Tales from Sales- the sub distributor hunt

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I was in Ahmedabad for 2 days. I wasn’t there to add value to anyone but myself and am not talking about the after work partying I did. The objective was to understand the sub distributor operations better. Sure, I have done this when I was working in GT sales. It was my bread and butter. But what has changed in the last few years in FMCG sales is – from talking about results, organizations have moved to processes. Not all of them but the good ones. Actually, the good ones have been doing this for a long time.

Example – When I was an ASM, I would be told to get Rs ‘X’ business, how I did it was left upto me. As an inexperienced management trainee turned manager I depended on colleagues, reportees, other MT turned manager friends and sometimes my reporting manager for help on HOW to do it. Most of it was common sense. Now, a person will be told HOW to do it. And even if he/she does not get results, as long as the process is followed, the organization is ok with it. For NOW. I don’t know if this changes if results don’t come even 2-3 years down the line.

Sub distributor network. There are lots of villages where the company cannot supply stocks directly because of cost implications. In such cases, they appoint a super distributor in a big town, for example Rajkot or Bhavnagar or Surat or Baroda or Ahmedabad who uses local transport or his own vehicle to send stocks to smaller distributors (not directly associated with the organization) who supply to local retailers or wholesalers and in near by towns. We spent the day meeting distributors in towns like Randhwa, Balwa and Nadirpur. It also gave me the opportunity to understand a PSR’s day to day life. PSR is a salesman on 3rd party pay roll (not directly associated with the organization) whose job it is to ensure sales and hygiene in these towns. The SS channel has the maximum complexity and potential. So many things can and do wrong but it is a goldmine for business.

The PSR I worked with moved from Ahmedabad to Memdabad because the travel was too hectic. His wife works at Reliance Jio call centre. They wake up at 5 am, cook their meals, leave home at 7, reach work by 8.30/9 and come back home at 8 or 9 pm. That is their life Monday to Saturday. But this guy said he loves the work. He loves travelling to new towns, meeting new people and learning so much everyday. How many of us can say that about our jobs? This post was supposed to be about something else but I think this is a good ending for it.

 


An ode to Gujarat

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We all have a place we can escape to. It used to be home for me. Everytime life got too much and I couldn’t deal, I packed my bags and rushed home 1.5 hours away. When I got bored at home, I rushed back to my happening life. I can’t do that anymore and am pretty sure, most of you reading this can’t do it either. There is no place to escape to, no place where you can just lay down and rest for a while. Or so I thought.

Few months back when the promotion at Mumbai was offered, I gasped in horror. Not Mumbai, not again. My manager sat with me for an hour to convert my “No” to “Maybe” to “Yes”. The pros and cons were equally balanced but giving me Gujarat made it so much harder to say “No”. I feel calmer and sure of myself here. I just belong. Somehow.

This is the city I can lay down and rest for a while. It has been here all along.


Rajkot – As close to childhood as I can possibly get

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I have spent majority of my school life in a boarding at Mt Abu. We had winter vacations for 3 months and one month out of it was spent at my maternal grandmother’s house in Veraval. I looked forward to it and cried when I had to go back home. There were 5 houses in the same compound. It was bustling with kids, adults, gossip, stray dogs, coconut trees from which we had fresh coconut water, fights between kids, badminton games, sneaking away for junk food, movies in our own theatres, outings to Somnath and Gir. I have 7 masis (mother’s sisters) who stay in other cities and their kids visited adding to the chaos. Festivals, weddings, events were best celebrated here.

In 2008, I moved to Mumbai from Gurgaon for a sales role. I had to manage sales and distribution for Saurashtra and Kutch. My base was Mumbai but I spent maximum time in Rajkot. I left one bag in Rajkot everytime I traveled.

I am back in Rajkot for the first time in 7 years and it still feels familiar. You know when you just feel like you belong? That’s the feeling I get here. I know the language, the Gujarati spoken here has a certain sweetness. I have grown up with it. People are hospitable. A retailer actually served us water without asking for it. At every store, the owners were nice, laughing and chatting like they have all the time in the world. And they do. At 1.30 pm, all the shops shut and the city prepared for lunch followed by siesta time which would last till 4 pm. I never found it weird when my father, who is a doctor, came home for lunch and a nap. I thought that’s what everyone did around the world. The people are the same, the executive was around in 2008, so was the distributor, so was the salesman. It’s like time has stopped still and all the memories are coming back in flashes. I close my eyes and can see events of 2008. I can recall friends, conversations, events, incidents… so many memories.

