Saturday, April 21, 2018

Autowallas of Bombay

More autowallas reject me daily than women and interviewers combined have done all life. At first, staying a stone throw’s distance from your office seems a wonderful proposition in a city with roads as wide as Adnan Sami 2.0 and with as many private cars as droplets in the neighbouring Arabian Sea. Add to it the deluge the city experiences beginning June, the omnipresent autos are the Noah Arcs from the Bible’s Genesis flood narrative. The irony is that in a city where everyone’s trying to take you for a ride, the only guys who don’t are the ones whose job is to take you for one.

So as a former science student and a veteran of 44 days in the maximum city, I came up with certain theories and possible solutions to the every morning commute problem and tried them out for real:

Theory 1: Stand in the middle of the road to get access to autos coming from both sides    
Got rejected by the sixteen coming from the left and seventeen from the right. Finally saw a thirty fourth coming straight at me right down the middle of the road. He stopped, said woeful things about the professions of some of my family members and sped off  

Theory 2: Instead of sticking out just one hand, stick out two and plead
By the time the forty-fifth autowalla agreed to take me, had got sufficient change from the public passing by that I could pay him all in coins

Theory 3: Instead of sticking out just one hand, bring your entire body in the way
Have you tried the Cold Coffee at the Hiranandani Hospital cafeteria? It’s yum! Had that on all seven days I was admitted there.
‘MH 02’ is all I remember from his number plate 

Theory 4: Pit stop at an oft frequented place near your destination and take a second auto from there
The fifth autowalla nodded and I reached the pit-stop in no time.
…I’m typing this from the pit-stop, waiting for a second autowalla to say yes

Theory 5: On your way to the pit stop, fake a call and then tell him to change destinations
He left me stranded in the middle of nowhere as soon as I asked him to change destinations.
Now waiting for an auto to take me to my destination. Or the pit stop. Or anywhere out of here! 

Theory 6: Stand next to a pretty girl also waiting for an auto, when he stops, leapfrog and get in
This worked on some days. Meanwhile, all women in my building think I’m a pervert    

Theory 7: Start shouting ‘rickshaw!’ instead of ‘auto!’. This isn’t Delhi.
This one indeed worked! I didn’t have to wait for autos anymore.
I waited for rickshaws

Theory 8: Wait near a pothole or a speed breaker. As it slows down, just jump in
…and come out from the other side

Theory 9: Confuse the autowalla by asking him where he’s headed and say ‘that’s where I’ve to go’
…and actually end up going there

Theory 10: Shift to South Bombay
And then open this post, find and replace ‘auto’ with ‘taxi’

Monday, September 26, 2016

Vivid Bharti

This isn’t pornographic literature.


Let’s begin by admitting that all of us watch porn. Those who disagree please type ‘x’ in the address bar of your browser and post the screenshot below. It all began in the early 2000s, didn’t it? The extra 25 minutes we had at the Cyber Café after the print out was taken was usually the time we bumped on to that suspicious folder on the desktop, which invariably contained a .3gp or a .avi file along with the usual army of .mp3s and .docs. With shaking hands, we would double click and see skin colored human shaped figures move passionately over other skin colored human shaped figures and instinctively (possibly due to years and years of preaching, usually religious) close Windows Media Player and almost as instinctively fire up Nero to copy the damned video on the goddamn rewriteable CD. But there was a problem! The rewriteable CDs were unreliable and your trusted floppy disk’s memory was equivalent to one skin-colored .bmp file or the equivalent five skin-cloured .jpeg files. It was then that we felt that the load of science projects at school became unmanageable and the dads were guilt-shamed into getting that first broadband connection installed.

Then the internet changed everything.

He who earlier had to settle for the occasional glance at Maxim on the road or the second last page of Delhi Times, could now use the same paper for complementary yet hitherto unknown purposes. He who had to enlargen himself and shift his chair to obscure the view the neighbor had at his screen inside the dark, dingy and oft dilapidated cyber café didn’t have to do the chair-shifting anymore, while the enlarging responsibility was restricted to only the most necessary organs. It was around the same time that sales of pirated CDs and DVDs of Murder, Zeher and Raaz plummeted at both Palika and Nehru Place, and the repeat telecast of Kasauti Zindagi Kay became the most watched midnight show on Indian Television.

