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Inspiration, dedication and the power of a brand

Life has many lessons to teach  and often these lessons arrive through unexpected sources. Recently, I received a lesson in hard work, dedication and the power of a brand through the most unexpected individual.

This individual was not a high ranking brand manager, he wasn’t even a well educated soul. The lesson was delivered through Kallu.

Kallu is a young boy who has a bun masks stall near my office. He wasn’t fortunate like some if us. He didn’t have parents who loved him and were well off enough to provide him with all he desired. Kallu started working when he was just 12 years old. His job was to attract customers. He had to charm the Didi’s to come visit his uncle’s lassi and masala chaas stall as the small tapir was hidden in a corner. He used to go all out convince them to come drink a cold beverage but despite his efforts and success he still listened to his uncle’s yelling that he was useless and a waste of money. He wasn’t allowed breaks and wasn’t allowed to play.

After three years of dealing with his uncle, he managed to find a job at a hotel. He had to clean up tables and wash dishes. This job was slightly better than the previous but it wasn’t perfect. His coworkers were hostile as he earned larger tips through a combination of a sweet smile, polite behavior and an helpful attitude. The hotel owner like his uncle liked to yell. A broken dish brought on shouts claiming he was useless and a wastage of money. Despite the hostile atmosphere he continued to work until the day he got beaten up by the owner of the hotel over a misunderstanding.

Kallu decided he didn’t want to work for anyone anymore. He and three of his friends decided to start a stalll of their own using the money they had earned in the past five years.

This decision started a new phase in his life.

Kallu no longer had to deal with abusive behavior but he had to give hafta to the policemen for allowing him to put his table in the footpath and keep his furniture – a table and stools safe. He also had to buy everyday raw material and packaging material for making bun masks.

Kallu taught his friends the lessons he had learnt from his past two jobs. He taught the manners he learnt in his hotel job and customer attraction tactics that he learnt from his uncle. Using these tricks, they found a visible location for the stall. They paid a few extra bucks for the location but they refused to make the same mistake as his uncle. People visited their stall because they recognized them. They were also quick to service as Kallu knew that delays caused customers to leave.

The first point he learnt was to be in a place where you are visible it’s only then that people would recognise you and come to you, this he learnt from the mistake made by his uncle. Even if calls for a few buck extra it was worth it. And he would be quick in response which he learnt from his hotel job, where he would see many customers go because of delay.

According to me Kallu is an excellent marketer who knows the basic rules of the game – customer acquisition and customer retention. The pillars of marketing.

Today, these four friends work in shifts, turn by turn. They also plan to expand. They also joined a chain of dabbawalas part time where they are learning the secret of time management.

Meeting Kallu has changed a lot of my own perceptions about life. I learnt that you cannot carry on the same attitude through out life. You have to adapt as you learn. So make sure to observe, adapt and inculcate the lesson life offers.

To me Kallu is a good marketer and someday when I train management grads, I would invite him to share his knowledge on all his learnings. As they say sitting in an AC room working on PowerPoint and excel is notas educational as real life experienc.

Kallu Ki tapir is now the landmark for hundreds and thousands who visit that area.

This is the Power of Brand

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