The race to MBA degree is mind boggling. In India especially, it is craze sometimes rivaled only to cricket. You can see it for yourself the hordes of mba wanna- be's and the media coverage peak during the Nov-Jan season every year. What a spectacle to watch . Almost every magazine worth its salt come out with b-school survey giving a list a top 50 colleges "you should study at " . Some even bring out a separate book to cash in on the boom. And, hey .. don't count me out.. I am in the race too .
A degree in MBA teaches you to understand cash flow statements, how to come up with great marketing ideas and all that jazz. But I wonder how did Shankari ,a 1 st year B.Com student from a low rung women college get great ideas on marketing and customer service.
Let me give you the story first .
I love soup and for having that one or two cups of it I go all the way to Ananna Nagar park where this guy sells really mouth watering , pipping hot soup ( completely natural ) at Rs 6 per cup. He has good stuff. You have to give him that credit !
These days( 3 months approx) , I drink soup from one of the Fresh retail outlets i visit. The soup is sold in small kiosks at Rs 10 per cup. You would have seen similar kiosks selling sweet corns and popcorn's at a retail store near to your house. Small enterprising men/women take franchise contracts from the company which sells these products , then pay rent to the retail store and put up a kiosk outside and sell it. Great business idea . Has the ideal ingredient of entrepreneurship, job and wealth creation and good products to customers at affordable rates.
Now, getting back to the story . Shankari is a 1st year student studying for B.com at W omen's College. She sits at the kiosk every evening with a book in hand selling Rs. 1o per cup soups. I have options to chose as well - Tomato, Plantain, Mushroom, Vegetable. For reasons unknown to myself I always buy Plantain or Mushroom. I knew what I was buying but never gave it much thought to it. I just go up ask , say , Monday it is plantain soup , Tuesday it is Mushroom. It is cyclic.Till the day - about 3 weeks back - shankari popped the question at me , " Sir, why do you always buy Mushroom and Plantain soup, why don't you ever try Tomato and Vegetable?" ...
I dint know what to tell her. I muttered and gave some lame answer about my preference for mushroom and not liking tomato taste and stuff.. the next question caught me by surprise.
"Sir , other than mushroom and plantain, what other variety you like ?" ..
I gave her my options. And then asked what is she gonna do about it . She said , " I will ask my brother to check if the company can give us the soup of your choice" ..
That bowled me out completely . Why did she bother to find out what my taste are ? why didn't she just sell the soup at Rs 10 and continue to sit and study with that book in her hand ? why ? why ?
Normally, unless you pack it to your house, one drinks the soup standing there right next to Kiosk. There are 2 advantages to it - One , the soup remains hot and two you get extra corn as second helpings. I love the corn which comes with the soup , so I stand there and finish the soup then drop it in the dustbin and go back home.
That day, while I was standing there drinking the soup ( I was drinking vegetable soup with lots of pepper. I had cold and shankari said drinking that soup with lots of pepper helps) she was asking the same question to other customers of hers. Not every one. But a lot of them . Similar questions . In her own ingenious way she was conducting a survey. Maybe she realized what she was doing . Maybe she dint. That is not the point. She was proactive. She tried to understand her customer.
Later when i asked why she only asked the questions to a select few customers , she replies , " They are my regular customers" ..
I felt privileged to be her customer and beamed...
Her brother has taken the franchise contract from the parent company. While she sits at the fresh outlet , her bro is doing the same thing some other part of the city.
I wonder if she had read any of those management books? Did she read "The New Age of Innovation: Driving C0-Created Value through Global Networks" by C.K Prahalad on how to serve customized products to a customer in a collaborative environment with the N=1 , R= G rule ? How did she get this idea what a Univerity of Michigan Author did after much research ?
By the way, The New Age of Innovation made it to the top 12 books on innovation given out by Business Week.Read it here : Best Innovation & Design Books 2008
But how come Stayam Computers dint get it right ?
The big fiasco of merger/buying Mayatas infra and properties which caused ripple of appalling magnitude among the investors across the table is there for everyone to see.
I read somewhere that the ISB's dean was also part of the board which took the decision to buy out the two companies ( run by Ramalinga raju son's). I am no authority to question the merit of the proposed buyout. Nor am I an investor. As a rule i don't directly invest in Sensex. No speculative, sentiment prone gambling for me..No Sir.
But what I would like to know is how come such highly educated ,the creme-la-de creme managers and CEO and CFO of the company dint have the inclination to ask its investors and clients their opinion before taking such a decision? How come the MBA's of IIM and MDI and blah blah dint know the tenets of customer service when such a proposal was mooted in the first place?
But man, what a PR and Corp Comm nightmare they should be having right now ? I cant but feel sorry for the guy who is handling the company's PR account. He must be literally running pillar to post to get things "done" .The green horns must be having a great time in learning the art of crisis management. what better case study can they get .. ?
By the way , I loved the new Idea Cellular ad . About asking the people first before taking a political decision. The creative guy and the copywriter deserve full marks for the new ad . The previous ads were highly creative but not practical . The new one is very creative, very practical and got the execution right . kool Ad huh ?
IBM has a great caption going for its print ads - "STOP selling what you have and Start selling what they want". Now, they get it ! .. Bingo ..
You get the drift ?