These were modern times.

People were sharing. P2P was born. Remember Napster? No? Remember Limewire? Of course. While those in the West had their Paris Hiltons and Pamela Andersons, we in India had our own Miss Jammus and Mysore Malliges. They were the best of times, they were the worst of times. Rampant copying of Western art gave birth to the Indian Porn Industry. There were strict quality guidelines in place: the actors had to be rotund, hairy and ugly; the cameramen had to be an amateur armed with a camera capable of capturing not more than three colors, and; the music had to be repetitively irritating. There was one sacrosanct diktat though: strictly no sex. And hence, the land of the Kamsutra  became home to the only porn industry in the world, which stood for ‘everything sex’, but in its bio, had the word ‘but’ between ‘everything’ and ‘sex’. It came to a point where every Indian porn video titled ‘HD Hardcore Desi Girl’ was neither HD, nor Hardcore, nor Desi, (and at times) didn’t have a girl.   

It was a struggle. 

The Indian porn watcher, now disillusioned and disappointed with the talent on show at home, looked West. The quality was far, far superior. But with increasing quality comes increased size. The ISPs would bill us like Management Consultants bill their hapless clients for every extra MB on the wrong side of 500. Faced with the toughest decision of our teenage lives: which undergraduate stream to opt for few HD videos versus many pixelated ones, many wilted under pressure and ended up with four or sometimes five digit monthly bills, something we almost always blamed at gargantuan Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat Reader updates. But the cat and mouse between us and the ISPs had only just begun. Remember the impossible trinity? One could only get exactly two of ‘a plan with high download speed’, ‘a plan with significant download limit’, ‘a plan in your father’s budget’. Then one of us made our way to the higher management at these ISPs and introduced the FNU (Free Night Usage) plans. These were variants of the current plans but allowed unlimited download between 12 AM to 6 AM.

All was well again.

Sometimes later, college happened. Pornography had, so far, ensured that we had no hobbies. It now made sure we made no friends either. At least not in the real world. College did have LAN and that meant sharing and more sharing. It was the Limewire era again! There were no speed restrictions and there were no capacity constraints. Instead of the usual twice a day, the towel was not being washed four or, on weekends, even six times a day.

And then there were fringe benefits.

Companies like Seagate, WD and Kinston got a fresh lease of life. Most of us had two hard disks: one that had all the popular TV shows, the top IMDB movies, the best documentaries ever made while the other one was…umm…black in color. The soaring demand also gave employment to cartoonists whose existence was a struggle in the post digital-revolution era. Savita Bhabhi was born. Adobe Reader downloads were at an all-time high and, for a change, people didn’t even mind the daily updates the software asked for.

All was well.

College gave way to a bloodsucking job behind a desk and LAN gave way to torrents. The thought of going back to a new video of your favorite porn star made possible the journey back to the cramped apartment your modest salary could afford in the unimaginably treacherous rush hour traffic. At office, we would kick ass and at home row the high tides of the pirate bay. Porn was life. Torrent was the lifeline.  

Things had never been better.

And then one day they banned the torrent sites! Torrents were dead. Porn was finished. What remained was that black hard disk from college. Alas! Nostalgia was the only thing it could raise. Not enough, clearly not enough.

Things have changed.

Long office hours ensue. The traffic is a fjord with dungeons at both end and screeching Piranhas alongside. Cable subscriptions have gone up again. Vendors in Palika and Nehru Place have reported a spurt in demand for DVDs of Tarzan: The Wonder Car and Dil Maange More. Fashion TV is back in action, this time in HD. Midnights on television are going to be Hot again. Prima facie, it’s back to the square one for us.

Has anything changed? No. Everything has.

We are smarter, sharper and cleverer than ever. We now
·         know the second most influential person in the Middle East after Zohan: Mia Khalifa
·         know the one thing Japanese are most scared of, a weakness that can be exploited in case of a war
·         can hide confidential files in plain eyesight (Desktop/Office Work/Archives/Pretty Old Files/Dont Click/Viruses/Mia Khalifa Videos)
·         know useful Chrome shortcuts: ctrl+t, ctrl+w and the most useful: ctrl+shift+n
·         clear My Recent Places and History after every session
·         can get away with murder as the fingers have no fingerprints left

Things are looking up again.     

