Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why gold investment in India does not yield good returns?

Gold is considered to be one comparable investment after equity and real estate.

But not so in India. If you buy gold jewellery from any jeweller in India, and try to sell it at any other shop as soon as you bought it, you will find the value of your investment reduced significantly.

Almost all jewellers follow very secretive and manipulative practices while deciding rates for buying and selling the same gold. There is no transparency. Even some of the small-time jewellers can’t explain the huge discrepancy in their own buying and selling rates.

There is no single reference to benchmark rates. There are a lot of confusions about 999 or 916 or Hallmark etc and jewellers misinterpret this conveniently to manipulate prices.

Gold is a favorite avenue of investment by all classes of people in India. But most of them are unaware of the impossible-to-understand valuation methods of jewellers. Also, a large part of gold jewelry is used in gifting, where the receiver generally does not sell it for decades. Due to both these factors, the manipulative practices of jewellers are not exposed.

Add to this, the absence of any controlling authority allows these rampant malpractices to continue unchecked.

Until some disciplinary steps are taken to stop such fraudulent practices, gullible Indians will continue to lose their hard-earned money in the hope of increasing it through gold investment.

हमारा मार्केटींग विश्व कितना बड़ा है?

अरनब गोस्वामी अपनी इंग्लीश न्यूझ चैनल Times Now पर दिखाये जाने वाले इन्टरव्यू या पेनल डीस्कशन में उपस्थित महानुभावों से चिल्ला-चिल्लाकर पूछता है “The whole India wants to know…पूरा देश जानना चाहता है. आपने ऐसा क्यों किया?”

जब की देश के ९५ प्रतिशत लोग कोई इंग्लीश न्यूझ चैनल देखते ही नहीं हैं, उनको भनक मात्र नहीं है कि अरनब किस “पूरे देश” की बात कर रहा है ?

दबंग फिल्म में एक घटिया किस्म के घटिया आइटम सोंग “फेविकोल से” (मेरे मत अनुसार इससे ज्यादा गंदा आइटम सोंग अभी तक आया नहीं है |) में घटिया एक्ट्रेस को सलमान खान कहता है “पूरे इन्डीया को तुने गुलाम किया है |” भारत के ६० करोड से ज्यादा मर्दों में से कितने लोगों का टेस्ट सैफ अली खान से बेहतर होगा जिन्हें ऐसे बेहुदा कपडोंवाली हीरोइन की गुलामी पसंद नहीं होगी? फिर किस पूरे इन्डीया की गुलामी की बात कर रहा है सलमान खान?

२-३ प्रतिशत इंग्लीश स्पीकींग लोगों को “पूरा इन्डीया” बताने वाला अरनब या करिना की गंदी हरकतों पर फीदा हो कर अपने साथ पूरे देश को गुलाम घोषित करने वाला सलमान दोनों अपने छोटे मार्केटींग विश्व की साइझ के अलावा और कुछ नहीं प्रदर्शित करते है |

मार्केटींग में ऐसी बडी बडी बातें बोलने का रिवाज़ है | अपने टार्गेट कस्टमर बेझ को ही पूरी मार्केट मान कर कंपनियां अपने दावे करतीं है | इस लिए ऐसे पूरे इन्डीया के दावों को मार्केटींग की भाषा में समझना जरुरी है |

हमारा कस्टमर बेझ जितना बड़ा, उतना हमारा मार्केटींग का विश्व बड़ा… अपने मार्केटींग के विश्व को असली भौगोलिक विश्व की सीमाओं तक फैलाने का ध्येय हर दूरदर्शी बिझनेसमेन का होना चाहिए…|

हमारे मार्केटींग विश्व की साइझ बढ़ाएं, ताकि हमारा “पूरा इन्डीया” सही अर्थ में पूरा ही हो़…

What makes Radhakrishnan Pillai a bestselling author?

Radhakrishnan Pillai’s latest book Chanakya’s 7 Secrets of Leadership, has sold 10,000 copies in a month since its release in late January 2014, making it a bestseller. What makes him a bestselling author?

I have known and observed him since last few years. Here are my views on his well-deserved success.

