Harrods and Walmart on a push cart

If you know India a bit or have been there sometime, you probably have seen many sights that you could call ‘unique’. Now having been born and brought up in Delhi and it has to take a lot for me to be surprised by something. But the following did.

Harrods and Walmart on a push cart

The above crossed my path while taking a breather on a mission to do the customary wedding shopping of  jewellery and sweets on my recent trip to India,  as i landed up in a part of Delhi that most of you may not even know exist. Absolutely back of the beyond but arguably some of the best mithai (sweets) that you can get in Delhi. Since i am interested in the consumption and not in the act of preparation or buying, i decided to wait next to my car while the rest of the companions pushed and jostled to reach a small mithai shop , where our order was being freshly prepared and packed (that’s India for you).

While waiting and watching the incredible late afternoon hustle of this trading street, the above caught my eye.  The sheer irony of encountering this, while on the way to one of the most exclusive addresses in Delhi for jewellery shopping, was striking. This 2 square mtr wide push cart that makes its way around this street had a collection that rivals the best that Harrods or Walmart can offer, and some stuff they can’t!  Intrigued by the collection, i inched closer trying my best to stay conspicuous, but without fail, as i attracted almost as much attention from this cart’s customers as it wares.

During a space of 15 minutes, the proud owner sold a Burbirry belt (for 75 cents, to a resolute lady who bargained as if there is no tomorrow), a pair of Doir Sunglasses (Dior or Doir is perhaps better known on that street compared to Burbirry/Burberry, so with the added brand premium the cost was 1.50 dollars) , several notepads whose buyers were probably more interested in the pictures on them than what will be scribbled inside, fixed a new buckle on someone’s belt, sold 2 ear muffs to hapless folks braving the freezing temperatures of 15 degrees, some knick-knacks to kids etc. etc….

What’s astonishing is not the prices, or the amount of imitation and wrongly spelled designer brands on offer but how perfectly the owner has captured the pulse of his market. He knows perfectly what will sell, which ‘brands’ are the most sought after, how much stock to carry, which customers will actually buy and which are just hanging around, who is a hard bargainer and whom he can profit from, optimal shelf space utilization, display design – the list is endless. All this without a million dollar customer research, inventory and supply management, customer service training budget.

I bow to your ingenuity ‘O great retailer with the rickety push cart. Philip Kotler should have taken you as the prime case study while writing his seminal book on marketing. The world acknowledges India as the next economic superpower and wants a slice of the Indian consumer pie. But Harrods & Walmart,  don’t even think of setting up shop in India, because this guy will beat you hands down and twice over on a Sunday.


What to expect when expecting someone at IG airport Delhi Terminal 3

This is essential reading for anyone planning to go the new terminal 3 in Delhi to receive someone. If you go without reading this, you do it at your own peril.

Last evening I played the good son-in-law and went to receive my wife’s mum at the spanking new Indira Gandhi airport terminal 3.  All the men reading this know the situation – such tasks are moments of truth with no room for error, this better go like Swiss clockwork with Six Sigma precision.

Now this is my first time there, I plan for more than enough time and get there at 1915 for a 1935 flight. And I take the brilliant ‘Kafka at the shore’ by murakami with me thinking I can devour some more pages of this quirky and tangential book. The moment I get to the arrival area, I know it’s going to be anything but smooth. Here’s why:

First of all it’s the sheer number of people standing their to receive others. This is Delhi, so the ratio is typically 3:1 (3 receivers, 1 passenger)

Using my Delhi traffic skills, I push, shove and reach the front of the crowd and soon am standing right in front of gate 3. I can’t miss her now, I say to myself. I am proved wrong immediately. From my position I only have a view to gate 3, what’s happening at the other gates is a complete mystery to me – thanks to the huge pillars blocking my view of the other gates which are miles away.


Trying to find a better vantage point I wriggle my way thru, reach gate 2 only to find the same situation repeated. View only to gate 2, absolutely no sight to gates 1 and 3.