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The In'vest'ment De'brief' recently reminded me that this domain is about to expire in the coming 7 days. So, acting swiftly, and using my friend’s credit card, I extended the subscription for another year, with more than 23 seconds to go for the deadline. By virtue of such agility, here I am again, your favorite blogger (for quite a few have cropped up of late), giving a few fucks about things you don’t give a fuck about. The reminder also told me that I haven’t written for a while, which is surprising since the fanmail continues to come at a same rate it did during my golden years: a Concord-esque speed of one self-addressed letter per year. In any case, it would be a fair assumption that I have been missed, as fair as patriarchy in our culture or gender inequality in Saudi’s.

So let me give in to temptation and begin by saying that ‘All investments are subject to market-risks. Please read the scheme information document carefully before investing’. Now that I have absolved myself of all the crimes I am going to commit in the coming few paragraphs (and also arson, theft, murder and sedition), let me just clear the biggest misconception people have about investments: no matter how much the word ‘in-vest’ points at something which is inside a man’s vest and no matter how much 80C seems to point at the measurement of something which is inside a woman’s vest, investments have got nothing to do with anything remotely close to a man’s/woman’s torso. In fact, it’s a subject of the heartless and occasionally, of the brainless.

The idea behind investments is to increase household savings so that instead of buying a hatchback today, you buy a Sedan 5 years later. It also gives you an opportunity to save some tax, and hence have more in-hand income by investing away a part of the same in-hand income, leaving you with lesser in-hand income. But the key assumption, by far, is that you will be smarter and more mature five years down the line than you are now, and hence be better capable of managing your own resources. Clearly, Shahid Afridi will have a tough time trying his luck as the brand ambassador of HDFC Life!

Having proved that the very idea of investments is counter-intuitive, let’s delve deeper into a few terms our insurers frequently use: ‘Risk’ is something you always take while ‘return’ is something you never get; a ‘lock-in’ period denotes a period of time when all emergencies will happen in your life and you will desperately want back the money you have just invested; ‘PPF’ is something that will borrow your car today and return the same car thirty years down the lines, albeit with new seat cushions; ‘Mutual Funds’ and ‘ELSS’ will take all your money and return either all of it or none of it depending on the outcome of the toss of an absolutely, totally, completely, Mukeshly, Adanily biased coin; and finally ‘ULIP’ is the astute all-rounder Imran Khan which is supposed to provide both life insurance and tax saving, but is the Irfan Pathan (with astuteness of brother Yusuf) that provides neither.

From the days of ‘Eat breakfast like a King*, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper' to ‘Declare like a King, invest like a prince and take salary-cut in Q4 like a beggar’, mankind has indeed come a long way. ‘Tune FD kiya ya LIC’ and ‘1 lakh kiya ya 1.5 lakh’ have become the grown-ups’ versions of ‘Tune option A mark kiya ya B’ and ‘ek page likha ki dedh page’. Even the additional 50000 exemption limit under NPS is like that bonus question with negative marks only a few dared to answer.

I would like to end by making a plea to the Indian government on behalf of my esteemed readers and everyone else who has missed his/her investments for the current financial year:

  • Allow FDI in investments where some friend of yours sitting in Dubai with no income tax and surplus savings can make the investments on your behalf. It will only extend the definition of FDI because an investment in an investment makes logical sense
  • Rename section 80C as 40C. If you think size 80C is possible, you’ve been watching the wrong genre of porn all this while!
  •  Interchange every occurrence or ‘high return’ and ‘low return’, clearing all the confusion and leaving just one instrument in the market: PPF  
  •  Ban the Indi-McSpicy burger at McDonald’s

*: subtle product placement #1 for employer

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Train Rant

The article contains a range of stereotypes which may or may not be endorsed by the author. However, for the sake of looking cool (the raison d'etre of anyone’s existence on social media and using Latin expressions), I would go on, unfettered and undeterred like the Indian Railways.