He is authentic
Radha is intelligent and genuine along with being articulate. Amongst the current breed of Business Gurus where many fake and irritatingly dumb copy-pasters are masquerading as Business Gurus, Radha comes as a refreshingly fresh air.

He is focused
He has consistently focused on his studies of Chanakya and his teachings. He is not talking of anything else. Clear, unwavering focus.

He interprets and not simply translates
Radha has made it a mission to spread the learnings from Chanakya. He does not simply translate the verses, he simplifies them with his own insights, making the learning relevant to the contemporary times.

He writes to express, not impress
He uses facts and thoughts to express and does not resort to well rhyming words to impress his audience.

He is not out to build a personal brand
Many business writers write to add the word ‘Author’ on their visiting card. Radha is not driven by such purely commercial interests. He is not trying to lure some unsuspecting businessmen to get some consulting or executive coaching assignment through his writing work.

He is trying to propagate wisdom not encash it
Radha is a student of leadership wisdom of the ancient India. He is living a mission. He is driven by something larger than money can buy or valuers can evaluate.

He is not trying to sell anything
Radha does not write to sell his seminars or workshops. Neither is he bent on building a tribe where he will be worshipped as a demigod.

Radha, This is my tribute to your passion and mission. Keep doing the great work…

Why films fail? Marketing lessons from Bollywood failures…

This is very basic observation. But it needs mention, because it has slipped the attention of many in the Bollywood.

A film, is an Audio-Visual story, an entertainment product. Now the basic function of a film as a product must be to tell a story through the effective use of Audio and Visual. On any one or all of these media, sometimes even the most aniticipated and hyped films fall short.

Inaudible Audio :

I recently saw Jab Tak Hai Jaan on SET MAX. A very good film, acted by my favorite, a veteran, Shah Rukh Khan and directed by the legend Yash Chopra. But, while watching the film, I came across 8-10 instances where the dialogs are either :

a) Delivered too fast OR

b) Spoken in very low volume voice (whispers), which are hardly audible

Invisible Video :

Some films, even though directed by great directors, have some scenes where there is a stark darkness on the screen, coupled with strange, inaudible audio, where audience has to struggle hard to make sense of what is going on. Ravan (2010) by Mani Ratnam is one such example which comes to my mind.

Ineffective Storytelling :

Many films, fail to tell the story in a coherent manner. I remember going to watch Khatta Meetha (Akshay Kumar) with a lot of hope to see something as good as the funny original Khatta Meetha. But here, the story was moving so erratically, with many illogical cuts and joints, that one felt it was complete waste of time.

The end result of such audio which is not audible, the video which is not visible and the story which does not hold our attention, the average person (and there are a lot of such people like me), feels disconnected from the film. Many such instances in the same film, and the disconnection results in irritation. This results in bad word of mouth. And the films don’t live up to the expectations or hype. Regardless of SRK, Akshay Kumar, Yash Chopra, Mani Ratnam or whatever or whoever.

One reason for such shortcomings could be that they as actors, directors or editors watch the film or scenes too many times. So, they don’t realize the problems which the person watching it for the first time may face. Technically perfect, marketed with a lot of style and noise, the Bollywood products fail because such simple ideas are missed even by veterans.

Marketing lesson : A product must deliver on the basic promises it makes. An audio visual story should have three basic elements delivered clearly : Audio, Visuals and Story. The Bollywood must remember that a lot of ordinary people like me go to watch their films. If they make their films understandable only by highly intelligent and smart people, they will get very few of them, because they are in only a small fraction and also sometimes Bollywood is beyond their taste… Typical Bollywood fans come to watch films for entertainment, not to tax their ears, eyes or brains.

 

You may be hurting your people, unknowingly…

Gaurav, an IIT Engineer and IIM post graduate, worked with a big stock broker firm, since last 3 years at a middle management position. He liked the firm and its progress. Somehow, he did not like his boss (sounds familiar?). He left the job last Monday. Why?