The funny part is most of the people from that year don’t exist in my life in a big way anymore. It makes me wonder will the important people in my life right now be there 7 years later? Am I investing in the wrong people? Or it doesn’t really matter? Just give what you can and don’t expect anything in return. Nobody is going to be around any way. There is a reason why am a human- capable of love, friendship, kindness, conversation and not an animal. Right? Should I live to MY fullest potential instead of the potential of the people around me?

What do you think?

 


Mumbai over Bangalore

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Who knew!!!

  • Better branch office. Lots of natural light. Newer office.
  • Better cabins
  • Work life balance
  • Fitness First (The one at Bangalore has shut down and will reopen soon. It was their worst branch and wasn’t a platinum gym)
  • Better (so much better) running scene
  • Better fashion sense (This is mainly in South Mumbai or in Bandra. But even Powai has women in great clothes)
  • Some of my favourite people are in Mumbai (haven’t met most of them yet)
  • Best city if you like plays (I get to watch the best plays before people in other cities. Yoohoo)
  • Metro (Makes east west connectivity hassle free)
  • Can get homemade food whenever I want because MIL (Who knew this would be on the list)
  • Less travel time to any part of the country (travelling 7 hours for Gurgaon would have sucked my soul)
  • Airport is close to where I live. 30 mins to international airport on a good day. 60 mins on a bad day.
  • Jams are predictable and can be avoided due to so many routes to any destination
  • Better cabs/auto scene (None of the “Pay Rs 20 more than meter” kind of scene)

I guess am ok being in Mumbai instead of Bangalore. I’d rather be in a city whose fuckallness is familiar to me and hence, will stress me out less.

Of course, Delhi NCR is bae. And none of the cities on this planet match up to its awesome-ness.


Can I do this?

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Before any new role, a huge part of me has always wondered; “Can I do this? Am I sure? Just because am good at X does not mean I will be good at Y too. Even though Y is just an extension of X. Maybe I should have stayed where I was. What if I fail? What if I realise am one of those people who knows shit about their job and spends his/her entire life pretending otherwise?”

Though the new role has looked like a tangle of wires and I haven’t known where they start, where they end and how do I untangle them – find the problem and the solution; things are starting to seem clearer day by day. I am not stressing about it. I am not freaking out. I still have to get inducted and until then, am going to take it easy. In my mind I have already planned how many days am going to travel next month (12 days + 6 days in Gurgaon + 2 days in Hyderabad = 10 days in Mumbai) and which all cities (A’bad, Surat, Baroda, Rajkot, Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior (!!), Jabalpur (!!!)). I also know which part of the job is going to frustrate me and there is no getting away from that.

The other half of the area is vacant right now and I don’t think the organisation has any plans to fill up the opening before January to save on the cost. Which means, there is nobody to teach or guide me and no colleague to bond with. I have to figure this out on my own, make my own mistakes (hopefully, not catastrophic ones) and learn from them. This part is tough. It is an opportunity as well because for 6 months, I can manage the entire region. The responsibility will enhance my CV. But it isn’t going to be easy. I will have to stay positive, work hard, travel a lot and not screw up too much.

Stay with me.

 


It has been a while

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Hiya. I have been awol because it has been busy. Shifting houses is a pain. Why isn’t there a service which takes care of all details? Why can’t I hire someone to set up my wardrobe- the way it was at home or set up the whole house. Why do I have to chase executives, plumbers, carpenters for days?

Anyway, the house looks live-able finally. There are a few more things that need to be added but am in no mood right now.

I have been worried that something will go wrong at the last minute and there will be a major crisis. Which is why I have tried to not be negative.