Rail transportation in India began in 1853 with the first train running from Bombay to Thane, covering a distance of 50 kilometres in three hours, a record that has stood till date. The intent was to ferry goods from the interiors to the ports. That was the last time ‘good’ and ‘Indian Railways’ was used together in the same sentence. Since then, the word ‘good’ has been replaced by freight. So a goods-train is now a freight-train, the word ‘freight’, obviously carrying one ‘e’ too many.

But this post is not about the goods travelling on a freight-train, it’s about the goods travelling on a passenger train.  

But before the train itself, comes the train platform: the only place you find more shit than the Indian Parliament, clearly hinting that (1) we need better cleansing of rails and platforms, and (2) Indian public does more work squatting in train toilets than their lawmakers sleeping in the capital. On the plus side though, all railway platforms are equipped with weight-sensor technology that hastens the arrival of the incoming train if them all impatient passengers stand at its edge, peeping in the direction of the train. The platform is also home to hawkers selling best-selling Indian classics such as Half-Girlfriend, You Can Win and Rapidex English Speaking Course; confectionery stalls that stock all exotic biscuits but manage to sell only water and all other shops which exist only as the solution to the quintessential ‘Bhaiya ye X jane wali Gadi kya isi platform par aegi’ question. For passenger comfort, all railway platforms are equipped with... never mind. A few platforms at select stations did begin to mark the position of each coach, but the move was termed as too-passenger friendly and its expansion plan was, quite logically too, shelved.      

At the onset, one must realize that RAIL is just LIAR spelt backwards. So every time the announcement lady expresses regret about the delay in arrival of your train, she clearly doesn't mean it. Or at least her tone doesn't suggest so. All announcements are made with the same aplomb, the same gaiety.  To think of it, ‘lady’ is just a vowel short of ‘delay’: the same letter ‘e’ that’s extraneous in ‘freight’. Meanwhile, for the uninitiated, there are four categories of delays: (1) No Delay (delay between 0 to 120 min) (2) Minor Delay (2 hours to 12 hours) (3) Major Delay (when AM becomes PM and PM becomes AM and, (4) No delay (train reaches same time, next day as the next day’s train). As expected, as per statistics, most trains arrive on time and hence the terms ‘train’ and ‘late train’ can be/are used interchangeably.  

Once one does get on the train though, he expects normalcy to resume (strictly speaking, to begin). But the wait gets a tad longer, for the railway coaches are military barracks, hermetically compressed with comfort thoroughly squeezed out, placed carefully at the epicentre of a kilometre-long-magnitude-10-on-Richter-scale-earthquake, huffing and puffing through the dark of the night at breakneck speeds touching 50 kilometres an hour. Interestingly though, quite unlike the traditional Indian society, the lower berths are the higher births and upper berths have to actually work very hard to get up there. However, the battle for Middle Earth is the battle to avoid the middle berth. The Indian Railways actually plays a big daddy to those on the middle berths by directing them when to sleep, how long to sleep, when to eat and when to interact with fellow passengers. The middle berth, without a doubt, is the railways’ middle-finger.

Then comes the turn of the very toilets on wheels whose products you see on the rails beside the platforms. One step inside and you begin to wonder how much the Indian Public is capable of delivering in so little time, which further dwarfs the achievement of the lawmakers at the centre, even if we’re talking about just shitty work. Most coaches have both styles of toilets: Indian and Western, basically Indian and Western-followed-by-Indian as none of these have either a bidet* or tissue papers. No wonder in the latest census, 29 lakh people, most of them frequent train travellers, didn't state their religion, for ‘constipation’ wasn't one of the options mentioned.         

Inside the coaches and outside of the toilets, we have charging points which either never work or damage your charger when they do, fans that provide more sound energy than wind energy, ACs that are either not working or too cold, pillows thinner than your biceps, a cotton bed-sheet that you have no idea how to unfold, another identical bed-sheet that is always two cm too thin for the AC and a woolly blanket that is always two cm too thick. 