You may be surprised for the reason. But it is worth pondering over…

Last Sunday, his boss, the famous stock broker and founder of the company, was invited to speak at a gathering. Gaurav had helped the boss putting together the presentation and drafting the speech. He also accompanied the boss to the function. Both of them were dressed in heavy formals. During his one-hour speech, the boss paused in between and said “Gaurav, can you get some water?”.  Puzzled, Gaurav did not understand how to react, but finally, hesitatingly went and handed him a glass of water. After about half an hour, the boss said again “Gaurav, can you get some water?”. This time, too, he unwillingly obliged.

After that Gaurav was very upset “Is this what I am supposed to do here after IIT-IIM? Can’t he ask for water from somebody else? Asking a manager to get some water? In front of 400 people? And both the times, this man did not even have the courtesy to say Please or Thank you. This is the height of rudeness. I don’t want to work with such thankless people.” The next thing he did after the function was shoot his resignation mail to his boss from his Blackberry.

Of course, telling your middle manager to bring water in such public function is not appropriate and Gaurav had all the reason to feel offended. The boss could have just said “Can I get some water?” and whoever attending to the stage at that function may have arranged for it. By unnecessarily commanding his brilliant assistant to fetch some water for him, he unknowingly offended Gaurav. People do not like to work with those who undermine their self-esteem. As the head of the company, some wisdom and basic level of courtesy is expected. In the absence of that, we may unwittingly lose good team members, for our cultural illiteracy.

In our schools or in our childhood we are taught to say “Please, Sorry, Thank you” promptly and generously at each occasion where it is warranted. These are the basic expressions of courtesy. But, if we forget what we learnt in schools, we may not be able to keep those team members who may have returned from IIT-IIM.

Future trends in Indian education

Today’s world is flat. Opportunity is available to everybody. Geography has become history, i.e. the constraints posed by distance have disappeared or rendered irrelevant in the connected world. In this scenario, how will be the future of education in India? Following are some of the possibilities :

Dominance of technology : With the emergence of fast and affordable technological solutions and broadband connectivity, more and more dispensing of education will happen through Internet and mobile technologies. Unfortunately, the availability of good teachers has not kept pace with the rapid pace of technology. This real scarcity of talented teachers will also enforce usage of technology to impart education, which can enhance the availability of one teacher to many students across the globe.

Increased Specialization : With the increased complexity in the world, education, too, will become more and more specialized. This will lead to a lot of degrees becoming fragmented, giving rise to focused studies in specific areas. So, one graduation will not suffice and students will have to go for more specialized courses post graduation.

Scarcity of skilled workmen : Day by day, the availability of skilled manpower is reducing in traditional vocations and crafts. E.g. less and less youngsters are going to their family vocations, which their parents followed. The new generation, empowered by education, prefers to venture into greener pastures, abandoning family’s traditional occupations. The impact of this is being visible in labor intensive industries like ready made garments. jewellery, manufacturing etc. Due to this, education will have to also cover few general skills to enable people to take care of their regular requirements. For example, people will be expected to know basic carpentry, sewing, painting, masonry, plumbing, electric work etc.

The reduction of EQ : Due to the two-dimensional world of e-Relationships and social networks today, people are always absorbed in the solitary world glued to their computer screens and mobiles and losing touch with actual human beings. This will reduce the benefits of emotional cushioning emerging out of sharing. People are going to become more and more lonely and will have less and less tolerance for intrusion to their privacy. This will lead to very serious deficit of Emotional Intelligence or EQ. The education will have to work towards filling this gap because otherwise people will find it difficult to deal with real people, because they have been used to deal with their ‘digital’ profiles only.

Globalization of education : Globalization and the blending of multiple cultures will encourage increased collaboration among the educational institutes across continents, leading to increased uniformity in education. Education will also undergo a lot of marketing, as branding of institutes will become very significant. Also, the demands of future will require students to be aware of variety of cultures, languages, challenges and opportunities of different parts the world.

Increased need of skills : In some recent surveys of graduate and post graduate Indians, some shocking facts have come up :

a) 74% of the engineers passed from Indian engineering colleges DO NOT possess skills required by the industry, i.e. they are not immediately employable without being trained by the company.

b) 90% of the graduates and post graduates from India, CANNOT write CORRECT English with reference to grammar and spellings.

