Friday, April 24, 2009

The frustration of a salesman in a local train

So many people have suggested that I shift closer to office. That I must stay in Mumbai, and not some remote corner of the far flung suburbs.

Time and again, I've thought about it, but disposed the thought, thanks to experiences like these.

My daily commute in the local train stretches to beyond 4 hours, and in this period I get to see things that corner office dwellers can't even think about.

Like the Ultimate Sales Pitch.

Picture this.

Packed local train, inhuman traveling conditions, the smell of sweat and body odor in the air and an atmosphere where tempers and blood, both are boiling with equal gusto. And in pops a salesman.

"Train mein baithe sabhi yaatri zara meri awaaj ki taraf dhyaan dijiyega..."

This is his playground. And he has to sell a certain number of his wares - whatever he's selling - to make a little profit at the end of the day. Note: Salesmen in trains have to sell at price-points of either Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 15 or Rs 20. These are basically utility items, and often they're in pretty decent shape and long-lasting. Anything above Rs 20 sells in low volumes, since the average Deshpande, More, Patil has only few notes of Rs 10 in his upper pocket. The money's not stored in a wallet, its neatly folded in the plastic folder of the railway pass, or it is lost somewhere amongst the bundle of bills, scribbled notes and folded sheets of paper.

Buying happens largely on impulse, and a good salesman can have a field day selling volumes, if he's loud, convincing and he's selling a utility product.

So its about 8:35pm, the compartment is relatively crowded.

Our salesman makes a strong sales pitch, making many heads turn, attracting the attention of several drowsy buggers and rousing their curiosity. He's selling stick-ons - "you need not drill a nail into your wall to hang your calender or your jhola, a stick-on is all you gotta use".

He gives a neat demo of the product - pulls down a few glass windows in the compartment to prove - much to our expectations - that it sticks on glass as well.

As a seller, the fellow is impressive - he's allowing the passengers to touch, feel and check out the product for themselves. He's also helping them try out the stick-on on the walls of the railway compartment. He's dodging legs, jumping over the scramble of legs, making sure he doesn't fall on anyone, minding his bagful of supplies and ensuring that nobody's 'shoplifting'.

His price points are respectable - Rs 5 for one stick-on and Rs 10 for 2.

And for Rs 50, one can buy a pack of 12.

The day's nearing its end and much to his discomfort it seems, he hasn't sold many all day - so he's pushing the Rs 50 pack aggressively.

Bad move. People just wouldn't buy.

He gets desperate and for the next few minutes, he tries repeatedly in convincing people how its important for them to save their walls, and stick-ons are so important. But to no avail.

Some folks ask him to give some discount, but he rubbishes it politely, saying, "Saab, kam margin waala dhanda hai." The passenger doesn't negotiate further.

After much trying and pleading, our salesman gives up. And in his desperation, he blurts out a few lines, which are priceless and paint the true frustration of a poor salesman trying to sell a faceless product.

"Aap soch rahe hain, naya company hai, maal shayad nahin chale. Lekin meri baat yaad rakhna (raises his index finger here), kuch saalon mein jab yeh company badi ho jayegi, tab iss cheez ka daam badh jayega.

"Tab aap sochoge, ki uss raat train mein mujhe kharedi kar leni chahiye thi. Aap sabne agar iss cheez ko TV pe ad mein dekha hota, ya Amitabh Bacchan, Shah Rukh Khan ko isska ad karte hue dekha hota, toh phir aap jaroor khareedte."

I smile, as I hear this.

And as I look around, I find a lot of other people in the compartment doing the same thing - as if silently acknowledging the salesman's words.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Just shoe it: A journalist's revolution

"Shoe kar, mere mann ko, kiya tu ne kya ishaara..."
- P Chidambaram's humming this during potty hour

The journalistic tribe has had enough.
Enough of stupid answers from spokespersons.
Enough of beating around the bush.
Jarnail has done a Bhagat Singh for the scribes of this country.

A revolution is about to happen. Beware of Just Shoe It.

The headlines:

HUL chief shoed away from press conf
In what's becoming a trend of sorts, a journalist from the Financial Chronicle threw his shoe at HUL chief Nitin Paranjpe. The journalist asked him about advertising spends that HUL is going to make in the coming quarter, and as is the norm, Paranjpe said, "I'm sorry. We don't disclose numbers." Immediately after, a shoe landed on his face...