Finally, a word on your fellow passengers. No matter which coach you book, the family travelling alongside will always have at its head a patriarch who is a high-school snoring champ, a matriarch who would invariably have the middle-berth and will instantly ask you to swap it with your lower-berth and a Kinder-Joy munching youth brigade that would want to consume every wafer and cola it sees along the way, making more noise than the honking-Joe behind you on every traffic signal. There is also the entourage that disembarks just before the train starts, leaving behind all their bags, only for you to realize that all forty-four belong to this family of four.   

The best thing about a train journey, though, is that like most journeys (and this post here), it ends.

*That thing you clean your ass with? Yes. It is called a bidet. Don’t worry. Even I Googled. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Maggi Noodles and Other Stories

Of late, Maggi and its parent company, Nestle, have been embroiled in a major controversy regarding the high Lead and MSG content in the noodles. This post is an attempt to critique the popular rhetoric on the issue.

And drive traffic on my blog by writing about this trending topic.

‘Tu Maggi nahi khata na?’, enquired my frantic mom over our usual 2-minute daily phone call last night. When you mom calls you and asks whether you consume something presumably bad for your health, it’s not news. But when that something is not chicken-on-a-Tuesday or alcohol or beef (on-any-fuckin’-day), then it is definitely a cause of concern. Now I don’t eat Maggi for multiple reasons which include, but are not restricted to (1) taking the tastemaker out of the sachet is as difficult as back-to-back ejaculations, and (2) 2-minutes is how long you last the first time, and DEFINITELY not how long cooking Maggi lasts every time. Now that I've spoiled your memory of Maggi with sexual innuendos, let’s look at some of my genuine concerns. One, I do not know how much 225 ml of water is. Whatever quantity I take is either way less or way more. Two, I know the packaging says that the image that it carries is only indicative and the actual preparation may differ, but it doesn't say by how much. In my case, it’s usually between 99.9% to 100.1%. Three, they never mention, in minutes, the ratio of the time and effort to cook to the time and effort to wash the kettle, which as per my experience is anything between 1:1000000 to 1:100000000, or as Nestle would like to put it 2:2000000 to 2:200000000. 

Having said all this, I do have a point to make here. What has happened to Maggi is absolutely unfair, unjust and a lot more un-things. For long, the people of this land have been mean to other people of this land. But who thought that privilege would be extended to inanimate objects? Now I know that Nestle brand-mangers would kill me for labeling their beloved brand as ‘inanimate’ and an ‘object’, but I still take the liberty purely on my resolute belief that there’s definitely something wrong if they’re reading this blog right now as against salvaging whatever anti-flammables they can to put out this fire. It’s true that it takes years and years of labour (artistic and donkey-like) and insights (original and plagiarized) to build and cultivate a brand (unless, of course, you are merely importing a foreign brand in which case you just need donkey-like labour and plagiarized insights). Scandalizing and marginalizing such a brand undoes all the effort all these people have put in. Think about the Nestle salesmen who go from store to store booking orders and the Sales Officers who go from Distributor to Distributor having chai… Yes, brands are inanimate, but the people behind them aren’t. With the huge dip in sales, a lot of salesmen will not earn their incentives this month; incentives that form a major chunk of their take home salary. And with Maggi contributing almost 50% of the Nestle portfolio, the small distributors will suffer grave losses with many going out of business by the time the brand is back on the shelves. Yes, a ban on Maggi is definitely a shock for its loyal customer base and a setback for the Brand Managers, but for some, it’s an absolute catastrophe.

And now, let’s get some facts straight. It’s a rather well-known fact in the industry that Nestle is a pioneer and world leader in terms of food safety and compliance. In fact, other companies look up to the amazing standards of food quality that their Swiss competitor has. It is also a well-known fact that our friends in need at FSSAI are not friends in deed, at least for all food companies. There have been multiple reports of its officials deliberately causing delays in new product launches, arbitrarily changing laws to stall projects and imposing random fines (the tune of which defies logic and mathematics). In fact, a lot of Food companies are known to get FSSAI approvals quicker than others for almost all their brands, while some others with relatively smaller purses have to stand in queue for years.