Of course, a lot of screw ups did happen. I had finalised a 2 bhk flat in Mulund- same complex I lived in earlier. The token was paid and I was supposed to sign the agreement after a week, once I was back in the city. Normally, these things happen fast. But this time I had to follow up with the broker everyday just for the agreement. He kept telling me everything is under control and the owner is out of town and blah blah blah. I sent my stuff through movers and packers without getting the final agreement. 3 days before I was supposed to come to Mumbai, the broker informed me that the owner has changed his mind. He wants a 6 months lock in period and 2 years agreement- neither of these terms are acceptable to me. I have never signed a house rent agreement with a lock in period and I, never will. Then, I called the broker of the other flat I had shortlisted- a 1 bhk in Hiranandani Powai. The flat was still available because the owners want to sell it. They can’t give an assurance that the next owner (if and when it sells) will buy it for investment only instead of staying in it him/her self. I went ahead with it any way because the thought of looking at more flats is nauseating. I couldn’t move in till Monday because the society had not given the NOC. Fun story behind that too. Apparently, the owner had not paid maintenance for the last few months due to which society was withholding the NOC. And the brokers kept this a secret.

Everything is sorted now. And am so glad I have to spend less than 10 days in Mumbai this month.

Right now, I think I will be able to stay for 6 months without major pangs as long as I spend 10-15 days in a month travelling.

I am off to Vizag tomorrow and looking forward to it.


Day 4 in Singapore

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I know I skipped days 2 and 3, I know how to count. I will get to them in a while. Today started with a quick 5 km run at East Coast Park. I had crossed it while travelling towards the city from the airport and made a mental note of checking it out. It is far from Orchard road, where we were staying, but we took an Uber and it took us 20 mins to get there. I would have run a 10 km if KC hadn’t accompanied me. We spent the rest of the day packing (the chocolates have taken up all the empty space and I can’t shop now), leaving our bags at the host’s house, shopping at Orchard road, picking up our bags and boarding the Star cruise Gemini.

When I visited Singapore in 2004 with my parents, the cruise was the highlight of the trip. Now, it seems a little sad. The crowd is made of Gujju families and other Asians. There aren’t any youngsters around and am wondering if this has been a mistake. Well, I plan to spend my time on the jogging track or at the pool or on the deck gazing at the sea.

When the journey started, I looked down into the water and wondered what happens if someone jumps into the deep sea. What if I jump? Will I regret it or will it seem like a relief? What would be my last thoughts? When I here 12 years back, I was studying engineering, with my family a and had a bf in college. None of them exist in my life in a big way anymore. Where will I be in the next 12 years?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not going to kill myself though I do think about it quite a lot. I am sure everyone has dark thoughts. I did try to do so 8 years back (in the lamest way possible) but realised soon enough that it isn’t for me. I tried it as a teenager too but love myself too much.

People who kill themselves are not cowards or depressed. They just know the gist of life – that there is no point to anything and it doesn’t matter if you are alive or dead.


Singapore Day 1

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This is my 2nd time in the island city-state. I visited in 2004 (I think), it was a holiday with family and organised by a travel agent. Then, I had no knowledge or interest in which tourist attractions we visit and what we do. I went along with whatever my parents decided.

Yeah, there was a time in my life when I wasn’t a control freak and did as told

We landed at 4 am (IST) and have just reached back home. We are staying very close to Orchard road at a place booked through air bnb. Our check in was at 12 noon (Singapore time) and we had to kill 3 hours at a coffee shop in the morning. The mall with 5 floors boggled my mind and I can’t wait to explore every mall on Orchard road.

We spent the day at Singapore Zoo and night safari. I was told one needs 3-4 hours at Singapore zoo but we managed to do it in 2 hours. Of course, it involved strategy and planning (my MBA degree is very handy). The zoo is amazing. It has white tigers, polar bear, sea lion, leopard, giraffe, zebras, puma, orangutan, anaconda, white lions, lions, pink flamingoes, sloth bear etc etc etc. The night safari is a guided tour in the tram where all these animals are given food under the light (street light) so people can see them clearly. I love how much effort has been put to rehabilitate animals and take care of them. It is an open zoo unlike the ones in India. You can even get off the tram during the night safari and explore the trails on foot. You can spend a whole day in the zoo and watch animals being fed. How cool is that.

