, you haven’t succeeded if you haven’t faced a problem. Tony’s was funded with personal savings of the co-founders as they didn’t have any significant sources. Harsh also reveals that one of the biggest problems while arranging quality ingredients is that 9/10 people sell sub-quality products and when you go out in the market without knowing people, they cheat you, give you second-hand products, half the quantity at double the price. Moreover you’ve pestering police to deal with- they would charge you unnecessarily, ask you for monthly fine and still call for free snacks from your shack.

TIME TO LEARN

A business enthusiast can learn even from the smallest organizations. Tony’s, knowingly or unknowingly had some appreciable strategies which in my opinion led them grow:

  • PRODUCT SEGMENTATION– Its core theory is that an organization can produce a single product with minor variations. Tony’s experimented with breads and it succeeded because it offered the same old product in a different way adding new flavours. Harsh describes it as a snack which can be consumed any time of the day-
  • 8:00 am for breakfast (how about our Peanut Butter Protein Crunch!)
  • 2:00 pm for lunch (how about our Might Ham or Tomatina!)
  • 6:00 pm for Tea (how about our Wonder Cheese!)
  • 8:00 pm for dinner (how about Amritsari Seekh!)

 

  • TARGET AUDIENCE– An area where most of the start-ups fail to identify who their customers are, Tony’s succeeded. It chose University area as the young generation would be least reluctant and least hesitant in trying out something different at an affordable price. Plus you get the advantage of a contagious Word-of-mouth vine in a campus. You tell one and ten others will know. After the incredible success of “ Pulse ” candy,this has been one of the most effective market strategies.

 

  • SWITCHING LOCATION AT THE RIGHT TIME– When Tony’s realized that it needed a comfortable elbow-space to work; it switched from Patel Chest to Vijay Nagar. While in Patel chest there was just a shack at the footpath lacking seating facility for customers with a vulnerable and unhygienic environment, Tony’s anticipated better growth prospects at Vijay Nagar. Now it has its own enclosed café with proper facilities – a hygienic space with AC and seating facilities. Reminds me of the story of Tata Nano plant shifting to Gujarat- a smart move by PM Modi, the then CM.

 

  • INNOVATION IS THE KEY, MY FRIEND: When a magnate like Nokia can fail on the grounds of innovation, what is a start-up in front of it? Innovation isn’t always developing something new; it’s also how you zero in new ways of doing the same. That’s how Flipkart bloomed. It acquired Myntra and Jabong and is giving a cut throat competition to the 2-decade old Amazon. Had Tony’s not experimented with the cliché mayo or nutella sandwich, it wouldn’t have flourished so well. It keeps on adding new flavours to the menu.

 

  • CUSTOMER IS THE KING: The reason why Patanjali proved to be a success was because it could convince people of the quality ingredients it offers which other companies might not. When Tony’s could not get good quality bread, it started baking its own to ensure that no customer suffers from a sub-standard product.

 

  • PRICE PENETRATION– When I talk of price penetration, Maggi is the best example. Price penetration is a technique where the price of the product is initially set low to strengthen the goodwill of the product thus capturing a myriad of customers, and subsequently increasing the price. In case of maggi, goodwill came out so strong that even the hottest controversy didn’t move its customers and maggi continued to sell at Rs.12/- after a price surge of Rs.2. Tony’s took the risk, being confident about the product,  and surged price due to an obvious increase in the cost of production.

 

 

A TINGE OF GAME THEORY? If you’ve survived the game theory, you’re in a win-win situation. Nonetheless deciding your actions dependent upon the actions of other participants is risky. Tony’s hiked the prices to a limit which would still be lesser than its competitors so as to retain its customers (not everyone is confident enough like Reliance Jio when it comes to defeat the competitors).

If you get to visit Vijay Nagar, do try the amazing snacks. You yourself will witness the small organizational structure such vendors follow. There’s not denial that risk is directly proportional to the profits you earn.  If you risk and win, you’ll be happy. If you lose, you’ll be wise.