In a haste to win in the race of global outsourcing business, India has compromised on the quality of education being imparted to increase quantity. The poor quality of India’s ‘educated’ manpower may pose very serious threat to the future of services industry which has become the dominant part of India’s GDP today, as competition from other emerging market countries is heating up, who have developed much superior education infrastructure.

There are lakhs of Engineers, MBAs and other degree holders coming out from hundreds of universities, without possessing the requisite basic skills to help India establish and maintain the sustainable competitive advantage in the fiercely competitive services industry. This means a lot of effort will have to be spent on skilling and re-skilling this university qualified manpower of India.

India’s population, which was a liability before a few decades has suddenly become an asset in the new global equation. But, this asset can erode or become a Non-Performing-Asset quickly if its quality is not polished through modern and relevant education and skills.

How to win our competitor’s customers?

To get new customers, businesses spend a lot of money. But, they sometimes miss an opportunity to win a competitor’s customer when he walks in to their premises. The alert businessmen don’t let such opportunities go. They grab it and win this customer over. Here is a live experience…

There is a small optics shop ‘Bobby Opticians’ near our home. We don’t buy our spectacles or eye-wear from them. But, recently, my reading glasses got damaged due to a fall and I had to immediately get them repaired. I went to Bobby Opticians. The owner greeted me smilingly. I showed him my damaged spectacles. He checked them and said they needed some repairing and replacement of some small part. I requested him to do it. He started working on it, removed the damaged part and replaced it with a new one.

During that time, he asked me “Have you bought this from me?”. To which I said “No”. Then he asked me from where and for how much did I buy it. I gave him the details. He said “You have got a very good rate. I also had similar frames. In fact, I sold many of them.”

Once the job was done, he cleaned up my spectacles thoroughly and then handed them over to me, carefully and respectfully. Thanking him, I asked him about the charges for the repair job. He refused to take any money. He just smiled and said “Kuchh nahi, sahab… Agli baar theek lage to hamein seva ka mauka dijiye…”

This was unusual. I was pleasantly surprised. He knew that I was not his customer and he could have charged me some money for that urgent job. But, he did not resort to short cut. He invested in his long term image. I made up my mind to visit this shop next time when I need to buy any new eye-wear or accessories.

This taught me a very important lesson. A competitor’s customer walking in to our business for some favor is a very good opportunity to win him. Do not treat him as an enemy and try to extract some easy money from him. Extend a hand of friendship to him by helping him. May be it can be the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

Words of wisdom from Ramesh Shah of Zodiac

Last Sunday, I got an opportunity to attend an annual function organized by a management institute. The chief guest of the function, Mr Ramesh Shah (Furia) of Zodiac Group, in his short speech gave some very practical advice which can be useful to all business people. His words are the result of the lessons learnt from his years of ups and downs in business life and they carry very pertinent learning for all of us. Here is the essence of the wisdom he shared with the audience :

1) Pay personal attention to checking of important legal documents.

After verbally deciding and agreeing on the terms and conditions of any deal, people generally assign the task of preparing the agreement, contract, deed etc. to the specialists like lawyers, solicitors etc. And when the document is ready, they assume that whatever was told to them, is all captured properly and written accurately. They sign it hurriedly, without confirming the correctness of the document.

Even though the lawyers and solicitors are experts in this work, they may miss some vital point which may prove to be very critical sometimes. Such lapses may cause some irreversible and significant damages in future. We must read the document ourselves. Even if we may not understand every word of that legal parlance, if we try, we can easily get the context of the content and find out its appropriateness. Ensure that the roles and responsibilities of various parties are in line with what is verbally agreed upon. Pay particular attention to the clear and specific treatment of exceptional situations like exit clause, termination clause, defaults, disputes, penalties for delays, failure of fulfilling some commitments etc.

2) Thoroughly study the intricacies of the business you get into.

As per the current trends, recently there is an increase in the number of people joining real estate development and share market related business activities. There is nothing wrong in both the businesses, but jumping into something without knowing the undercurrents may prove dangerous in the ensuing journey. It is like jumping into the sea without gauging the depth of water and the presence of other creatures inside. We may have the ability to handle and swim out of any depth, but we may have grossly underestimated the impact of the other elements. Before getting into a new business, we must find out : What are our internal strengths and weaknesses? What are the external threats and opportunities? What are the laws, rules and regulations applicable to this business? What are the legal requirements? What is the competition structure? How is the market condition? What affects it? What is the future scope? These are some of the questions. There are many other questions which one must find answers of. A detailed, careful study and understanding of the rules of the game is advised, before entering the playground.

