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Enterprising the Chaat

by Bunkumbee
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I am Bankim Biswas and what I write is a lot of bunkum and wish-wash. Entrepreneurship and Innovation! All bunkum and wishwash, invented by a set who love jargon more than they like jaggery. Let me explain. There’s some background to this. Do you know Takat Singh Aslinglji Purohit? He was a cook in the H4 mess. He spent less time cooking food and more time cooking up plots and schemes to fight with G-Secs and Mess Secs in his capacity as the Gen Sec of the IIT Bombay Mazdoor Union. This was in the 70s and early 80s. In 2009, when a group of H4 alumni descended on H4 to pay back the mess workers with some gratitude and some cheques, Takat Singh was still trying to cook. He was a recipient of the alumni largesse and in an emotional moment, he invited all the assembled H4 alumni for a chaat party at his chaat stall just outside H5. Both his grown-up sons churned out bhel puri, paani puri, sev puri, papdi chaat and fruit juices at a quick speed. Takat Singh himself served alumni junta, helped by fellow mess workers who had been serving and waiting on tables for over 25 years now. Not only that, Takat Singh refused to accept payment for the delicious chaat which was modestly priced at Rs. 10 per plate as declared in the painted price list hanging on a pole of his stall.

Masquerading him as an entrepreneur did not change the quality of his chaat, neither did it change his objective of trying to make ends meet

While savouring bhel and chaat, alumni CXOs discussed the change in Takat Singh’s demeanour. The change from a higher-pay-demanding-union-leader to a benevolent-chaat-stall-owner. “He’s an entrepreneur now!” CXOs announced. “And he’s not charging us because he’s investing in relationship management.” Fortunately, Takat Singh did not know English, leave alone jargon-ese, otherwise he would have protested. He was, what he would have been called in the 80s, a chaatwala. Masquerading him as an entrepreneur did not change the quality of his chaat, neither did it change his objective of trying to make ends meet. Back then, they all did it. Ghosalkar worked in the IIT press but rushed to assist his son at his bookbinding shop at Y-Point. Muley signed off from work early and cycled to hostels to type BTPs (B Tech projects) at Rs. 100 apiece. Godbole, whether in the estate office or in his later day posting at security office, spent evenings and weekends assisting his wife in her tailoring venture. All struggling middle class folks who were trying to make ends meet. Happy to be called bookbinder, typist and tailor respectively. Would have been aghast as being re-incarnated as entrepreneurs. Technically and dictionary-ly, they were and are entrepreneurs.

Don’t ask me what back of the envelope is, since I’m not too sure.

There was a venture capitalist amongst us. VC was devouring the chaat and looking at Takat Singh intently. A look that said that he wanted to advance a proposal to Takat Singh. Fortunately, there were some amongst us who were still engineers and spoke English. We had the presence of mind to whisk VC away from TS. Had we not done that, this is the likely conversation that would have taken place.

VC: Takat Singh! Brilliant chaat. Congrats on your new enterprise. You now need to expand your business and make it go global. Here’s my visiting card. Call me and we’ll discuss funding options for your venture.

TS: Sir, I don’t know what you mean. I have only 2 sons and they’re doing their best and helping my family make ends meet. How can I expand? Do I need funding? What are its implications? Will you charge 4% per month and make me pawn my wife’s jewellery? There is none left by the way.

VC: Come on TS. You are an entrepreneur now and must think like one. Think big. Hire a marketing consultant and we’ll roll in big business. Don’t worry! I’ll recommend the consultants to you and advance the payments to get you going. But first, send me a PowerPoint presentation that describes your vision statement for your venture and please list out your short term and long term objectives.

TS: My short term objective is to stop talking to you and make sev puri for this gentleman who’s been waiting for some time now. My long term objective is to go buy balloons and lollipops for my grandkids and pick up my wife from her workplace and bring her home this evening. What is a PowerPoint presentation? What is a marketing consultant? What good will they do to me and you? Did you find my bhel that bad that you are suggesting all this?

VC: Oh never mind! I’ll find you a technical consultant who will make your PowerPoint presentation. I’ll hire a strategy consultant who will list out your objectives. And the marketing consultant will…….

TS: But what is all this? What will all these people do? What will they say? How do I pay them? If you’re advancing them, what’s in it for you? Can you please pause for 2 minutes so that I can make one bhel for this other man who’s come here, without any consultants telling him to come here?

VC: Ok TS! Here’s the broad plan. Back of the envelope calculations from my side. Don’t ask me what back of the envelope is, since I’m not too sure. Let’s say that we call your venture TSC. Short for Takat Singh Chaat. Right now, you’re operating at TSC@H5. You can look at expanding to TSC@H1, TSC@H2 and so on. Open up 15 TSCs.