The gravity of the situation dawns upon me, it will be disastrous if I manage to miss her. So I use all my grey cells and my brilliant skills in spatial geometry, and manage to find myself a vantage point from where, thanks to my height advantage compared to the average Indian male, I can more or less monitor gates 2 and 3, but gate 1 is still mystery thanks to the architectural skills of the designer of this airport.Getting to gate 1 doesn’t make it any better

This is turning out to be more difficult than cracking ‘the daVinci code’! I should remember to pack my X-ray glasses next time i come here, i make a mental note. Its 2015 already, I better find my mom-in-law fast! I can see my stock slipping in my lovely wife’s book, who (thanks to female telepathy) can surely sense all this confusion regarding her mom sitting thousands of kms away in Switzerland.

I am not alone though, many people around me are in similar dire straits. Practically everyone is barking into their phones trying to shout over the din,
“… Where are you, I am waiting at gate 1″
” I can’t see you, I am gate 3″
“… turn left and come to gate 1″
” .. Ok right, I coming there”
” …. No, not right – LEFT, LEFT … #*@+&! (choicest punjabi expletives)

I am convinced this receiving area was designed by the Indian consortium of telecom companies rather than an architect, for this must easily be the highest revenue grossing hot spot for them. I fall prey to their plot, try to call her, but mistakenly call my wife’s dad halfway across India, who is probably in bed by now (damn … further downgrade of my stock!).

So eventually after a few more phone calls, I catch her, a few pleasantries and profuse apologies later, we start to make our way to the parking lot. Reaching the elevator bay, both of us stand there perplexed – these must be the most advanced elevators in world – no buttons whatsoever to call them! Till we spot this small little sign next to them …

….. come on guys, give me a break!

Share this with anyone going to to the new terminal 3 at Delhi airport to receive someone, or better still if you know someone who has anything to do with the Delhi airport, pls show this to them … hopefully they might want to do something about it.

airports – grimly efficient and effectively grim

I am sitting here at my gate at the zurich airport, waiting for the wonderfully prim, proper and fresh looking airport staff (even at 2145 in the night) to announce departure of my flight to Delhi. Having finished the intriguing ‘The name of the rose’ by Umberto Eco, and too lazy to make the effort of starting ‘Kafka at the shore’ by Murakami, I start to look around me. Inspite of having frequented this place umpteen times, I cannot help but admire the grim efficiency on display around me – strong bold lines, stark colour schemes, vast empty places, shiny granite, inviting lounges with wafting aromas of freshly brewed coffe, hundreds of comfortable seats set in ramrod straight lines, perfectly arranged alluring mounds of chocolates at the Sprungli shops, and the airport music – which for all the effort that has gone into it selection – is now starting to irritate me.

It all adds up to an image of perfect order, customary of the Swiss. But is it a little too perfect? Being an Indian and having frequented many of the Indian airports, I miss that bit of life, atmosphere and drama that epitomises India – frantic announcements being made for the elusive Mr Gupta who is keeping the whole flight to Jallandar waiting because he decided to cuddle up on a bench and catch forty winks, the rookie counter clerk who has managed to lock himself out of the check-in system and cannot log in because his supervisor has gone for a 5 min break which has now extended to 30 mins, the single coffee machine attendant who is struggling to serve the 100 desparate coffee seekers but can still keep a radiant smile on his face inspite of that damned machine which keeps shutting down on him, kids running amok playing hide and seek, the earnest young airport attendants always eager to help the elderly – the list is endless . And how can one forget the ubiquitous Indian ‘policewallah’, hundreds of them are present everywhere you turn your head, resplendent in their crushed and somewhat soiled uniforms, the glorious pot belly and that constant itch in the unmentionables that he religiously attends to in public view of hundreds of hapless passengers that he is sworn to protect – but from what, even he does not know!

Suddenly I snap back into reality, a crystal clear announcement announces the departure of the flight, all waiting passengers line up in an orderly fashion, a plastic smile and a programmed ‘enjoy your flight’ later, I am on my way to the aircraft. A few hours later I will be in Delhi at the spanking new terminal 3 – which for all it modern design and amenities – will surely greet me with some of the sights mentioned above. I am sure at that point in time I will long for the cold efficiency of it’s Swiss counterpart … Or will I?

Maybe so, may be not – such are the follies of the human heart.