3) In important decisions, don’t take the things at their face value. Always cross check.

In important deals, we often develop a tendency of going with the herd. In real estate, if one person is investing in some project, others will join him without cross checking whether that person has overlooked something very critical. In stock exchange also, people follow ‘tips’ without personally trying to evaluate the company and having some idea about the company and its business. In medicine, the practice of taking second opinion from another doctor is a very common and accepted practice. The same must be applied while evaluating an important project, company or other major decision. Always take the second review from somebody else whose opinion you respect. It may turn out to be contradictory to what you have heard so far. It may also give you an altogether different perspective. But, it may even throw light on something very important which you never considered earlier. This additional perspective may prove to be very precious at times.

4) Don’t resent bureaucrats or politicians. Work with them.

In today’s times, politicians and bureaucrats (Government officers) are considered notorious. Everybody intends to keep away from them. They are treated as untouchables. But both, politicians as well as bureaucrats, are there for serving us, the people. They are an important part of the system. Instead of resenting them, we should develop healthy relationship and rapport with them. With their knowledge and experience, they can help and guide us in charting our path through the intricate web of government documentation and procedures. If we have good terms with them, we can approach them in case of a need or a trouble. If we don’t have a recourse to them, we have to fend for ourselves and that path can be a longer and tiresome one.

Good lessons, indeed… and that, too, straight from the horse’s mouth…!

Thank you, Rameshbhai….!

What spoils the fun of Gujarati Thali of our customers?

Gujarati Thali conjures up an image of a wide range of Gujarati and other Indian delicacies served in the traditional way. The main feature of this Thali is that it is unlimited. Being allowed to eat anything without any limits excites many a diners who feel challenged to test the limits of this unlimitedness…! But, over all, it is a very delicious traditional symbol of Gujarati hospitality and culture. A typical Gujarati Thali served at the Thali restaurants of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and other smaller cities and towns of Gujarat really lives up to the exotic image of this offering. Customers go to these Thali restaurants expecting an array of dishes drawn from all parts of the country, being served to them, (unlimited of course…!)  with the traditional Gujarati hospitality. Generosity is the hallmark of this hospitality. The food is served with a lot of love, encouraging the guests to consume more. All, from waiters, cooks and supervisors to the owner really go out of their way to ensure that you go back with a full stomach and a deliciously satisfactory gastronomic experience.

Now, what happens when this traditional offering is greedily commercialized with the sheer motive of earning some easy money by cashing in on this image? You see not-so-delicious examples of Thali restaurants, started by purely commercially minded people, mushrooming in cities to make a quick buck riding on the immense popularity of traditional Gujarati Thali, leavning a bitter aftertaste on the tongues of customers.

One such chain of Thali restaurants is very famous in Mumbai. The popularity seems partly due to the reason that there is no other authentic Gujarati Thali restaurants known to people in Mumbai. It has opened its branches in many of the swanky malls in Mumbai. Gujarati Thali enthusiasts go to this place looking forward to a traditional, colorful, delicious, hospitable Thali experience. But, all these expectations are shattered once you settle around their tables. The experience has no authenticity or original character of a true Gujarati Thali served in authentic Gujarati dining halls. Here, at this chain of dining halls trying to position itself as authentic Gujarati Thali place, you, as a customer, may unmistakably go through the following unsavory experience :

a) As soon as you sit down, a barrage of waiters fill up your enormous plate with little amounts of everything there is on the menu that day. They keep repeating the serving too fast for you to cope up with. Your attractiveness as a customer ends as soon as you enter their premises and settle on their chairs. Soon, you will realize that with a long list of people waiting outside for their turn to enter the restaurant, you are a burden on their system and they want to get rid of you as soon as possible, . The staff makes all the efforts to ensure that you ‘finish’ as soon as possible. They try to get you out in less than half an hour ! Here goes your plan to relish the outing of a rich, Gujarati meal in a relaxed way….!