Hanmer PR person bludgeoned with shoe
In another bizarre incident, our correspondent witnessed the bludgeoning of a senior PR person from Hanmer MS&L. She said, "It was a press conference and as soon as it got over, a journo from ET Now walked up to the spokesperson asking him for his cellphone number. As soon as he asked for it, the PR person interrupted, "Excuse me, for any questions or information, you can mail me and I'll have them answered." The journo bent down, as if to pick up something, but instead we saw him removing his shoe - and began hitting the PR person very badly. Once he was done, he shouted, "Long live Jarnail, tera sapna nahin hoga fail!"

DNA journalists go shoe-shopping
About 14 journalists from Daily News and Analysis (DNA) today went shopping for shoes. Not surprising, since after the much discussed attacked on Chidambaram by Jarnail Singh, journalists around the country have been contemplating whether it would be a good idea to carry a shoe just in case the spokesperson dodges questions. Arcopol Chaudhuri, a correspondent with DNA was spotted returning from Linking Road carrying 4 pairs of cheap shoes. "I got a very good deal," he said, delighted, jumping in the middle of the street. "Each pair is just for 100 bucks. Pehenna nahin hai, phenkna hai."

Mysore Sandal launches footwear range - My Sore Sandal
The Mysore Sandal soap is taking steps out of the FMCG business, and its taking these steps wearing sandals of its own name - My Sore Sandal! A spokesperson of the company was quoted as saying, "Legend has it that a woman's most important weapon is her sandal. Journalism is today dominated by women, and our entry into the shoes business is a step towards women's empowerment and not just any shoe-tya-giri."

Advani calls shoes a western phenomenon
Prime Ministerial hopeful L K Advani today reacted to Chidu's shoegate moment saying, "Its very unfortunate. I've always said this and I'll say it again - shoes are a western phenomenon. India has traditionally been a chappal, mojri wearing country. Not only are they comfortable to wear, they are also easier to take aim and throw, when person is in distress..." Chidu couldn't be reached for reactions.

Online shoe throwing games new stress-buster, finds survey
A survey by Just Consult has found that not just journalists, employees at various IT, banking and engineering firms spend at least an hour daily playing online games, wherein all they have to do is earn points by throwing virtual shoes. "The best part is, I get to choose the picture of the person on whose face I'm throwing the shoe," said an employee of DNA After Hrs, quoting anonymity. "Its a good stress-buster, especially when I'm throwing it on 'large editors'."

No shoes allowed at press conferences, says Adfactors chief
The head of a leading public relations firm today said that he won't allow any journalists wearing shoes to enter press conferences for his clients. Mandar Behaal, in an email sent to his employees wrote, "I want extra security deployed at the reception. The moment you give the journalist the press kit, ask him to remove his shoe. His socks will stink, so spray some deodarant on them, and let him in. Check his bags to ensure he or she is not carrying anything dangerous." Some journalists have reacted saying they'd rather go to Vaishnodevi instead.

Chidambaram calls for caution, says pen is mightier than shoe
Home Minister P Chidambaram, still recovering from the ghastly odours that may have emanated as a shoe whizzed past his nostrils, has called for caution amongst journalists after India's 'shoegate scandal'. In a telephonic interaction (he refused to meet this reporter, after he came to know he wears a Woodland) he said, "We must not read too much into it. Let us remember that the pen is mightier than the shoe." This particular quote has made Chidu enter the category of George Bush. If Bush had Bush-isms, this was Chidu's first Chidu-ism.

Abhinav Bindra to teach the art of throwing
Olympic gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra will teach journalists the art of taking aim. In return, journalists will have to stop asking him just one question, "What after Samsung?" Bindra appeared excited. "Its important to throw pointed questions. Our politicians, corporates will have to offer straight answers to the media. The days of dodging questions are over." Sources said Bindra is planning to make some business journo ask Samsung MD, "When are you gonna send Bindra his cheque?" If he doesn't answer, journo will take aim.

