Business lessons from the grassroots

Photo Credit: Unsplash – https://goo.gl/xkQXu1

Some of my recent consulting work gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with small business owners from different parts of the country, most of them actually from tier 3 cities and beyond. These are small business owners with a formal education level of either 12th or graduation, typically operating out of certain areas in their respective towns and are doing profitable businesses worth few crores every year.

Both the projects that I am consulting for are around digitization and these require me to have an in-depth understanding of how these businessmen operate and their respective selling philosophies.

To say that it was an enriching experience would be an understatement. While I have been closely associated with startup & entrepreneurship world for more than a decade now but the kind of insights you get when you meet these grassroots level entrepreneurs is unparalleled! 

No formal MBA degree, no entrepreneurship certification, yet a powerhouse of business wisdom and practical knowledge nuggets.

After meeting a few of them, I got so fascinated with their understanding of sales, marketing, customer relationship that I started taking notes :-).

Sharing some that I loved here translated into English. These are lessons that we know of, perhaps learned through books and repeat many a time during our conference room sessions, but listening to these from real doers in absolute rural language, was nothing less than fascinating :-).

Me: How do you always manage to sell higher ticket items? 

Him 1: I don’t jump to selling directly. I first work towards building my relationship with my customer and build the trust. People here value my suggestions and words, once that trust is established, it’s not difficult to sell anything. (One line verbatim: “madamlong term dhanda karna hai toh sabse zaroori hai grahak ka vishwaas jeetna”).

Winning customer’s trust is very important to do a sustainable business.

Me: You have created two very different type of leaflets for the same product, why? 

Him 2: Product is same but positioning matters. I customize my offering depending upon who is buying from me (One line verbatim: “jo vigyapan aapke aankh ko jachega wo zaroori nahi ki mujhe bhi jachegajisko jo jacheusko wo dikhao sabse pehle”).

Segmentation matters and so does contextual targeting!

Me: Commuting to your place isn’t easy, yet people come to you for the repeat purchase. Why?

Him 3: I first start with understanding the general lifestyle and need of my customer. Instead of selling my product, I try to provide a solution to their needs. (One line verbatim: “itna competition hai market main, sabse peel aap decide karo aapka grahak aapse hi “kyun” khareedega. Ye “kyun” bah zaroori hai madam”).

Start with a “why”, why will someone buy from you?

Me: You have changed the corporate brochure, but that’s not allowed. Was it because you wanted it in the local language?

Him 4: Who cares for the features explained in a brochure unless it doesn’t communicate the benefits? Instead of saying good things about the product, I say how it can benefit you or add value to your life (One line verbatim: Kiske paas time hai aajkal itna padhne ki, kisi ko kya padi hai ki humara product kitna mahaan hai, agar aap grahak ko ye samjha do ki humara product uski zindagi ko kaise asaan ya behtar kar sakta hai toh wo jhat se le leta hai”.

Keep it simple and focus on benefits more than the features.

And my most favorite one 🙂

Me: You started working for the first time at the age of 48 and now I can see you’ve employed only women at this place. Wow, how did you convince them to come out of their homes?

Her: It’s easy, I didn’t convince them about working, I just showed them the change in my lifestyle. I am the first woman in this area to have my own Alto :-). In our area, when men work, its for food & shelter but when women also start to earn, it leads to a better lifestyle (One line verbatim: khana, ghar toh aadmi log la ke de dete hai, lekin apni marzi ka saree, ye selfie wala mobile phone ke liye apna income bahut zaroori hai”).

The lifestyle and prosperity of a family grow when a woman starts earning.

Aren’t these insights amazing? I so wish, I had recorded these responses and shared with you all. Would have been a gem of a podcast coming straight from the doers of Bharat :-). 

It’s all about photos

Photo Credit — https://unsplash.com/@jaywennington

Out of all the work experience that I have, almost half of it has been into photography industry now — a category that has really exploded in last decade, a category in which you literally have to be on your toes in case you want to make a mark, a category that has gone through unimagined consumer behavior changes at an unimagined pace. We all are clicking, clicking all the time, clicking anything & everything!

My work also involves meeting photographers and consumers who are looking to hire photographers on a regular basis and at times the kind of insights that I get by just observing or casually interacting with them is mind blowing.

The trend of getting life events photographed or preserving our unique moments as photographs has been existing since centuries but there is something now because of which photographs and photography are as much part of our lives as food and sleep.

Thanks to social media, it will be safe to say that now we humans literally eat, breathe and live our lives through photos. This is something that we all know of but at times certain incidences just make this realization starker!Read More

Why This Mobile App Only?

Exactly how any apps do you think a consumer can have on her mobile? And how many apps do you think a consumer really needs on a regular basis? Yes, I do understand that amount of data a brand can access if the user has installed its app is phenomenal and that a brand gets to provide more focused experience to users through apps. But are these reasons enough for you to force install your app to consumers? Are those installs sustainable?

My views as a consumer on this latest app-only fetish at – Medium

Recession and Consumer Spending Behavior

A lot is discussed now-a-days about India being geared up for economic downturn and consumer spending not observing any major shift as compared to its earlier pattern. Well, to some extent it’s true and being a marketer myself I understand that one needs to be optimistic about the market and consumer purchasing power but when I think of myself as a consumer I do feel that my spending behavior has undergone some major changes in last 3-4 months. Call it the effect of this phrase “onset of downturn” or the effect of phrase “save cash for those bad times” I have definitely changed my behavior towards lots of purchase decision which were not thought through earlier by me or my husband. In fact some of these were never so called purchase decisions rather they used to be just one of those impromptu expenses. But now we do think before spending on such things and I can observe a similar pattern amongst my peer circle as well. As a salaried class consumer, here is a list of my top five curtailed expenses which used to be regular affair earlier:

  • Dine Outs: Oh I really don’t have a count of the earlier frequency of our dine outs and most of such expenses being absolutely unplanned and ad lib. But now with our saving belt on suddenly we found ourselves questioning, do we really need to eat out? Shall we really spend this X amount of money for a casual meal for two? Not only these occasional questioning is helping us keeping a check on our wallet rather its having the same effect on our weighing scale too J. Frequency has gone down to absolutely a countable figure now.
  • Movie / Entertainment: Considering the kind of movie buff we both are, all weekends used to be movie outings for us in some or other multiplex. It didn’t matter which movie and what star-cast, we had to see some movie in multiplexes. But then we started wondering, do we really need to see Yuvraaj in theater by spending X amount of money…nah not worth it. Let it get released on DVD. Now not every weekend is spent at multiplexes 🙂, some of it is at home with DVDs and books.
  • Accessories / Apparel: Since, I am the only woman consumer in my household and hence this one is more applicable to me and not my husband. I used to go for this sudden splurge on accessories like bags, shoes etc. but now this has come down to a large extent, thanks to my “save cash” mission.
  • Air Travel: Yeah this one has really-really come down – ours and our families’ personal trips through flights. Now either it’s low cost flights or if it’s not much of a distance then trains!
  • Household: Oh yes, now we do look at those newspaper inserts announcing sale on monthly groceries or those freebies at A,B,C retail stores!

Hmmm, so at least we have become conscious of our expenses because of the economic environmental effect. I think we have definitely managed to come down by 10-15% in our regular expenses. How about you as a consumer? Do you think your spending behavior has undergone some change and if yes, which are the key ones? Any experience / suggestion as a consumer to save cash is more than welcome on this space 🙂.