The business of enterprise

This is the second post of the Defining Images ’08 series. Two more posts to go !

An autorickshaw meter. Mumbai ’08

2008 saw some of the craziest ends of the spectrum for ‘Enterprise’ ! From surging highs to commanding lows, we saw it all. We saw the investment banks zoom up and in no time go down to touch what seems like a bottomless pit.

No, This post isn’t about them. It isn’t about Madoff. Or of Lehman or that ilk. Or or Satyam or Satyam reversed, called ‘Maytas’ ! Or whatever. I hardly understand their world. This is about a world my plebian mind can understand. But hasnt connected to in a while. 2008 was when i dialled and reached out to them. Here are a few images, reminiscences and lessons.

Image 1
Mumbai ’08

I stumbled into this gent. A barber by day and an odd poster sticker by night. I caught him staring into faces, carrying a box and wandering around. His Modus Operandi is to stare just long enough into faces just to catch the subtle stubble or extra centimeters of hair on the head.

Upon such spotting, a quick conversation follows, and in no time, a roadside place identified and there is lather on a new chin. Every stroke on the chin, complimented by a new honk from a different car in the background.

10 – 20 customers is all that he gets a day. ‘On a good day, 20’. He adds. Rs. 50 – 60 a day is good enough. And then, with a smile he adds : ‘i sleep well’. ‘Where do you live’, i ask him ? With a toothless smile he asks, ‘Can i give you a shave ?’

Image II

Mumbai ’08

In a central suburb of Mumbai, early in the morning. These stores are yet to open. And these obviously are not stores demarcated with branding on neon signboards with semi naked men and women exhorting me to open a spent wallet.

These are road side stalls that have its occupants selling fish. Each stall having a loyal client base. I see them following simple principles : Arrive on time. Serve every customer well. Stick to business. Be fast. Recognise the ones who come back with a wave and quick value adding banter. Move on. Keep overheads low.

They sustain. Every day, thousands throng here. It truly is a fish market in the auditory sense, at peak periods. Recession or no recession, the din continues here.

Except during non business hours. Like this morning, when empty baskets and an expectant stray cat greet my camera. Somehow that is much unlike the neon sign that are yet to switched on giant malls some distance away.

Image III

In a market. Mahabaleshwar ’08

He says, with a slight hint of a gasp for breath. But only slight. “I do trips like this all day long. The man who sells me this, cant find good customers. And the man who i sell these to, cant find good quality sellers. I connect them up, but i cant find transporters who will ferry small units and my shoulders just grow stronger !!

My perfunctory questions follow. And he answers in the same vein. ‘I don’t keep count of the number of trips. I just watch for sellers and buyers. And their mood and what they say. Sometimes the sellers are desperate. Sometimes the buyer has a large order to service, and all they do is find me. Or someone like me.’

Someone who is truthful and honest’

I ask, why he does what he does. He looks puzzled. A new set of carrots arrive. He sorts and loads them on. With one final glance in my direction, shouts out, ” You wont understand’. He carries on.

I am left holding the camera and searching for meaning.

Those defined 2008 on the Enterprise side for me. Stick to simple principles. Seek out people and not things. Stay sensitive. Glitz is not growth. Honest still is the best policy, however cliched, old fashioned and disregarded that principle is. And don’t complicate things. A clear conscience and sound sleep is a natural consequence !

2008 reinforced all of that for me. Tapping me on my shoulder and helping me realise that i i perhaps could be veering off course, were i not careful.

Coming to think of this, this post was after all about satyam : The original straight forward satyam : Truth ! That was Enterprise ’08 for me !

8 thoughts on “The business of enterprise

  1. Braja says:

    I liked the subji guy. But I wouldn’t have asked him why he did what he did 🙂 And if you’d asked me I’d have given you the same answer…

  2. A clear conscience and sound sleep is a natural consequence !

    This is one SATYAM that has stood the test of time I should say!Hope Enterprise ’09 is similar too in principle.


  3. ~nm says:

    Very interesting. Enjoyed reading this post.

    And thanks for dropping by at my blog. Am adding you to my reader 🙂

  4. manju says:

    Kavi- Great pictures and excellent accompanying description, as usual!

    Perfect last para. 🙂

  5. Yaya says:

    I love the fruit transporter and his attitude to life- just get on with it!

  6. Braja says:

    Kavi can you point me to some similar stories as the one I appreciated the other day; the roadside chai lady? I loved that, and you’re a prolific writer and I would love to pore over your site, but would appreciate some shortcuts if you could point me to similar kinds of posts…

    I’d love to hear your take on the mother post I did today 🙂 I know what Indian mothers are like, and I’m wondering what you’ll say to this one 🙂

  7. Kavi says:

    Braja : Your comment set me thinking..I wonder what answer i would have given if someone asks me the same question ! I am sure many wouldnt understand !!

    And for the other comment, thank you for your kind compliment. Will definitely share some posts which have special meaning for me..and reverberated at a special place…And i did leave a comment earlier on your post..wonderful !

    Random Thoughts : Yes..Rashmi. Thats the hope. That Enterprise ’09, is when the world wakes up to the true Satyam !

    NM : Thanks for stopping by here..Would be adding you to the reader as well..!!

    Manju : Thank you !

    Yaya : Welcome here..And i was particularly impressed with his attitude to life and living too !

  8. Braja says:

    You did too! And I had already answered that comment…what a long day it was, sorry 🙂

    But I would still like you to point me to some similar posts as the one I mentioned…I enjoyed that one immensely….

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.