Shoes that don't last, but blast
Delhi based Bomb-a-shoe Footwear today launched a new range of shoes that blast within 3 seconds of being flung into the air. Company officials said they wanted to capitalise on the resurgent demand of shoes from journalists all over Delhi, especially Sardarjis. There's a catch though: These shoes would be available only when the customer shoes his Press card. Considering its Delhi, that shouldn't be a problem, we think.

IIT-Kanpur launches a shoe that's a lie detector too
Young geeks at IIT-Kanpur launched a shoe that automatically comes out of your bags, the moment it senses someone faffing. "Traditionally such a thing happens at a Mayawati rally. We're expecting major sales before she gives the next speech," said Shoe Kriya Meherbaan, a 19-year old who masterminded this shoe. And as an afterthought, he added, "I think I'll add a special something into it that'll make the shoe beep everytime somebody says Dalit. Whatsay?" Game on, brother.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Happy realization

This darned chicken pox has made me realize a lot of stuff, which along the way I never ended up noticing. Blame it on my routine job where I'm overworked, spending about 16 hrs everyday outside home. Or blame it on my obsessiveness with being wired with the outside, only to realize the treasures I missed at home.

Sometimes, I think its good to disconnect once in a while and observe things around us. And that doesn't mean driving off to Lonavla on the weekend. Chicken pox is disgusting because it forces you to be in solitary confinement. And such quarantine makes you end up talking a lot with your mind. Some happy realizations happened.

1. My dad's retirement. He really reads the papers thoroughly and his mood is determined in a big way by whether my article's appeared in the paper or not. These days he's understandably low.

2. Moms are like dogs. They're faithful no matter how much you ignore them and take them for granted. I almost did - when work took precedence over family at some point of time. I hope I can reverse the cycle a bit. I'm glad to have been blessed my parents like these.

3. My maid wears the same sari every alternate day. But she talks too loud and gets on my nerves. So, case dismissed ...I've shelved all thoughts of gifting her a new sari.

4. There's an insane number of movies I haven't watched and simply cannot muster up the courage to watch. Like Sholay. Its been spoofed to death and I just can't take it seriously.

5. I'm a wasted bibliophile. Blame the Strand Book Fair or Landmark's salivating collection of books. I ended up buying too many novels and I'm yet to read so many of them. I began reading some - finished Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Aravind Adiga's White Tiger, Vikas Swarup's Q&A and Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan's You Are Here. Decent reads all of them - White Tiger takes the cake, though.

6. My home - Ambarnath - is an isolated town. I should have known that everytime my cellphone GPRS showed my location as Kansai Village. If you switch off from the internet, mobile phone and television for a day, the world wouldn't have changed. Just the reason why its so difficult for a journalist to work from home - especially when home is in a remote town 2 hrs from the metropolis.

7. Earth Hour. Fuck it. We don't get electricity fr 6-7 hours daily as part of a routine load-shedding process for the last 4 years. Its become a way of life. Why the fuck should I switch off my lights when fat cats in Bombay burn the geyser and bathe? 'What on Earth!' hour is what I should be celebrating.

8. Water is the new oil. There are water problems all around. And bitchy society members waste gallons of water washing their cars every morning. You dumbfucks, I don't have enough water to wash my ass clean here!

9. Friends stay. I was surprised at the number of folks concerned about my messy health. And no, its not the usual friends. Some new ones - mostly women, here's their chance to play mother - have been texting me about what medicines to take, etc. Thank you, guys. Really appreciate it.

10. Brother is sentimental. He's 10 years elder to me and married, but his wife tells me that he started crying the moment he came to know I was ill. Damn, I miss him. And how!

11. This room in which I'm locked up, is painted blue. And my family did not even consult me before they got it painted 3 years back. How sick! This stupid colour is making me feel ill all over again.

12. Time to think. That's what chicken pox gave me the most. I've looked back at my past life, my work, thought about where its headed, thought about where I'd like it to be headed, am I happy in the organization I'm working with, where would I see myself in a few years from now...all of that.

Does that mean its good to fall ill once in a while? Maybe it is. Mom says chicken pox removes all the germs from your body. Dad says a lot of things too, but I don't listen to him cause he talks too much.

But the doctor says chicken pox is like love. Happens only once in a lifetime. I disagree. And this is the voice of experience talking. :)