Tuesday 7 May 2013

Chicken Soup for the Indian Entrepreneurs Soul- My entry

I wish to get my story published in Chicken Soup for the Indian Entrepreneurs Soul in association with BlogAdda.com

Story Title- The Trick

No. of Words- 1185 (Word limit- 1200)

The Story-

“So how are we planning to pull this off?” I asked my friend. He was my best friend, philosopher and guide all along in college. We had taken our MBA degrees together and had decided in college that unlike others who get an MBA and then throw their knowledge in the dumpster and start working for multinationals, we would actually start a business. We had decided to be entrepreneurs but whether it just the whim of a young mind which had led us into unknown territories or was it something concrete was yet to be decided. The idea of starting a business sounds fancy but in reality, the task, especially for small fish like us is mighty daunting.

Suresh was in love with the detergent market and thought that the Indian soap and detergent industry although already rife with many foreign brands, could make room for an Indian company that provided great value for money. I had no such inclination toward any specific industry so I went with him. I was passionate about business just like him though. So we set sail and started with our business. A brand was created, capital was invested, advertisements at local TV channels were aired- we had expected to grow exponentially in small town India as the bigger brands like Surf and Tide had lesser penetration there, specially in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. For the first six months, as we had expected, there was no big progress- but that was natural as we had thought- any product needs time to build a customer base. Loyalty needs to be earned. We tried to keep up the good quality and hoped to hit the jackpot soon. But as we later realized, there was no jackpot to be hit. Turns out, in business, you have to keep hitting the “jackpot” regularly and yet cannot be sure of success. The path ahead was quite scary. It was dark and there were people, our detractors, our own family members and friends nudging us to take a job and settle like everyone else does. After a few more months, we started running out on luck and there was no strategy at hand. We had hit a dead end and as partners in business, we shared the depression and anxiety equally.

“So what do you say we should do?” He asked one day. Perplexed by his hopeless tone, I replied, “I don’t know, you’ve been the leader all along; suggest a way out, I am sure we have options aplenty.” He was sadder than usual, “Should we just quit?” he mumbled. All my confidence was lying on the boulders of his fortitude and courage, he was the one who talked me into it. Now, he saw no hope. I felt I was all by myself. I had to think, it was something unusual. I was the executive but never the legislator in our government. I think that moment was also the most useful I had felt in all those months. I had stopped using my little evil brain at all. It was time to bring out the guns; I was ready to think out loud. “Ok, let’s not panic, hold it right there buddy, no one is quitting until it’s over and it’s not over until I say it’s over!” I said. He replied nonchalantly, “That sounds pretty heroic but, we are out of capital. Our product will reach its expiry date soon in the store.” I suggested, “Let’s use the Socratic method to think a solution for our problem- The method in which the learner and the teacher come to a conclusion by back and forth question and answer session with logical reasoning.” The idea seemed to have struck a chord with him. He began by asking- “Ok, so why are we not selling any detergent? We have a good quality product. What is holding it back?” I replied- “The basics in an economics class are the market forces of supply and demand. I think there is no demand for our product.” He promptly asked- “And why do you think that is?” I sheepishly suggested that maybe because there are plenty of great products in the market and that maybe there is no room for us. “Impossible! There is always room for quality! These foreign companies are selling their products because there are no rivals, not the other way round.” He roared. “Ok, I guess maybe because we haven’t won anyone’s trust.” I replied. To which he argued how could we win someone’s trust without even being given a chance? “Ok, so we need a chance!” I jumped in my chair- “This is good. I have an idea. I think it just might work!”

The next day, we sent one of our staff members to enquire at the whole-seller about our product. He offered to show him other products and told him that our product was very new and no one bought it. Our staff member, on our instructions, excused himself and came back. A few days later, we again sent another person to enquire about a product and three days later, again! “Sir, we don’t have any clue about Sona Washing Powder but please try our other products” the shopkeeper would say. Our guy would simply say that Sona is much cheaper and effective and he’d rather search for it some place else. The next time our marketers contacted the whole-seller about the detergent, he was already in awe of our product. He ordered a consignment and we had made our first deal! Now, it would have been unethical to lie about our product and cause loss to the poor whole-seller so, as a part of our strategy, we ourselves bought the product from him in a jiffy. He also sold a few packets to his customers urging them that this new product was easier on the pocket and was selling like hot-cakes. Unknowingly, he was acting like our marketer, and that too, free of cost. Soon as the stock started building up in his shop, he started marketing our product vehemently and urging customers to try out this product with his own seal of approval and recommendation. In that way, we reached out to the retail-shops in the residential areas of small town MP. Once we had a customer base and our name was a known one in the area, there was no need for the strategy and we could let our quality speak for itself.

This, actually, is a well-known tactic of creating demand for your product. Many companies start selling products that we never knew we needed. It is only when awareness about the need is pressed, that the people start coming forward and acknowledging your product. All you need to do is never lose hope and think of a way to reach out. When it’s dark and there is a dead end on the road ahead, I suggest you start questioning your decisions and moves. There is always light at the end of the tunnel for those who are willing to drop the map and just explore.

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