Since my readers seem to have enjoyed the previous post on my travel stories, I decided to regale you with some more. And this set of stories, just *had* to be shared.
So, you know how we often talk about social media marketing? How India is now a super-power? How rural India is fast catching up with its urban counterparts? How social media's next target would be the upcoming rural areas, where Internet penetration is increasing? Yes? I am also one of them who talks about this. A lot. Its a part of my job description. We quote statistics and we say rural incomes are increasing, hence, it makes a strong case for making malls in rural India.
One trip to these villages is enough to debunk all theories, throw all statistics into a dustbin, crush these good looking presentations and throw back your head and laugh! :D
I am not saying there hasn't been any development. I am just saying, us Strategy people need to slow down. The pace of things in rural India i s v e r y s l o w .
Get the point?
So I made a brilliant strategy presentation and walked into a dealership in a village in central India to tell them what they need to do increase sales of tractors. The dealer was very courteous. He sat me down, offered me tea (which I refused), then he got me coffee (which I didn't have the heart to refuse and hence, ended up drinking the first ever coffee of my life), and told me to wait while he consoled his salesman. Obviously, I got concerned and I asked him why the salesman was depressed. And then this incredible story was told to me.
The salesman, the dealer and one person from my company made a team and went together to sell a tractor to a particularly stubborn farmer. They sat at his house for 4 hours, demonstrated the every single feature of the tractor, showed him calculations of how it would increase his crop production. They took him to the field and showed him the advantages of the features. They quelled all his doubts and after a fairly lengthy sales pitch, it seems, the farmer claimed he was willing to buy our "red tractor". They spit in the palms and finalized the deal (so to say). And our team of satisfied salesmen left after the farmer promised to come the next day morning to the dealership to make the payment and take the tractor.
Dawn arose and our expectant team sat at the dealership, awaiting our customer. 5 hours went by and he never came. He didn't even pick up their calls. (Yes, they do have mobile phones and they are very adept at using it. But please, take it slow. Do not jump to any conclusion about how modern they have become.)
Finally, the team clambered into a jeep and drove 50 km to the farmer's house again. And what do they see there? At the entrance stood a brand new, "Blue tractor", manufactured by our biggest competitor.
Aghast, the salesman ran in and nearly held the farmer by the collar and demanded an explanation.
The innocent farmer looked quite distressed and genuinely guilty, when he explained the reason. (I'll keep the exact language in Hindi and translate for those who have trouble understanding)
"Sir ji, Maine toh decide kar liya tha ki aapka waala Laal Tractor hi lena hai. Kal Paise bhi nikal liye the bank se. Phir Raat ko ek Babaji Aaye. Unhone mera haath padha aur chilla ke bole, 'Shani ka ghor prakop he tum par. Baccha, koi bhi Laal rang ki Badi vastu mat khareedna.'"
(Sir, I had decided to buy the red tractor. In fact, I even got the money from the bank. Then in the night, a Babaji came. He read the lines on my hand and proclaimed "There is a bad effect of Shani on you. Child, do not buy any large Red colored item.")
And that's not all. An hour after the Babaji left, our competitor's salesman arrived there and guess what the opening line of his sales pitch was..
"Humari Neeli Tractor..."
(Our Blue Tractor...)
My guess is, this would have been one of the easiest sales he ever made. Need not have gone beyond the color of the tractor! My guess is also that the Babaji was on the competition's payroll. :D
So, see what I mean when I say strategies go out of the window in a market like this? A sane man, who uses a mobile phone and is now considered progressive as per statistics, makes an entire decision (of Rs 7 Lakhs), on the basis of what a bearded man said.
I didn't even bother to control my laughter while the salesman cried about his lost sale. I mean, come on. The competition was smart. Let's give it to them! :D
But these guys are fast learners, huh? I hear we have our own Babaji now. Also known as Month End collection Babaji. He arrives at the dealerships during month-ends, takes a small fee from the dealer, his salesmen, our salesmen and anyone around. And then, based on which villages have not been able to reach targets, he makes a trip there and announces that the next two days are the best muhurat to buy new, big items.
Targets achieved. Mission successful.
So like I was saying. I learn a lot on these trips. Now when I make a presentation for increasing sales in villages, instead of the usual jargon and statistics on social media, I make sure to included a budget for Babaji, Superstition Account, Muhurat Account, Gaay Mata Budget and Maata Raani ka Jagran budget.
The good part is, I am learning! :D
That's all for now!
Oh, the title of the post makes a subtle reference to this being my 100th post. I know, it is pathetic. 5 years and 100 posts. But, in my defence, I am trying to make up now. Pliss to cooperate.