Thursday, April 25, 2013

Marketing lessons learnt from hawkers in a local train at Chennai

As a resident of North Chennai, I am forced to travel by train to reach the city. As I was travelling today between Chennai Central to Minjur, a lot of things kept running in my mind as I quietly watched fellow passengers around me. Though the travel lasts for merely an hour, it gives me an insight into the lives of more than a hundred people. I've always wanted to pen down as to how these people have taught me few business lessons. 

At any part of the day, you will find the train to be loaded with people. If you haven't witnessed India's unity in diversity, hop on to a train and there you'll find a living proof.People of all kinds irrespective of religion, language or mannerism travel together.You'll find school students, teachers, professionals, industrial staff, cheap labourers, vetti officers, drunkards, bastards and of course policemen too. Bus fares in Chennai force few to choose a more convenient cheap means of travel, hence many end up in trains.

The train journey for many might be a tiresome task lasting for several hours in few cases. But what keeps one active is FOOD. All along your travel, you'll find and hear the sounds of hawkers and gossips. Silence is a rare phenomenon when you board a local train.  Not less than 10 hawkers come to a coach. Each try to sell their goods-fruits, stationery, cosmetics, accessories and eatables.You can happily spend very little money but fill your stomach with those yummy chips, puttu, sundal, chocolates and biscuits. Kids begging their parents to get them chips & Parents cleverly consoling their kid from not eating outside food are common incidents.

  • What surprises me is that most hawkers/vendors exhibit excellent business skills. These men and women have learnt business the hard way without listening to boring lectures or Exams just for the sake of a MBA degree. Though they don't dwell or sleep with crores of money, they have picked up an extraordinary talent to convince a person to buy any product. They are not trained marketing guys who work out formulas and theories to fix a price and then use social media or ads to reach out to people. But these men and women have their own strategies, pricing and deliver to you with a smile on their faces. Most of them try to befriend you. 
  • They teach me how valuable "Customer Satisfaction" is: These hawkers make sure they satisfy their customer who makes a purchase for a price as less than rs.10 also. They  value your money and many a times you'll find they do not cheat you asking for more. 
  • Deliver the best at a "Lower Price". Am surprised when I find people selling 12 oranges for Rs.10. As a new entrepreneur my mind fails to understand what profit would that lady get out of that sale. But she happily picks up the best of fruits for Rs.10 and hands it over to her customers.
  • Another big lesson is "Competitor Management". Each vendor makes sure he/she doesn't go selling into the same coach at the same time. Even if that happens, you can very much see their strategies are different. One tries to be brighter than the other. In fact these vendors have regular customers. Hence many passengers know what to buy and from whom. At times, you can even see clashes between competitors. :P

To me, everyone I see and talk to has something to teach me. The world around you teaches and preaches lot more than what is written in examination papers.

Plain glass looking artistic after my splash of colours