Things I love about Singapore till now

  1. It is so green and the trees are so tall
  2. People are friendly. I guess it is an Asian thing
  3. People are well dressed. It gladdens my heart to come across people who make an effort into their dressing
  4. Everything is so convenient. Immigration took 2 mins, there are mints placed at the desk for everyone, the doors open automatically, the loo flushes automatically, the garbage bin has a sensor so you don’t have to touch it for it to open, there is a feedback screen in the loo which is also sanitised because one can never be too careful about germs. I, literally, don’t have to touch anything.

I plan to go for a run tomorrow and a running group acquaintance has tagged me on the 22 push ups challenge. I may take that up. Ciao. I will post pics once am home next week.


Travel

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I don’t understand how people travel to more than 1 country at a time on a vacation. How can I connect with a country in 2 days? What memories will I carry home? When I think about Italy, I don’t think about the Vatican or Colosseum. I remember sitting next to the sea at Naples and having a breezer, waiting for the buses in Rome, eating chicken curry and rice at midnight (Indian time. It was 9 pm in Italy) on my birthday at a Bangladeshi outlet because I didn’t want to look at another piece of bread, watching street performers in Florence and Naples, giving directions to other foreigners in Rome, eating every flavour of gelato (we exceeded our gelato budget). I don’t want to travel from tourist spot to tourist spot. I want to experience the city. I want to know what it feels like to actually live in this country. What would I eat? What kind of house would I live in? What air would I breathe? How would I commute to work? What kind of car would I drive (In Italy, not a very good one)? What kind of bus would I take? How would I dress? What would I do for entertainment?

When I close my eyes, I don’t remember the Duomo at Florence. I remember our airbnb host and his house and how he left it unattended when we left for a vacation on our last day there. I remember the old area of the city. I remember the new area because we took the wrong bus and landed up very far from our homestay. I remember the view from the window of our room. I remember the leather shops. I remember the small cafes. I remember the lady who wore my favourite perfume and I asked her about it. I remember the streets we walked on.

As we make final bookings for our international trip next month, I hope to discover another country where I have only done touristy things. I hope this time around I remember more than Sentosa Island, the night safari, Little India and Jurong bird park. I hope I can tell you what the people are like, what the cuisine is like, how they live, what language they speak etc etc. I hope I experience it enough to tell you what it would be like to live there. And no, we are not doing any other country like most people.

 


Ramblings on a Sunday afternoon

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Hiya… there is so much to talk about and so little time. Instead of being asleep, I am relaxing with a book and now the blog… Here goes:

