One of the most important fundas of business, is creation of demand. In this context, I recollect the classic example of the foot wear salesman going to interior Africa where the whole population walked barefooted and sending a message to his boss that the scope was dismal. But the company found a great opportunity for market. I do not know what were the tactics they deployed to create a market for footwear in that " virgin " area.
But I am reminded of a few situations in my life in which I came across demand creation through hostile means.
My first bank branch was situated in the Erandwane area of Poona. The branch had a huge locker space in the basement. During the initial training of probationary officers, one had to work on all the seats, irrespective of the job content. My posting as the custodian of the safe deposit vault for a week was really a good experience to remember. The vault department was being pulled up for underperforming as many lockers were vacant. I managed to write a notice “lockers available " and displayed it near the work table. It did not yield very good results as we were insisting on a minimum amount as term deposit though it was against the RBI norms.
And then it happened.......The mysterious Abhyankar murders* took place on a new moon night. It was one of the most gruesome serial murder and looting incidents which took place in the the city of Poona during the seventies. Our branch was very close to the bungalow of Abhyankars. The whole of Poona was terrorised by this incident. The Balagandharva Rangamandir, a function hall which gets booked for 365 days much in advance, could not get bookings for performances on the consecutive new moon days as the serial killers struck on “amaavasya" days only. The impact was instant as our Bank was situated in an upper middle class locale. We could let out all the vacant lockers within a fortnight with every pre condition fulfilled without any demur. The head office which was oblivious of the immediate change in environment, sent a congratulatory message to the Branch Agent for the performance in vault business.
I used to ride a Jawa motorbike while in Poona. Being a bachelor, there used to be a thrill of riding to Bombay on weekends coupled with holidays. It so happened that during the rides, I was struck with bad luck of flat tyre almost at the same location near the Lonavla Khandala area. The misfortune of puncture drains out the whole pleasure of the trips, more so, if one travels alone. When I narrated the incident to one of my friends, he explained that he too had to face similar experiences. He asked me whether it took place in a place within manageable distance from the " puncture wala ". When I said yes, he had an instant explanation for it. The shopkeepers did deploy some boys to throw nails on the road at a spot, not far from their shops. They sometimes put a sign board also in the vicinity. The significant recurrence of incidents at the same area confirms that his was not a mere hypothesis, but a fact.... Another crude way of sales promotion....
I really got the impetus to write on the subject by looking at a scene outside a temple in South Kanara district in Karnataka. I had visited the temple immediately after some special festival. There were at least three thousand pieces of footwear of various sizes and brands varying from sandals and floaters to shoes and high heeled footwear. They were strewn around a corner beside the temple. I probed further to find out how this could happen. People hesitant to give the foot wear at the temporary cloak room, leave them near the entrance. It may be for want of time. Or they were vexed with the cumbersome process of packing the pairs in a filthy looking plastic sack and handing them over to the keeper who was generally very discourteous.
I could observe that one guy at fixed intervals ploughs through the footwear kept outside with a long stick similar to the one usually seen held by our beloved father of nation. He manages to heap them in such a manner that devotees coming back from the temple would have the "satisfaction " of having got rid off their penance along with Bata or Nike shoes costing a few thousands. Identifying one's own shoe from the heap is as difficult as getting possession certificate without bribe from the Village office . By chance one could find one piece, finding the pair was as difficult as finding a match for a girl with " chovva " dosham. I could see a few people looking at the heap as if they were witnessing the sight of the bomb blast at Sriperumpudur with deep breaths and angst and then resigning to the fate of buying a new pair of cheap rubber chappals at reasonable cost. It was quite noteworthy that a shop of foot wear was adjacent to the site described earlier. Here, I may summarise that the demand creation is suspected to be a joint venture between the contractor of the chappal stand and the shopkeeper. And I could find here the God helped the business of those who deployed the best marketing tactics......!
Leaving morals aside, in business too nothing succeeds like success........