Growth Boosters- Can i find em in Tea?

Ever since we moved office to this part of town – the whole of the team has become almost completely addicted to the corner tea-stall. The shop is your regular road-side tea kiosk managed by this ol man- who is the brewer, accountant, salesman and the delivery boy- all packed in one.

Growth Boosters in teaIt may come as a surprise but our “baba” (as he is fondly called) is an astute business man. His concepts of tracking demand , recovering Variable/Fixed cost are so well engrained, that he doesn’t deliver at our office if there are fewer than “X” people- coz he wont be able to recover the cost of the rickshaw he hires to reach the office. He also calls us on Friday nights to check and confirm if we are open on Saturdays and how many cups are required.

Baba also makes one of the best teas that I have ever had- He knows that this is the trade secret that keeps him in business inspite of his irregularity of delivery.He told us that he once had an assistant who “stole” his recipe and started his own shop- right across the road from Baba’s previous establishment. That explains why Baba is so scared to expand his “team”.

Baba charges Rs 5/- per cup of tea has a regular demand of atleast 200 cups of tea twice a day for atleast 5 days a week- which translates to a weekly sales of Rs 10000/-. Not bad for a road-side vendor you might be thinking ! Baba has been able to achieve this scale coz he selected a neighborhood that had “few” offices in a largely residential locality.

This had the twin advantage of:

a. Ensuring that there were few large customers (like us) with sufficiently high demand

b. There will be little or competition coz its a primarily residential area. Other tea vendors are close to business or corporate hubs.

Assuming his profit margin to be 40% Baba is currently at Rs 16000/- per month take home. Much better than a lot of call center execs huh? But Baba’s business is stuck at this level of scale for quite some time now.

Here are the reason(s):

1. Most corporates want the tea delivery once each in the 1st and 2nd halves of the day. Given that they are wide spread- Baba cannot deliver to too many offices, by staggering the time of delivery. He has already experimented with just sending his kettle with the rickshaw chap- but there were some trust and logistics issue involved.

2. Corporates that grow mostly start investing in a vending machine or eventually move to a more “corporatish” locality.

3. Baba is adamant to not hire a “chottu” to scale up his operations coz of the bitter experience in the past. And am sure there are no IPRs in their business yet.

So what if anything can this brilliant brewer do to grow even further in his quest to get more nicotine down more throats ?

Delhi-Gurgaon Toll Plaza: Is adding more Marshals the solution ?

There has been much hue cry about the mis-management of the newly openend Toll Plaza at the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway. There have been reports of consistent traffic jams during peak hours where commuters have alleged that they were stranded for almost 2 hrs only at the plaza.


While I symapthise with all those who have to undergo such drastic methods of increasing their patience levels – the management of the plaza has some serious genuine problem at their hands. Consider this:

– Most of the “regular” commuters have still not shown any early indication of shifting towards the monthly token, which would ensure a smooth pass from the plaza.

– The other option the plaza mgmt has is to manually charge issue receipt for each vehicle passing the plaza. Assuming it takes 20 seconds per vehicle- the bottleneck is pretty obvious.

– The peak demand for toll-marshals exists for only about 2 hrs each in morning evening and this is where the tricky nature of the problem is

– One can invest in multiple marshals per lane (as has been done currently)- which leads to parallel processing hence increase in the “capacity” of the plaza. But what do these “extra” hands do during the off-peak hours?

– The increased labour could be used to actively promote or even hard-sell the monthly tokens (during the off-peak hours) but I doubt the efficiency of such a step.

So is there an innovative solution to such problems where one needs extra “labour” to service intermittent peaks in demand? How does one ensure a good return on such investments? Should there be some “incentives” to drive more rapid migration to the token process. Plz do keep in mind that most of the tolled projects in India have had a history of not breaking even. Though my guess is that the Delhi-Ggn plaza will be an exception.

Hoysala Temple @ Belur/Hasan

I was at my first Republic Day parade today & was pleasantly surprised to see the Karnataka tableau inspired by the Belur Temple. The float had the Hoysala Emblem at the front & the rest of the it was designed as the temple complex. So I thought its only apt that I should write about the Belur Temple today.


Located in the Hasan disctrict of Karnataka- this temple is one of most impressive achievement of art & sculpture in the country.

Built by the Hoysalas around 1100 AD this magnificient structure in black stone has beautiful sculptures inspired from a variety of sources-bharatnatyam,mohiniattam, hoysala emblem,kamasutra etc.

See the attached image for other details & history of Belur temple.


The interesting thing that really struck me was that there is a “prototype” of the temple right within the same complex. The prototype is almost the same size as the temple… my guess is that the scale is about 0.7:1 Imagine how particular the Hoysala ruler would have been- to have comissioned an almost full scale protoype before giving a green signal to the main temple.

There is a KSRTDC guest house in Hasan very close to the temple that provides good accomodation.

Business Case Study # 1: What should the Indian Farmer do?

Indian FarmerWas on a road-trip when I came across a possible biz dilema that is faced by most mid-sized Indian farmers.

– Our man-HariRam has been able to save enough to either buy some more land or a tractor

– Hari like most other farmers is not sure about credit- either the rates are too high or the micro-credit firms have not really reached his village yet- This means that he cannot really buy both the tractor amp; the plot at the same time

– HariRam’s current plot size doesnt really need him to buy a tractor

– If he decides to buy land- he will have to stretch himself really hard for 2-3 years before he can afford a tractor.

– if Hari buys the tractor-he sees a high rate of depreciation on his asset which will not see full scale utilization

What do u think the Indian Farmer should do?