  • I gained some weight in Goa (obviously)… too much food and rest and little exercise. So I went for a walk yesterday morning. The plan was to walk for 60 mins but I got 15 mins late. Now, how hard can 45 mins of walk be? Quite hard, actually. After 15 mins I got bored even though the weather was good and I had my ipod along. Thankfully, each round around my complex takes 15 mins so it was a matter of 3 rounds which I pushed myself to complete. I wanted to sleep on my return. Weird… I was supposed to feel refreshed but I was just tired and sleepy. There was no hope for that since it was time for work. All day my legs were aching and I had the Jazz classes today. Now, I am in bed trying to sleep off the pain. But, I plan to go for a walk everyday. I don’t have enough time to work out in the gym… I have been trying but cannot fit it into my schedule. Lets see how the walking works out.
  • Last night KC and I went for dinner to Big Chill in Saket. As I was leaving the Zara store after checking out the new collection (more on that later), the sales guy at Seacret caught me. I tried to avoid him since the products are expensive and I will never be able to afford them… ever. A year back I had been willingly led into the kiosk by a sales girl who showed me this amazing buffer. It was the best thing I have ever soon and I reached into my wallet to buy it. Price ??? Rs 3500… for a buffer!!! I smiled and fled. Yesterday, the guy showed me an amazing eye cream. Price??? Rs 7000… I laughed and told him I was not going to spend so much money on a cream. He persisted… showed me a scrub, night cream etc. And then offered 1 product free with the eye cream. Avoiding these guys is so difficult. I wish they would approach the people who purchase bagful of clothes from Zara instead of poor me- who only window shops there.
  • The new collection at Zara is… nothing new. Same old trousers (which were discounted earlier)… a top I bought  is available at the regular price (in a different color)… the blazer I have been lusting after is available at regular price again… it was discounted during the sale… same old styles… They really need to up the ante or will lose the charm.
  • I will reveal a secret- after watching serials like True Blood, I head over to tvrecaps.ew.com to read about the episode. Crazy, right? Not in USA… where people read about the episode and post their views on it. Their involvement level is higher than Indians. The difference is- in India, we (saas and bahus) identify with the characters in the event (not matter how over the top), in USA, they comment on plots, characters, point out things they liked or didn’t. I am sure producers/writers of the show are reading these comments. After all, it affects TRPs. Also, some actors are popular – they may have minor roles but ‘coz they were liked in some other serial. I guess, the writers/producers would want to increase their roles to increase TRPs. I read the recaps incase I missed out some part of the episode or could not connect what happened previously. Also, some of the comments are hilarious. Like, there are 2 black characters in True Blood… 1 is very popular but the 2nd one was a whiny character everyone was bored with (she has been turned to a vamp now). Some negatives comments against the character (not actor) started a racial war of comments. It was quite dumb actually. But, thats not the point. A lot of people were commenting how the serial ‘Game of Thrones’ is better than True Blood etc etc. I was intrigued. I downloaded and watched the 2 seasons (20 hours) in a week. Yep… thats a lot of TV/laptop. Game of Thrones is about kingdoms and war and maybe supernatural characters. It is based on a book by the same name by George R R Martin. I am waiting for the next season to begin in 2013. Worth a watch. Now I have downloaded Six Feet Under but its taking me some time to warm up to it. 6 episodes down and I am wondering about the tag “Best Serial created”…
  • I had purchased ‘Kitne Aadmi Thay’ by Diptakriti. I follow his blog and ordered the book from flipkart. It is a book about Bollywood trivia… only his blog made me spend that money. Disappointing. I don’t think I am going to finish it. Then I read the next part of True Blood… there is one more but its priced quite high. I will wait for a cheaper version before purchasing it. For the last 2 weeks, I have been hooked to the book ‘Game of Thrones’… problem is that the serial follows the book completely so there are no surprises. Its like I am watching the serial all over again. Hopefully, the 2nd part will be full of surprises.
  • I baked a cake on Rakshabandhan. I had the day off, was craving for something sweet but with fruits and wanted to carry something for my bro in Mumbai. I took the recipe for carrot, pineapple and walnut cake from Anita’s blog-  http://sliceofmylyfe.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/a-birthday-wish-for-the-special-people-in-my-life-with-some-carrot-cake/. Its the best cake I have made at home… yum. My bro also loved it. Here is a pic:

  • Recently some school acquaintances have formed a group on whatsapp and chat all day. Its kinda fun… except most of them have kids… and all of them (except me) like kids. Which makes it very awkward and irritating. Now, I do understand that mothers love their kids and love to talk about them. We all pass through stages in our life which change us- school, graduation, losing virginity (not in that order), post graduation, first job, affair, marriage, kids. Full stop. Each stage is monumental but kids are the most of all. Also, it is the also the last stage. I can’t think of anything more significant… not for me atleast. Yes, I also believe life ends as we know it once we had kids – for better or for worse. What I am trying to say is (and maybe failing) that mother/fatherhood is very significant. I do not deny it and mothers talking about their kids is natural. There are 2 blogs I follow which talk about kids regularly. My problem is when these mothers expect me to follow their footsteps- have kids and love them. Now, to each his own. The mothers cannot understand how someone does not “want” kids and does not believe that they are the best things in life. I don’t believe in universal truths. What is right for someone else is not necessarily right for me. And then these mothers start advising me to have kids. And even male colleagues/friends cross all limits by asking me when I am having kids. Its like everyone is worried about my ticking biological clock (except me). A best friend used to advise me to have kids in every phone conversation. I have stopped answering her calls. I may or may not have kids… its not of relevance to my life right now… but I refuse to follow the stages of life set by society. I will not have kids because now is the time or because I am expected to have them. I am such a stubborn mule that I may