TS: But how Sir? I have 2 sons, not 30. I can barely run this place. How do I run 14 more?

VC: Aha! That’s where we come in. Your strategy consultant will tell you that you can outsource the assignment to others. To franchisees who will run individual TSCs and pay you the franchise fee.

TS: Aree baap re! When I served you in H4 25 years ago, you used to read up books on induction motors and differential equations and properties of argon, while eating my stale chapatti. Where did you learn to talk about franchise and outsourcing and whatever? Tell me, do you seriously understand your own words? I can ask Shantaram Gawde to open up one chaat stall at H3. But he will call it SGC@H3. Why will he call it TSC@H3? And why will he pay me?

VC: TS. Samjha karo. I did not learn anything about properties of argon. So they taught me some jargon. Shantaram will pay you the franchise fee when our consultants explain the concept of brand merchandising to him.

After adjusting my equity to incorporate all advances and funding, after paying strategy consultant, marketing consultant, FB consultant, relationship manager, franchise manager, outsourced personnel, pricing consultant, printing, stationary, overheads, travel expenses, merger-and-acquisition consultant, you will certainly do better than what you’re doing today.

TS: I still don’t understand. Anyway, what will the marketing consultant do? I still think that you do not like my bhel and that’s why you’re doing this to me.

VC: OK, let me explain. Marketing guy will tell you to revise your pricing upwards. You have to pay the consultant fees anyway. Introduce new items in your menu. Yes! Yes! I know you are short of hands and cannot introduce any new items. Don’t worry! Make the same chaat. Just call it paapdi chaat at Rs 50, Delhi chaat at Rs. 60, Agra chaat at Rs. 70 and TSC special chaat at Rs. 80. Don’t ask me why anyone will pay differentially for a chaat which is the same. And add mixture of potatoes, onions, peas and tomatoes. People are brand conscious nowadays. They will pay an extra Rs. 10 for a Delhi handle, 20 for Agra and what not. Pay for getting FB likes. Ashok Gehlot has supporters in Istanbul thanks to FB. Get liked in New Zealand and see what it does to your profile. Young consumers will declare, “I am chaating at TSC@H6”. Hundreds will like this statement and someone will soon send out an invite. Soon, there will be a contest to see which TSC will get max attendance. You can also double the price one day and announce “happy hours” where you can buy one and get one free. Organize theme weeks. During Navaratri, announce a Gujju week and add sugar and jaggery to your chaat and serve to the garba and dandiya gang in all hostels. During a Bong week, add fish pieces to a bhel. During a Goan week, add feni into the paani puri and so on. Expand. Ideate. Innovate. Outsource. Focus. Strategize. Learn. Discuss. Focus on key deliverables. Climb the learning curve. Generate collaterals that extol the virtues of chaating. Create a website and induce maximum hits. And when the days get heady, sell your venture to the highest bidder. Hire a merger-and-acquisition expert to sell to TCS….

TS: Sir, most of the TCS employees have all eaten my chaat. Why should I sell when I’ll do as well as you say I will? And why will TCS buy my modest stall?

VC: TS, you don’t understand. Nowadays, people don’t sell when they’re in trouble. They sell when they’re doing well. You cannot understand why you shut down Windows by clicking on the Start button. Same reason, you’ll not understand why people sell when they do well. TCS will buy you out because they don’t want infringement on their brand. TSC sounds similar to TCS. From your chaating clientele, they’ll find potential employees, vendors, outsourced agents and consultants. They’ll buy all TSC franchisees and pay a fat sum.

TS: Ok ok! So after all this, how much will I make?

VC: (pulling out his iPad) Hmmmm… after adjusting my equity to incorporate all advances and funding, after paying strategy consultant, marketing consultant, FB consultant, relationship manager, franchise manager, outsourced personnel, pricing consultant, printing, stationary, overheads, travel expenses, merger-and-acquisition consultant, you will certainly do better than what you’re doing today. By the way, how much do you earn now?

TS: I can buy 2 balloons and 2 lollipops every week for my grandkids and on holidays, I also earn enough to buy cinema tickets for me and my wife.

VC: See, I told you. You can do better with my plan. You can now buy 4 balloons, 4 lollipops, 4 chocolates and you can watch 2 movies every month as an added bonus. And feel happy that you have provided income to so many consultants, who’ll earn enough money to buy your chaat 10 times over. So shall we shake and sign the deal?

TS: Sir! Can we hire a history consultant who will tell us how to slip back into the eighties?

1 comment

Divya Johari January 23, 2014 - 5:18 pm

An amazingly framed article indeed!

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