The Eternal Journey

The Eternal Journey

Footpath Shopping, teaches you better marketing than Classrooms...

Gone are the days when India was totally a Sellers’ Market. It underwent a major Transition to a Buyers’ Market.
India is nothing less compared to the rest of the World. People here are also demanding cutting edge technologies, and most of the companies are launching their products first in India.

Such are the statements that we have been seeing / hearing in the recent past about the Indian Markets. However, the Indian markets have actually undergone an apparently inconspicuous change. Especially the Indian Open Markets (Footpaths), I realize, are again progressing towards being Sellers’ Markets.

To cite a few experiences, recently, I went to the “Fashion Street” in Mumbai, along with a friend of mine. I was surprised to see a drastic change in the behavior of the sellers there. More than a half of the shops have a “Fixed Price Rs.XXX only. No Bargaining" boards. Even the other half without boards mark up the prices and allow very little bargaining. Long back, we used to see footpaths with clothes priced at around Rs.200, Rs.300, etc. But now, the prices there are alarming. And the kind of feeling they show on you when you bargain and do not buy (due to an unfavourable bargain), is really embarrassing. They look as if they mean “If you can’t spend even this much, why do you even come out for shopping?

Another very interesting experience was when I went to Ameenabad at Lucknow. I as usual, was bargaining in my style and the shopkeeper suddenly starts giving me a lecture on pricing, perception, quality, etc. I felt that I could have very well invited him for a guest lecture at our college. Here goes the conversation.
US is Uday Sankar (myself) and SK is the Shop Keeper.
US: Bhai, yeh kitna hai? (pointing to the item that I wanted to purchase..)
SK: 400 saab.
US: Dene ka daam bolo bhai.
SK: Ek hi daam hai sir. Aisa bolne ka ek daam, dene ka ek daam nahi hota hai sir…
US: bhai.. aisa kuch nahi.. bolo finally dene ka daam..
SK: theek hai sir. Kitne denge aap?
US: (having looked it in and out, I think for a while and say,) 150.
SK: (laughs as if I’m coming out into the market for the first time..)  Sirji, bolne ke liye bhi thoda tho nasdeeq daam hota hai.
US: Nahi bhai.. is se jyaada daam hoga nahi is ka..
SK: Sirji, agar yehi cheej ko dukaan mein 1500, 2000 bolke tag lagaate hai, aur aap log udhar jaake udhar se hi lete hai.. aur yahaan pe itne kam daam pe bargain kar rahe hai..??
US: hmmm… nahi bhai.. final daam bol raha hoon.. 200. Us se jyaada tho main nahi doonga.
SK: nahi sir.. 350 last hai…
US: nahi.. nahi chahiye. Agar 200 mein dena hai tho dedo…
SK: Nahi bhai.. nahi milega.. aap chaahe tho yahaan kisi bhii shop mein jaake poochiye. Agar kahi bhii aapko 350 se ek rupaye kam mein milega tho mein ye aapko free mein dedoonga..
And during the conversation, he also started giving me GYAAN that they also invest a lot in getting branded goods and as buyers, we should change our perception towards the footpath goods.

I leave the shop puzzled and speechless. That was when I really felt, I should have taken a course on “Negotiation Skills”. However, one interesting observation that I made during these innumerable bargains that I made is that as long as you pamper the ego of the shopkeeper, you end up getting a very good bargain. The moment you start saying things like “is mein kya hai yar..” or something else like that, you end up losing the bargain. The worst thing probably that you can say is “who dukaan mein (some other shop) mujhko Rs.XXX mein mil raha hai na. tho, tum bhi de sakthe ho na?” kind of things. The moment you say that, the next statement you hear is a very diplomatic “GET LOST and get your item from the so called shop only. Why are you even here?

One interesting observation I made about the Indian Footpath market is that, it was initially under a sense of competition, with each peddler/shopkeeper, in the process of maximizing his own income, sold at very low prices. I still remember bargaining to 10% of the quoted price and ending up in a purchase. However, these days, the sense of competition has changed more into a sense of cartelization. Now, the most common statement one would hear at such a shop is “bhaisaab. Agar is poora market mein aapko koi bhii is se sasta daam mein de raha hai to mein aap ko is cheez muft mein doonga”; i.e. A statistical confidence interval of 100%. Their attitudes have changed from “come sir. Please buy this. Buy that…” to the extent of “if you can’t buy, get lost. I have more people coming”. It has changed from selling at marginal profits to selling at fixed profit margins.

As the per-capita income and standard of living of the population in metros has increased, these footpath merchants have realized the fact that people can spend more. So, this could be one of the many reasons of this phenomenon. Whatever be the reasons, on one hand, I’m happy to see the Indian unorganized market actually realizing the nuances of business and working towards making better businesses and better profit margins instead of cannibalizing each other. On the flip side, I can no more boast of purchasing things for obnoxiously low prices. L

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