Then there’s the question of the alleged state of the art laboratories in which the food samples are tested by FSSAI. I doubt what fraction of the dangerous chemicals are in the packet and what fraction get included during the testing process. Hi-fives if you’re imaging your highschool chemistry lab, albeit with all the equipment a hundred-year old, or if you went to a government school as I did, in which case the thought process is the same minus the going-back-100-years part.

Finally, if 12 different laboratories test products from the same batch manufactured at the same plant under the same standard operating procedures, and if 9 of the 12 label the product as unsafe and 3 label it safe, there’s nothing conclusive for or against the product. The only thing I know for sure is that not all the laboratories are right, which is as much a question mark on the laboratories as it is on the product being tested.

Next, a word on our beloved media. This morning, I came across this in today’s Times of India. A similar report appeared on business-standard here. The correspondents from both the stories tried to contact the officials of the concerned companies: Heinz and Kellogg, in this case, only the correspondent from Business Standard could elicit a response. So either the ToI journalist doesn’t have enough contacts (which means he’s a bad journalist) or despite having a contact he can’t get a response (which also means he’s a bad journalist). Sweeping statements such as ‘there was no response from the company’ and ‘all our emails went unanswered’ portray the company as callous and insensitive, which, as the other report proves, is clearly not the case.  The ToI correspondent, clearly, has no idea that the Kellogg brand in question hasn’t even been launched (its approval has been held up for some months now). The report from Business Standard is more informative and hence, more balanced. Unfortunately, apart from first year B-School students, no one reads the Business Standard.

Finally, a message for us third-world Indians who believe that these rascal MNC food companies adhere to different (and lower) food safety standards of manufacturing in India as against abroad. Last year, we went (on inspection) to the sole plant of a leading cereal maker. This is what they made us wear before entering the plant:

And this is how we usually look.

Clearly, a lot more hygienic.

Every worker on the shop floor was dressed in a similar way.
Although not as smartly as Ranbir Kapoor in ‘Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani’ while making laddoos at the nearby halwai as shown below, but I hope you get the point.


All said and done, I believe it’s never too late to make amends. I will now head straight to the nearest kirana shop to purchase my packet of Maggi and then to the nearby laboratory to borrow a borosil beaker.
Let’s try with exactly 225 ml this time.

P.S: As much as I want to, the post has not been sponsored by any food company. One of them pays my salary, and that’s that.   

P.P.S: Keyboards don't have the stylized é key, so please, can't we just call it Nestle and not Nestlé? 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sales Managed

By this time I have begun to realise that Jugal Hansraj and I have so much in common in so many ways. I write so infrequently now that every time I come back to it, it’s a comeback, just like Hansraj gets roles so infrequently that every time he acts, he debuts. And like my writing, no one misses his acting.
Okay, sorry. Some of you do miss my prose, I admit.

So this post is about the life of an Area Sales Manager (ASM). Basically an overpaid and underworked salesman and an underpaid and overworked manager. The purpose of this post is not to advertise or chastise the profession. The intention is to advertise and chastise it. I do not intend to critique a specific FMCG company. I intend to critique them all.
My intentions are noble, or so I would like to believe. And hence, the post is meant to be taken with a pinch of salt, unless you’re an ASM with Tata Chemicals, in which case you can take a carton of salt and sell it in wholesale at an undercut price.

To an outsider, it’s tough to explain that we ASMs are employed and yet don’t have an office. A lot of aunties go up to my mother and ask the typical ‘apka-beta-kahan-kaam-karta-hai’ and ‘office-kahan-hai’ types. Mothers usually have these very simplistic explanations to everything. So I, apparently, go door to door, selling stuff and taking payments. But she still can’t get over the fact that I don’t have an office. ‘Kahin-kuchh-toh-hoga-na’, she enquires almost every time she calls. And at last, I cede and give her the address of my Carry Forward Agent (CFA).

