Loo business !

We were at Bryant Park. Kodai. It was a cold day, and we were slightly wet. Because of the rain. Nature was calling, and we had to attend !

So, we go around asking where the nearest ‘toilet’ is. The security guard says, ‘ah Toilet-Bathroom’ is on the other side’. And that ‘toilet-bathroom’ is said as one word. We had to struggle to pick it up !

We trudge the a small hillock to come in front of this ‘toilet’.

Here is a rough translation.

Kodiakanal Municpality
Plan – – RSVY 2006 – 07 ( Tourism Development )
Task : Building of Ultra Modern Men’s toilet
Estimate : Rs. 7.00 lacs

‘Ultra Modern’ and Rs.7.00 lacs, to me, meant a swank place with heavenly aroma, flowing water, soothing music, spic and span floor. Of course, i was disappointed. And let me leave it that, sparing you the more gory details.

In some distance , i spotted this ‘Modern Mobile Toilet’. It must actually be written as Modern-Mobile-Locked-Toilet. For in the days that i was there, it never was open !

But its a good idea. I wonder, if they would attach it to a tractor or something, and go about town. Like a mobile library or something of that sort.

Hmm. I wonder, how this works.

At Madurai and some other places, i have seen pictures of Kareena Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai and hold your breath, Kate Winslet, promote bathrooms & toilets!

I haven’t really understood this. To expect a man (or a woman) to get enticed by a Kate Winslet, on a Madurai street’s hoarding to relieve himself or herself and have a bath….is a little far fetched. To my mind.

Irrespective of how much of a fan he or she is of Aishwarya and however many times he or she has seen the Titanic sink…. it does sound a little stretched that he or she will think of such women in a moment of ‘urgency’.

Well meaning friends have told me that i read far too much into such things, and ask unnecessary questions. This is just differentiation, they tell me !

But please tell me, if there were two pay-for-use ‘Toilet & Bathrooms’ next to each other. One sporting a Aishwarya Rai on the hoarding, and another sporting a Kate Winslet….where would you go ?!?

I asked the same question to the missus. She for some reason said, ‘HOME”.

The Market Dance

Not far from where we live is a market. Market… as in market. No. Not the stock market. And of course, me talking about the stock market, would be as neat as George Bush talking of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq !
This market seamless merges with the main road ! There are no barricades etc. So, one wrong swerve of a steering wheel would mean a bus ploughs into this market. Standing at the beginning of this market, this is the picture of the traffic on the other side.

A walk down this road introduces you to innovations and ways of life where nothing is taken for granted. Where there is a elbow room created from nowhere, that would put the best magicians in the world to shame !

And the different variety of things that you can set your sights on can have the best supermarkets in the world scooting for cover. And of course, lets not talk prices.

For getting the best prices however, there is a little ‘dance of an exchange’ that’s done with the seller.

Step 1: Ask for a price
Step 2 : Express surprise at whatever price quoted
Step 3 : Quote a fraction of what was quoted as buying price ( in confident tone )
Step 4 : ( Upon being refused ) walk away or make pretense of walking away
Step 5 : ( Upon being called back ) come back and start at step 2 !
( If not called back ) Go back and start confidently at Step 2.

Like many other things in life, the fine nuance this dance, is something that i sorely lack. Of when to start / stop. Expressing of genuine surprise etc occur like an aspiring untalented stage actor.

Many other times, i turn to the wife and express surprise at the price she closed the deal ! Inviting much dismay and irritation. And of course, a suggestion to walk around independently. To not understand that would mean an IQ quotient in the negative i think.

So. An aimless open mouth gaping at all the sights of the market results in a few pictures. And of course, this post.

Mountains of clothes. And every market day, there is a new sky scrapper that comes up. And disappears at the end of day. Again, at prices that would make you look for a atom bomb to drop on the branded stores just across the store ! ( ‘DIESEL’ says a T-Shirt. He sells it for Rs. 100/-. He looks at me, and says, ‘Use and throw sir’) !

Pic 6

And there are numerous other markets within this market. The exchange that’s happening here (pic 6) is that of tea ! Where a ‘vendor of toothbrushes & other oral equipment’ picks up his morning tea from a ‘vendor of Tea’ ! The tea vendor moves about with his flask in hand. As the corporate types would call him, he is a Business to Business B2B marketer !

And so you get fruits, ropes, baskets all within the same stretch. All beautiful to look at. All wonderfully made. And all being shouted about. There is so much of din that you wonder if anyone is selling ear plugs ! And then realise that it is music to the ears of all those who are serious about purchase !

And then you spot a flute vendor. Flutes ? In this market ? You wonder. But he has walked on. Flutes ! You think. That’s some music !

Its all happening here. Bangles. Trinkets. Hairbands. Food. Ties. Socks. Shoes. Belts. Handkerchiefs. Flutes. Toothbrushes. Caps. Washing powder. Groceries. Ropes. Fruits. Vegetables. Mosquito repellents. Nets. And sooooo on. And of course, tea.

And as the beads of sweat form on your forehead, you realise that there is just no limit to human enterprise. And that the lessons to learn are immense. And the first one the list of things to learn, is that dance !!

PS : This post was inspired by the Market Day meme at Strange Pilgram

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 !