Business lessons from the grassroots

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 :-). 

India leads ad spend growth in Asia-Pacific

Indian consumers are spending more and so it does not come as a surprise if Neilsen’s recent report states that India is leading the ad spend market in overall Asia. Indian consumers have now the pocket to spend and the willingness to upgrade; be it any class of the society there is this inner need and aspiration to move up to the next level of lifestyle amongst most Indians. They are aware of the global trends and are looking at mediums to garner more info about latest products & fads. Lots of Indian & global Brands do recognize this ambitious consumerism in India and are not hesitant now on spending their bucks at the right place. They know that as long as they are able to create that appeal, fulfill their needs and cater to their aspirations, they will get the results on their spends. Here are some interesting facts from the report which further highlights the increasing statistics of ad spend in India:

According to this survey, India saw a 28 % year-on-year growth and a 32 % growth in the second quarter of 2010 as compared to last year in ad spend on mainstream media (via). Overall, across the 12 markets in Asia Pacific the Q2 ad spends showed a 15 % lift over Q2 2009, and a 17 % lift in the first half of 2010 over the same period in 2009. Of significance, is the fact that after the first half of 2009 which saw a minimal 3 % lift over 2008, the first half of 2010 recorded an impressive 20 % increase over the ‘pre- global financial crisis’ period of 2008. India recorded a 33 % increase in the first half of 2010 over the same period in 2009.

Across the region, advertising spends are highest on television, but the largest proportion of India’s media spend was garnered by newspapers. Newspapers are also the highest ad spend growth drivers in India, growing at 32 % year on year; the highest percentage growth for newspaper ad spends across all 12 markets covered in the Nielsen survey. Overall, newspaper ad spends grew by 17 % year on year in the region.

Television followed newspapers in spend growth and grew at 24 % in India and 16 % regionally. Amongst mainstream media, magazines saw an 8 % Y-O-Y increase in ad spends in India and a 9 % growth across the 12 markets in the Asia-Pacific region.