ASMs, I believe, are the only breed for whom ‘work’ (and not ‘home’) is the driving word when they ‘work from home’. Almost 60% of the productive work gets done from home while the remaining gets done at the distributor office (usually his home, so technically still ‘work from home’). And yet, whenever the bosses call and enquire about our whereabouts, we are always in the market (even at midnight). Don’t get me wrong, but not having an office also has its merits. We, for instance, do not suffer from Monday morning blues. For us, every day is a Sunday and every day is a Monday. A better metric for us is the day of the month. So while the first three weeks of the month have 21 weekends, the last week has all days working. It has as many productive man-hours as the first three weeks combined, out of which the last day alone is 50%. So our typical month is like a typical Dhoni knock. Nudging, pushing and prodding for the first three-fourths, taking quickly run twos and threes for the next few and finishing it off with a last ball six.

Just that MSD meets his numbers more often.  

I doubt there’s another profession that has its evaluation parameters so tangible and measurable. And I also doubt there’s another profession that has its evaluation parameters so confusing and ambiguous. What’s absolutely clear is that growth is an absolute must. What’s absolutely not clear is which growth we’re talking about. So when we ring up our bosses after the month closing, gleefully narrating our double digit volume growth over the same month last year, they gently remind us how the growth over the previous quarter has been stagnant. And when we call them next month, about how the territory has shown great volume growth over last year as well as the previous quarter, they quickly remind us that the growth in value terms has been sluggish. And when we show both volume and value growth over last year as well as the last quarter, there’s always a smaller territory in the region that has registered twice the growth during the same period.
And yet, the band for success is fixed. There are no Bs, Cs and Ds in sales. It’s either A or nothing. In percentage terms, anything between 0 to 100 percent is a failure. It basically means you can neither plan nor execute (and neither do you go to the market). Anything between 100%-105% is an A and means that you can plan and execute well (doesn’t matter if you go to the market). Anything over 105% is again a failure because you can plan and execute but can’t control (because you don’t go to the market).   

But hey, we still love our jobs! For it allows us to travel (to non-descript upcountry locations), meet new people (bluffing salesmen and stingy distributors), stay among the locals (in shady hotels with bedbugs and ceiling fans inside bathrooms) and enjoy different cuisine (by chance and not by choice).   

But more than anything else, I love my job for the sheer learning potential it offers. One learns to lie with a straight face (boss I will definitely do my numbers), be overly optimistic (boss I will definitely do my numbers with or without the stock), be overenthusiastic (boss I will definitely do my numbers with or without the stock with one week to go), be prophetic (boss I think I will do my numbers with or without the stock with one week to go ), make excuses (boss I would have definitely done my numbers with or without the stock with one week to go had there been no earthquake in Nepal) and make promises (boss next month I will definitely do my numbers).

And I also love it because it has a jargon of its own. No, no, we do not invent our own words. We give a different connotation to the existing ones. For instance, ‘align’ means dissemination of information, ‘stock’ denotes shortage, ‘target’ means impossible, ‘phasing’ is a myth, ‘delivery’ mean late, ‘commitment’ means anything but commitment and ‘closing’ means fear. There are also a few phrases that we hold up our sleeves that come out as and when required (and are never ever true). To the retailer: ‘Sir bika toh apka, nahi bika toh humara’. To the subordinates: ‘Tu kaam kar, incentive mujh par chhod’. To the distributor: ‘Sir abhi aap pay kar do, baad mein adjust kar lenge’. And to your boss: ‘Sir market mein hoon’.

Phew! Long rant. Still love my job, for there are only a few professions that one can bitch about so much and yet keep one’s job. Possibly because our bosses don’t have the time to read what we write. Or maybe the upcountry town they’re touring right now has our distribution, but doesn’t have internet.

Or electricity.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sales Terminology for Dummies

Every profession has its own jargon and Sales is no different. FMCG sales jargon draws heavily from Urban Dictionary and is, on its part, a top contributor to the aforesaid Encyclopaedia of abuses across languages.
The jargon is usually specific to a region, but a common thread runs across the length and breadth of the nation, especially the northern and central hinterland. Like the language that I’m writing in now, most phrases derive from a few elementary words. I have tried to cover these elements, hence making this blog piece a really poor salesman’s really poor Norman Lewis.

