The Secretary with a smile

In sales one of the early skills that you need to pick up is the ability to interact with the Secretary who manages and controls critical access to the super boss who is usually over-worked and has a long priority list on which you are likely to figure near the bottom or worse be even out of sight.

Young sales managers have an inflated sense of confidence where they see themselves charming the way across the Boardroom – little to they imagine that Secretaries are on the ball and they dislike nothing more than a ‘smarmy approach’ to get things moving.

In my early career I worked with an MNC finance company and we were in the business of financing two-wheeler loans to retail customers. A typical sales structure would involve using a sales force provided by a ‘Direct Sales Agency’ (DSA) to pitch the loan product to potential customers visiting the dealership and then ensure a quick and smooth completion of loan formalities. The other leg of the business involved developing relationship with the Dealers and doing promotional activities to push the sales volumes as well as the finance penetration in the same.

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Prabhu Deva – a star dancer.

I remember while being in high school it was quite taxing to prepare for the Board exams and one would look forward for even a momentary respite from the tedium of endless revisions and preparations. Have great memories of watching Prabhu Deva dance numbers on the national television network.

So ‘Urvasi Urvasi, take it easy Urvasi …’ and ‘Muqabla Muqabla … ‘ were rather entertaining numbers from the man who came to be known as India’s Michael Jackson. And before that we had him team with the emerging music director A R Rahman to deliver the riveting ‘Chikku bukku chikku bukku raile…’

We were used to Mithun Chakraborty as a ‘Disco Dancer’ in Hindi cinema and that was followed by Govinda as a ‘Street Dancer’, but I don’t remember any dancing stars in Tamil cinema before Prabhu Deva. In fact the only remarkable memory about male dancers in Tollywood is of the talented Bhagyaraj aping our ‘Jumping Jack’ Jeetendra in delivering ‘PT exercise style’ steps in his songs. And the trend in Tamil movies was to focus on the heroine for dance numbers and it was a revolution when we saw Prabhu Deva emerge on the screen and do western style numbers – again a novelty in our movies.

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The world of retail finance …

Around 2000 -05 period retail finance was a booming market in India along with many other spots in world. Finance companies looked at every possible avenue to convert consumer interest and desire into a sale – be it in the tangible form of loans to buy consumer durables, two-wheelers, cars, residential property, loans against property or as intangibles like credit cards, cash cards ,personal loans.

Working with a leading MNC in the space as a young Sales Manager just having completed my MBA was a great experience – life revolved in working hard and partying harder.

When I joined the finance company as an Assistant Sales Manager handling a dealer and DSA network to promote sale of finance for consumer durables, I had little idea of what the actual job would involve and also how the ‘practical’ application of finance would be so different from the theory we learn in B schools. But youth has its wings I believe so I was brash enough to look confident about being up to the challenge during my interview. On reflection later on I realized that the Business Head who interviewed me was not at all fooled – he was looking for enthusiasm (even misplaced) and was confident of the company’s induction process taking care of smoothing the rough edges.

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Irani Cafes in India

My childhood memories abounds with the time we used to spend in these quaint little cafes – once was just downstairs in the building I grew up in Pune, India and ironically was called ‘New York’. The other popular ones that I used to visit were ‘Naaz’ and ‘Maha-Naaz’ on Main Street in Pune Camp that was  popular for its unique version of a Veg Samosa. And Cafe Good Luck near my alma mater Fergusson College was so popular that the chowk was known by its name.

Invariably the most popular combinations served are ‘Bun-Maska & Chai’  and Brun bread. The number of cafes has come down significantly over the years for a variety of reasons including competition from modern cafes, rising costs and most importantly the lack of interest of the younger generation to continue the tradition of running the restaurant.

The Irani cafe always had a distinct look – marble top tables, quaint wooden chairs, pillars backed with full length mirrors, several creaky fans and wafting smell of freshly baked buns. Quite often we would get to hear the lovely hindi numbers from old movies that would be played on the All India Radio programs.The sweet milky Tea that is so popularly available as ‘chai cutting’ on the streets too was best served in these cafes. The cafes had their regular patrons and seemed to represent the unhurried world of the past where people had time to take a break and engage in a conversation.

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The world of a Medical Representative …

My elder brother always desired to be a doctor. He missed the opportunity and chose to work in the allied field by starting his career as Medical Representative with a German MNC in the mid-80s. My father had worked as a ‘Government Servant’ all his life and was a bit sceptical about his choice.

Back in the 80s, beyond the conventional streams of Engineering and Medicine, there were not many lucrative career options available for a young graduate. In fact jobs were hard to come by in those pre-liberalization days and one would be considered to have been fortunate to land a job offer with an MNC pharmaceutical group. However the offer caused a great schism between my father and elder brother as somehow he was not very keen on his son working in the private sector. My father was naturally drawn to the world of job security and ‘norm based progression’ and the private sector seemed to be rather fanciful to his mind.

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The magical world of Google search …

As an amateur blogger, I never quite realized till recently the importance of SEO in the lives of ordinary small time business owners.They increasingly discover that an appropriate ‘Digital’ presence and meaningful content that is continuously refreshed and innovated are the bare minimum requirements in order to survive and prosper in the digital jungle.

There is a potent strategy that is unleashed by having a website, listing with popular search engines, having presence on social media sites and leveraging a medium like Google Hangout.

I came across this article on the Net written by a lady who has been running a ‘Bed-and-Breakfast’ in one of the smaller resort towns by the sea in England for many decades now. It is a family owned business and she is helped by a few relatives in running it. She used to rely on traditional means of promoting business through a mix of referrals, tie-ups with local travel and tourist operators and publicizing through newspaper & radio. Everything changed when she learnt that listing her business in Google and ensuring a top page rank in Google Searches can drive enormous traffic to her business.

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Richard Attenborough – the man who immortalized Gandhi onscreen

Ben Kingsley as Gandhi in the eponymous film helmed by Richard Attenborough has been shown so often on the Indian national television that for most of us it is the first movie we saw on our ”Father of the Nation’. And Ben Kingsley powerhouse performance meant that the first impression is etched deep in our minds and subsequent imprints are not able to dislodge it.

And it is a fascinating story indeed – Richard Attenborough, a British director, and Ben Kingsley, an English actor, have immortalized Gandhi like no one else.Incidentally not many of us are aware that Kingsley had Indian roots as his father was an Indian and a Gujarati no less.Attenborough pursued the project for 18 years before he could finally convert his vision onto the celluloid.

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