Marketing Maladies – communication

This story starts with me receiving the following email. I have edited out the names for obvious reasons, but everything else about the story is exactly as it happened.

“Dear Ramana
This is to let you know that your copy of the above was sent through XYZ Couriers yesterday. The air waybill number is 12345678.

With regards
Sumathi.”

I replied as follows:

Dear Ms. Raipure,

I am indeed grateful that you have sent the book off. Thank you. I am also impressed that you have informed me about the despatch and having given me the waybill number etc. I thank you once again.

I am an Indian. I am 65 years old and in our culture I am at an age where I am revered. I do not know how old you are, but even if you are close to retiring, I am still too old for you to take the liberty of calling me by my first name. I am offended.

I write this not because it will in any way reduce the sense of outrage, but to convey to you that it is the custom, even in the land of the most informal, the USA to get some one’s permission before addressing him by his first name. I hope that with this mail, you will be able to appreciate our customs and values, and will refrain from this obnoxious practice of calling strangers by their first names.

RAMANA RAJGOPAUL

I received the following mail in response:

Dear Mr Rajgopaul
I apologise. It was never my intention to offend you.

With regards

Sumathi.

The background.

A leading newspaper advertised a new book and offered it for sale online. I quite liked the contents of the book and placed an order online for the book. After the book was dispatched, this exchange of correspondence took place.

My observation on the event.

I suppose that modern ways of communicating with customers are different from the way we were taught to communicate. I feel sad. Perhaps I am an anachronism, fit only to live in the past. I somehow cannot believe that the apology is genuine. Neither the tone nor the brevity of the message suggests it.

Cartoon depicting Reality!

R K Laxman needs no introduction. Nor his timely comments through his cartoons.

This morning’s cartoon, depicts the common man listening to a man reading the newspaper and exclaiming, "Things are getting better. In the whole paper today, there are reports of only two murders, one bank robbery…."

Today’s Headlines cover a famour case where two young students murdered a perceived threat to their romance by poisoning him. Both got life sentences.

The next prominent front page news was one major robbery in the local electricity distribution board’s collection center from which about a lac and a half of rupees were robbed at gun point.

Not many other criminal cases inside. Things are certainly improving!!

India unifying?

My friend from Tirupur shared a problem that he faces in the new factory that he has put up at Coimbatore. He is unable to get employable workers! He personally went to some villages around Coimbatore to recruit some apprentices but was unable to. He was amazed at the response from women of these villages who were willing to come to learn and work in his plant if some kind of hostel accommodation was provided but the men were simply not interested. The reason? The various schemes given out by the government for the unemployed gave them sufficient funds to enjoy themselves without working.

Normally, I would have written off such comments as prejudice from armchair pundits. This friend however is not prone to exaggeration nor is he capable of untruth. He sincerely wished to create wealth and provide employment to people from the underprivileged background but this is what he found.

He further went on to say, that his is not an isolated instance, and other small and medium scale entrepreneurs too were faced with this problem. Both at Coimbatore and Tirupur therefore, increasingly, women from Kerala and men from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, are being encouraged to come to work. I have first hand knowledge of the imported labour from Bihar and UP in the North Western states of India as well as in Gujarat and Maharashtra and its political dimensions.

Is this now Nature’s way of unifying India? Consider the additional fact of Haryana and Rajasthani men not finding brides locally due to female infanticide etc, going to Kerala, Orissa etc to bring back brides, this certainly seems to be so!

The minus side to this development however is the fact that the women involved in all this simply slog, and the men folk of their families enjoy themselves at their expense. About that development, more in a future blog.

Aspirations

I had given a brief note about Tirupur in my post yesterday and rather mysteriously advised that I shall continue on the subject of “Aspirations”. So, here I go.

My guests are son, daughter-in-law and grandson of a very dear friend of mine from Tirupur. My friend is a second-generation entrepreneur but has concentrated on being an agent for various manufacturers and a merchant rather than go into manufacturing. His father before him too was similarly a merchant.

My friend, let us call him SG, had a lot of hopes of his only son, my guest, let us call him SM, will join him in the business after his college education. SM did try that for a while but found that working for his father was too restraining and so went off on his own into business. He is a serial entrepreneur, and was one before that term became popular. He had a series of fiascos and finally came out a winner and has been with two businesses, which are successful since the last five years.

He, his wife and two sons however find that Tirupur is not exactly the kind of place that they would like to live. They have set up another home at Coimbatore, which is only fifty kilo meters away and is the largest city in that area.

Just about every family from Tirupur is going through this problem of the younger generation not prepared to live and work in Tirupur. They want to migrate to bigger cities and even abroad. Given the background that every singly business house in Tirupur is family owned and managed, there is a kind of crisis building up with younger generations not willing to stay there.

So, from agriculture to industry/commerce and to emigration, aspirations have made Tirupur an enigma! When I probe the causes for this phenomenon, I find that information regarding the life styles of people in cities, gleaned from the ubiquitous TV is responsible for this desire to get away from the stifling family, cast and social restraints that the rather orthodox community of Tirupur insists on.

So, a kind of revolution of sorts is taking place and quite how the next twenty or so years will be handled by this buoyant town is to be seen.

Aspirations I

We have guests who have come to spend a few days with us to enjoy the monsoon. They come from the rain shadow area of Tamil Nadu where, they hardly ever see rain. Since agriculture was such a miserable way to live, almost the entire area converted into a hosiery manufacturing cluster- Tirupur.

I have been associated with Tirupur from 1969. My first visit is still vividly etched in my mind. There was literally nothing in that town except a big wholesale trade in cotton and a few ginning mills. There were a few banian makers like Spider, Bison etc and quite a few handloom enterprises. The modes of transport for visiting salesmen like me was to either hire a bicycle for a day or to use pony drawn jatkas.

There was only one place where one could stay for the night and that was a lodge with a hall containing a number of cots and just two toilets and bathrooms for the whole lot. Most sensible salesmen, stayed in Coimbatore and worked Tirupur and Avanashi by visiting from there. The bus service between the three towns was quite efficient though not frequent enough.

Today, Tirupur is a completely different place, almost a full-fledged city. It has some hotels and restaurants that can compete with the best in the world. It has a work culture that is unbelievable for its sheer exuberance. There are so many Rupee Zillionaires that they are no longer of any novelty value. Like all other cities, it also has its maddening traffic, pollution, crowds; lack of parking places, civic amenities etc, but survives successfully in that chaos it does.

I shall continue with this article tomorrow. The title “Aspirations” has to be elaborated and that will be done tomorrow, somewhat like the TV serials!

The joy of writitng

Since long, some of my well-wishers have been urging me to blog. I did blog on some social networks and even had my own blog on a free hosting service for a while. I just could not somehow enjoy doing that kind of blogging. I was finally persuaded, by some very persistent friends to blog seriously and this is the beginning of what I hope will be a long affair with blogging.

In my retirement, I have become quite a prolific writer in the sense that I correspond regularly on the email, offer comments on a number of blogs that I regularly visit and also indulge in a bit of professional writing. Having acquired that kind of experience over the last few years, I believe that the time has come to channel some of my free time into blogging.

George Bernard Shaw had this to say about why he wrote:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

I can well believe that he was quite sincere in this conclusion. The satisfaction of creating something for the sheer joy of creating itself is worth the effort. If in the process, one is able to share one’s thoughts with others via a medium, get feed back and generate some discussions on it can only add to the joy. I hope that my belief will stand vindicated in the days to come.