b) Few minutes later in the meal, a wheeled serving counter approaches your table. The attendant says “Masala Chhas” (Butter Milk). Now, you ask him there is Chhas on the menu, which is already served, what is this for? He informs “This is with Extra Charge…Rs.15 for a glass.”. So, you get the first jolt on your unrestricted, unlimited journey.

c) As you approach finishing your meal, another attendant comes with a basket of Paan. He has some readymade Paans, a traditional, disgestive mouth freshener eaten after the meal. As you happily welcome him with a delightful surprise, he informs “Paan is with extra charged.  10 Rupees each. ” You gulp this second speed breaker on your unlimited journey and go ahead with the Paan. Once you pick up Paan, the fellow asks for money. If you tell him, “Please add to the bill”, he replies “No, for Paan, you have to pay separately. It cannot be added to the bill. Please pay now.” So, before you formally complete your meal, you have to reach for your wallet and make the payment, till then the attendant will not move away from your table.

You may wonder, what prevented them to add the price of a glass of Masala Chhas and a Paan to the total price they charge from customers? How many customers would mind a nominal increase in total rate for such inclusion? That will make the Thali truly unlimited and letter as well as in spirit…! But, this wisdom does not go into the heads of those who want to make few more rupees at the cost of a satisfactory customer experience, which will bring the customer again and again and which will also encourage the customer to recommend the place to many other friends. How many such disgruntled customers would wish to visit the place again? What recommendations would they pass on to their friends?

Just like this rapacious Thali restaurant, in similar cases, if we try to cut corners in our business, by shortchanging the unsuspecting customers, the customers will avoid coming to our business. They will not come back to us and also advise many others not to come and buy from us, because of our obvious greed.

How many times we try to charge extra for nominal things which are generally assumed to be part of the total package? Like, how does a customer feel when he buys a gift worth Rs. 5,000 from a shop and the salesperson asks for Rs.10 extra for gift wrapping?

How would a customer (after buying goods worth few thousands) feel when a shop keeper gets annoyed when asked for an extra carry bag?

Which customer will be happy when he returns next day, due to some genuine reason, to exchange some item purchased only to be told that “Exchange time is between 1 to 3 pm only and we will not exchange the product purchased by you. We can only repair it, if there is a defect.”

Such short sighted and greedy practices many bring some money to our cash counter, but it leaves the customers utterly unhappy and dissatisfied. They will not come back and prevent many from coming to us.

So, let us not make the aftertaste of a Rs.250 Thali bitter by insisting on charging Rs.10 for a Paan then and there itself…!!!!

How a business loses its old, regular, loyal customers?

Customers generally remain loyal. But, if they are ignored by a business, they move to the competitors, even if they have been with a company since decades. Here is an example how some 50 years old firms can also ruin itself by its apathy towards customers.

There is a very old and very well-known sweet shop, in Malad-East, Mumbai, near railway station. We will call it Ajanta. It is about 50 years old and in the hands of the second generation now. It is known for its quality sweets. The shop has a very good brand image and people feel pride receiving or gifting sweets bought from this shop. In old times, people from other suburbs also used to come to Malad, specially to buy sweets from this shop. Similarly, some visitors to Mumbai, also came asking for this particular shop, to buy sweets to take back home.

But, 50 years and two generations later, the old shop has lost is edge and is losing its business fast. Competition has crept in and it has failed in holding its fort. It could not keep pace with changing times, changes in customer preferences and in market dynamics. Its business has become stagnant over last 10 years. It has not grown itself significantly. The old, loyal customers are moving away to competitor shops in Malad-West. The 50 year old name is not favorite of the current population any more. It is struggling to live up to its historical reputation but is poised for a not-so-glorious future in stark contrast to the shining past.

On the other hand, some 20 years back, a new shop came up in Malad-West, some 100 metres away from Ajanta. We will call it Emem. In last two decades, it has grown phenomenally. Today, Emem is a very popular name in Malad as well as neighboring suburbs. The reputation of Ajanta in older times, is currently enjoyed by Emem and people flock from all over to buy sweets from Emem. Now, it is a matter of pride to receive or gift sweets from Emem, just as it was from Ajanta earlier. The total store size of Emem is at least 10 times of Ajanta. Same is the size of its turnover in comparison to Ajanta. Emem has been growing by leaps and bounds, and it has taken over the market share of Ajanta rapidly.