I suggested Hari to find a few other such farmers in his community & then

– Either pool the money amp; buy a common tractor

– Or buy a tractor & start lending/leasing to these other needy guys also. He rejected my 2nd idea rightaway- saying “If i start making money by lending tractors to others- these other guys will also buy it &  I would not see the ROI on my investment”.

So put on your strategic mgmt caps & tell Hari what he should be doing.

The evolution of the Truck Graffiti

The Indian creativity has now found a new canvas- the truck rears ! Gone are the days when the only thing you saw while trailing a truck was Horn Please or Buri Nazar wale tera muh kala.


The interesting ones that I remember are
– Singh is King !
– Buri nazar wale – ankhen theek kara le !
– Call on mobile # for side (enclosed snap)
– Kela(i.e Banana) King !!!!!

Shall keep updating this with more…

Sadhus- Most Photogenic Indian Models ?

If you have travelled extensively in India and you love to capture those moments on your Canon/Nikon…… I am sure you would agree with me- that some of the best potraits are those of Sadhus.

These men of god have long been the ambasadors of our country(the land of mysticism) & they surely havent disappointed.


So what is it with these sadhus- that makes em so photogenic
– their bright colored clothes
– the “Blessing Buddha” pose
– the wrikled faces
– the rockstar kinda hairstyle
– Salman khan inspired shirt collection- here now, gone tomm

What do u think?


Lal Quila- The Red Fort @Delhi

Since my relocation to Delhi about a year ago- I have felt guilty that I know nothing about Delhi. So as part of my lost list of 2008 resolutions- I have now started visiting the various monuments/museums in Delhi. Red Fort is the start of this “Know about Delhi” series.


Situated in the heart of Old Delhi (some call it Delhi 6) the Red Fort symbolises the Independent nation that we are, coz its the tricolor flying at Red Fort that most of us aqssociate Independence Day celebrations with.
Most of the fort is now taken over by the army & only a small section of it is open for public viewing- but you see the Mughal architecture in its full grandeur.
There’s the Rang Mahal,Diwan-e-Aam, Moti Masjid,the royal hamam, the elaborate gardens & the not so impressive museum.

Fairs at Pragati Maidan-Lets Learn to Serve Information !

Pragati MaidanWas at the Auto Expo yday it was truly amazing how Pragati Maidan has changed over the last 5-6 years. There are a lot of signages ,food-stalls, kiosks now it surely is a better experience. But what hasnt changed is the lack of information for the visitors once inside the PM. We managed to find a few maps giving instructions/directions for various halls- but there were no legends to tell us which hall was housing what brands (e.g. I really wanted to see Dilip Chabbaria’s offerings- but failed to do so).

Opportunity: So I guess anyone wanting to reach out to visitors at any PM fair can do the following:

– take one of these maps that give clear hall #s directions

– Visit the fair the 1st day map the hall #s to the brands etc

– Print this map with your own brand/logo/communication hand out free to all visitors

– If someone had done this- i would have known that Nano was in hall 11, Vintage cars in 12c etc etc i would have carried the branded flyer for full3-4 hrs…enough time for the “brand” its communication to sink in.

Atleast for Auto Expo- i am sure this will get you not just brand visibility but a lot of blessings….coz I could hear so many visitors complaining that they are lost ! I am waiting for the next trade fair that happens here- you would see maps saying- “Which hall has what stall” sponsored by our company..

Reliance Power IPO media plan- abuse of negative tracer?

ADAG has leveraged its customer touchpoints to promote the Reliance Power IPO- including the massive reach of Reliance Communications.They have by default activated the jingle for Reliance Power for ALL of their subscribed customers.

Now each caller to any Reliance number gets to hear “Power on to….” as the default call-back-tune ! Its a brilliant idea which has definitely provided the maximum exposure for minimum cost- but has the customer got a raw deal in the process? Will this mean that everytime a ADAG group company goes to market to raise money- all Reliance callers will hear the jingle. Also will this motivate the other telecom operators (who arent so diversified) to “sell” this media space to agencies advertisers?

I remember hearing about ad jingles being activated for callers to some operators. It wasnt recieved too well primarily coz, explicit consent of the affected individual wasnt sought there was no clear revenue sharing from the sale of this inventory. With increased consumer awareness activism – such “ideas” will need to be packaged much better in the future. But in summary- hats off to the smart kid who came up with this brilliant coup for ADAG !

TATA’s Nano- A Streetcar named Desire

Never before has there been more frenzy in the strongIndian Automobile industry/strong- and understandably so. Never before was there a car with a tag of $ 2500. TATA’s have done it !

NanoAnd the pride that the nation feels is best captured by the fact that even my grandma knew about the Nano- though she thought the name was “Naina” the reporter got it wrong !

Some one asked me whats the BIG deal about Nano- apart from the fact that its the “cheapest” car around. There are so many other models just launched by probably better established players. The answer lies in the fact that probably this will be the only launch this year- which will add to the demand in the market. The others variants have just given more options to the same set of car buyers, but the Nano- will open whole new segments in the car market.

– ET/Crisil says that Nano corresponds to a 65% increase in # of households that can afford a car

– Autorickshaws want to migrate to Nano- Is that why Bajaj motors is reacting the way it is. Will govt allow the 3 wheeler license to hold good for Nano also?

– Second hand car sales had already started slipping when TATA’s had announced that their 1 Lakh car was soon to be launched. Will this mean that you should have sold your Santro a few months ago?

– Will the biking segment(currently estimated at 50 million) upgrade themselves to Nano- if yes- this could be the growth engine for Indian Auto industry.

– And amongst all this domestic excitement, lets not forget the global footprint that TATAs TATA Motors has. The fact that NANO corresponds to all Intl safety/eco norms gives early indicators of the export-driven-growth plans at TATA Motors.

The next few months will be interesting to see how this pans out …