Building Blocks:
(1) Target: Target is something you HAVE to meet.
(2) Maal: Forget 90s Bollywood movies for a minute. Maal means stock. Any form of stock. Stock at the depot is maal. Stock coming from the depot to the distributor is maal. Stock at the distributor is called maal too. Stock in transit from the distributor to the retailer, unsurprisingly, is also called maal. Stock at the retailer, surprise-o-surprise is maal, as well.
(3) Peti: Peti or case is a carton full of an SKU. This is the basic unit of measurement at a distributor point. Peti can also be called a case, but the latter just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
(4) Claim: Claim is the money the company owes to the distributor. Claims are like monsoons, always late and always falling short of expectations.
(5) Scheme: Scheme is the extra retailer discount on a SKU.
(6) C.D: C.D usually means Cash Discount. However, any form of retailer discount over and above SKU schemes is called C.D. While schemes are SKU specific, C.Ds are retailer specific.
(7) Consumer Offer: Unlike a scheme or a C.D which is meant for the retailer, a consumer offer is meant for the end customer.
(8) Primary: A primary sale is from the depot to the distributor.
(9) Secondary: A secondary sale is from the distributor to the retailer.
(10) Coverage: The number of outlets your distributors serves.

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, let’s look at the minarets these basic building blocks are capable of making:  
(1) Maal thhokna: Usually used for primary sales, maal thokna happens when you dump stock over and above his capacity at the distributor. This happens
a. When there’s huge pressure to meet Primary sales target
b. Always
(2) Peti Chipkana: Usually used for secondary sales, peti chipkana occurs when you lure the retailer with schemes and C.D and bombard him with maal in multiple petis that is enough to last him this season and the next. This happens
a. When there’s a new product launch in the market
b. When there’s slow moving stock in your inventory that you wish to clear
c.       Always
(3) RTGS karwana: Coax your distributor into making advance payment to the depot for stock purchase. This happens
a. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (banks remain shut on Sundays)
(4) Claim Banana: When you sit at the distributor point three months after the month whose claims you’re making and take a lot of printouts. This happens
a.       In the months in which you were really busy looking after the business and had very little time to settle distributor issues
b.      When your software was down at the end of the month
c.       Every month
(5) C.D kaatna: When the retailer asks for discounts over and above the ones he’s eligible for and the salesman ends up paying from his pocket because he doesn’t wish to spoil his relationship with the retailer. This happens
a.       When the retailers discount has been suddenly  discontinued because he doesn’t give you the same sales volume as he used to
b.      Always
(6) Credit Dena: When the retailer asks for more grace period to service his due debt. This happens
a.       At the expiry of his credit period
b.      At the beginning of the credit period
c.       During his credit period
(7) 2 bill chalana: This occurs when the retailer doesn’t make the payment to the distributor during the one week credit cycle and makes another order in the meantime, thereby leaving him with two bills outstanding to the distributor. This happens
a.       When the retailer is new
b.      When the distributor is old
c.       When the retailer is old
d.      When the distributor is new
(8) Replacement Uthana: When the salesman takes back unsold stock from the retailer after the product expiry. This happens
a.       When the distributor is new
b.      Never
(9) FIFO karna: To arrange your products in First In First Out order so that the old ones are sold quicker and hence there’s lesser chance of product expiry. This happens
a.       When the salesman is new
b.      Never
(10) Petrol phookna/chappal ghisna/Poora area karna: To visit every outlet in the beat. This happens
a.       When there’s a crazy target to be met
b.      When your Area Manager is with you. This further happens
                                                               i.      Once in a blue moon
(11) Magajmari karna: To argue with the retailer that yours is the best product. This happens
a.       When you don’t know your product
b.      When you lie about your product
(12) Weekly dalna: To note the closing stock at the end of the week. This happens
a.       On whatever day of the week that is convenient for you
(13) Order dalwana: To place an order with the depot for stock for the distributor. This happens
a.       When there’s a stock shortage at the depot
(14) Chal jaega: A common phrase used by retailers when they do not wish to make an order for your product. This happens
a.       When peti chipkana happened last week
b.      Every alternate week
(15) Chamdi jalana: To make sales only under bright sunshine. This happens
a.       When it rains
b.      In winters
(16) Chamdi Galana: To make sales only when it is cold outside. This happens
a.       In summers
That’s it then. Feel free to add your own.