What is the reason for Emem’s success at the cost of Ajanta’s failure?

The reasons are complacency and sheer apathy towards customers by Ajanta. Resting on its laurels, it has completely ignored its customers and their concerns. When you go to buy something from this shop, you reach a huge counter which is manned by the attendants who take orders and service the customers. The only interface a customer has is with these attendants, who are all equal, having no distinction in duties and responsibilities. A particular customer is attended by one attendant who will do everything himself e.g. give samples for tasting, inform rates, take orders, pack the products, refill the storage bins if the product is out of stock, find out the carry bag for delivery, go to order punching counter and get the printed order slip, collect payment, give it to the cashier and then deliver the goods and balance amount back to the customer. Till he completes one customer, he will naturally not be able to attend another customer. That is understandable. But the problem is, there is absolutely no mechanism to ensure that customers are attended in proper sequence or their waiting time is minimized. The one who shouts louder, gets the attention of one of the attendants. Others have to keep waiting. There is just nobody to take care of customers, while they wait.

The whole process is so highly inefficient, that it takes very long time to buy anything from there. There is no distinction for a small order or a 500 times bigger order. Nobody tries to find out if the customer is there to by goods worth Rs. 5 or Rs. 50,000. They simply do not listen. In fact, the attendants are just not concerned. You wait for half an hour just to get noticed by one disinterested attendant, who is too tired to attend to you with any enthusiasm. Even if you scream for attention, one of them will come and tell you “I have only two hands, I cannot do more than what I am doing. What do you expect me to do?” At such instances also, the boss, who is sitting at the centre of the shop, collecting cash, simply turns a deaf ear to the situation and leaves it to the whims of the attendants. At scores of instances, I have seen frustrated customers leaving the shop annoyed by too much of waiting and indifferent attitude of the attendants. But nobody seems to care…! Not even the boss, who does nothing more than collecting cash, throughout the day…! No wonder, customers go looking for other options.

And they found an option in Emem. It has taken some very important steps in building its empire. It has created a huge facility in front of the railway station. To attract walk-in customers, it started fast food counters.  It started giving discounts on buying sweets for distribution after passing an examination. The various percentage of discount was linked with marks scored and the scheme became very popular with students. It also offers special prices on various festivals, for the special traditional sweets popular during those festivals. It also branded its Lassi and heavily advertised it. It has started a sit-in restaurant. It set-up bulk selling division to supply to offices, hotels and other catering agencies. In short, Emem has used each trick in the marketing books to gain customer acceptance and achieve outstanding growth. More than marketing, it has succeeded in attracting and retaining customers. This has enabled it to charge a premium over the prices of Ajanta. This is really a remarkable achievement.

On the contrary, Ajanta unsuccessfully tried to copy some of the initiatives of Emem, like fast food counter, discount schemes also. But the execution of all this was finally given to the same indifferent attendants, who always made a mess of the situation, driving the customers away. Their handling of the customers is frustrating, but the owner does not seem to care.

Ajanta’s sorry state of affairs is due to its complete negligence of how the customers are being treated at its counters. Its owners are too busy to find out the quality of customers’ experience at their shop. They seem to have concluded that the shop is an old, famous name, so its reputation for good quality will keep bringing the customers forever. Unfortunately, today’s customers have many choices and many demands. They want fast service, courteous people, efficient processes along with quality of products and good prices. Even though Ajanta has better quality than Emem, its failure on other important aspects is pushing the customers away to its competitors.

50 year old reputation or excellent quality also cannot retain neglected customers annoyed by the indifferent attitude of those who attend them. The customers go where they are attended well. So, to retain them, we must treat them well. We need to make their experience pleasant. As the owner we must be interested in knowing what happens to the customers at our establishment. We should not delegate the responsibility of gauging the quality of customer’s experience to somebody else. The owner must gather that knowledge himself, first hand, and if he finds some shortcomings, he has to ensure modifications, if required.