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Retail lessons from the street for IIM students

business Updated: Sep 15, 2009 01:39 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey

When students of retail marketing from the Indian Institute of Management-Lucknow visited the weekly Nakkhas market in the old city on Sunday, they were amazed to see some roadside vendors selling wristwatches dipped in a tub of water.

An illiterate shopkeeper smiled: “That’s the best way to convince a customer these watches are water proof.”

“Isn’t this some learning,” remarked their teacher Professor Devashish Das Gupta, who had organised the trip to analyse the lowest end of the retail pyramid.

Sagar Jain, a student who has worked with globally renowned consulting firm KPMG, said, “Most of us will take up jobs somewhere at the top end of the corporate ladder. Naturally, there is a tendency to be cut off from the ground realities. But, these shopkeepers really showed us how, despite not having studied at a top business school, their marketing strategies were well grounded in reality.”

The students also learnt most shopkeepers had devised ingenious methods to hold consumers’ attention.

Jain said, “Conventional wisdom as told by retail marketing gurus suggests if several shops sell the same product in an area, they eat up into each other’s profit margins. These vendors told us it was not correct.”

A street-smart shopkeeper elaborated: “If there are several shops offering the same product, it helps, as people know they would be able to check up on the whole range of a given product at the same place.” Then came the biggest learning: “Ultimately, nobody eats into anybody’s profits. One gets as much as the Almighty has decreed.”