An MBA (Mas­ter of Bazaar Accumen) in 6 months!

Point of Purchase - - CONTENTS - Irawati Gowariker

Look­ing for a few mar­ket­ing gems to add to your cof­fers? You could pick up some price­less ones at, of all places, a bazaar! Full of in­no­va­tion, keen in­sights and in­spi­ra­tion, bazaars rep­re­sent a unique form of re­tail, with its own code of mar­ket­ing, lo­gis­tics and sales. Start­ing with this is­sue, POP brings you a 6-part se­ries on the bazaars of In­dia. As we take you to some of the nois­i­est, most colourful mar­ket­places in the coun­try, you’ll be sure to get some in­valu­able mar­ket­ing lessons, that too at a bar­gain!

Chor Bazaar. Trea­sures at a ‘steal’

There’s an old story that Queen Vic­to­ria had once lost her favourite vi­o­lin dur­ing a visit to In­dia. An ex­ten­sive search was im­me­di­ately un­der­taken to find the royal favourite, but to no avail. Fi­nally, a re­source­ful mem­ber of the staff (as­suredly a lo­cal) ex­tended the search to Mut­ton Street, where the vi­o­lin was fi­nally found at Chor Bazaar. Once a mar­ket for stolen and sec­ond­hand goods, Chor Bazaar has evolved since into a packed, multi-di­men­sional flea mar­ket, where you can find any­thing from de­odor­ants to car spare parts to rare an­tiques. Leg­end has it that Chor Bazaar was orig­i­nally called

Shor Bazaar, ie the noisy bazaar. It was de­scribed as “not a nice place” by the nov­el­ist Ro­hing­ton Mistry in his book, ‘Such a long jour­ney’, but a lot of peo­ple would beg to dif­fer. Chor Bazaar is a hot spot for cu­rio hunters, vin­tage sou­venir shop­pers, colo­nial fur­ni­ture buy­ers, Bol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion units and tourists look­ing for in­sights into the ‘real’ Mum­bai. Whether you’re look­ing for vin­tage tele­phone in­stru­ments, rare jazz record­ings on LP or a six pack of de­odor­ant, noth­ing is off-bounds for the folks at Chor Bazaar. A closer look at the by-lanes of Chor Bazaar also re­veals mar­ket­ing tools that the rest of us have long for­got­ten or are yet to dis­cover. Here are some that we un­earthed.

Make way for the gen­er­al­ists: The first thing that strikes most vis­i­tors to Chor Bazaar is the ease with which un­con­nected goods co­ex­ist. An­tique fur­ni­ture and lamps, both gen­uine and im­i­ta­tion, rub shoul­ders with brand new gar­ments, car parts, movie posters and vin­tage mu­sic. It is said that the large for­mat depart­ment stores that flour­ish in In­dia were in­spired by the prin­ci­ple of non-spe­cial­i­sa­tion found in bazaars. This way of ex­is­tence cer­tainly seems to be prof­itable for Chor Bazaar, go­ing by the crowds and brisk busi­ness at most of the stalls. A new per­spec­tive on trend-spot­ting: The dusty shelves of Chor Bazaar con­tain valu­able data for the trend an­a­lyst who dares to look be­yond the or­di­nary. The things that end up at the sec­ond-hand stalls, for ex­am­ple, give us keen in­sights into what’s out. At the same time, the vin­tage items that sell out give us a sense of the emerg­ing sense of style. As Gyan Prakash says about jazz records in his book Mum­bai Fa­bles “Be­sides telling us about the change in record­ing tech­nol­ogy and medium, the pres­ence of these records in Chor Bazaar sug­gests a de­cline in the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of jazz in Mum­bai.” Fur­ther, on the topic of the old and for­got­ten, the brisk sales of old Bol­ly­wood posters and other items re­mind us once again of the cycli­cal na­ture of trends and fash­ion.

Tar­get­ing en­er­gies: Nor­mally, a trade­mark sight at bazaars is that of ven­dors call­ing out to ev­ery pass­ing visi­tor. Chor Bazaar is dif­fer­ent. As a visi­tor to this mar­ket, you’re un­likely to be ac­costed at ev­ery turn with pleas to stop and at least look at the wares on of­fer. Ev­i­dently, the mer­chants here have evolved their senses to be able to spot gen­uine buy­ers a mile off, and they fo­cus their at­ten­tion only on these po­ten­tial cus­tomers. Ex­trap­o­lat­ing on this phe­nom­e­non, the peo­ple who do get in­vited in must be get­ting bet­ter cus­tomer ser­vice, and the chances of a sale must be much higher. If only mar­keters across the coun­try could hone their cus­tomer spot­ting skills by in­vest­ing bud­gets and en­er­gies in that area, they could save mil­lions by tar­get­ing their mes­sages to the right peo­ple. Re­ward­ing smart cus­tomers: In an age of idiot-proof­ing ev­ery­thing for cus­tomers, Chor Bazaar brings in a re­fresh­ing per­spec­tive, at two lev­els. First, gen­uine ar­ti­cles, es­pe­cially an­tiques and vin­tage items, are sold along with du­pli­cates and fakes. Only buy­ers smart enough to spot the gen­uine ar­ti­cle get to vol­un­tar­ily buy it. At the next level, the art of hag­gling comes into play. Only cus­tomers who are aware of the ac­tual value of the mer­chan­dise can win the bar­gain­ing game with mer­chants, till they get a great deal. Fake con­nois­seurs get pun­ished with fakes, that too at ex­or­bi­tant prices!

From value-for-money to money-for-value: The bar­gain­ing men­tioned in the last para­graph, cre­ates an in­ter­est­ing sit­u­a­tion that chal­lenges known bench­marks in pric­ing. The orig­i­nal price quoted by the mer­chant is un­der­stood by both par­ties to be un­real. There­after, in the course of bar­gain­ing, the po­ten­tial buyer brings the price down to what he or she be­lieves the ob­ject is ac­tu­ally worth to him or her. For in­stance, the fact that a Vic­to­rian lamp is an im­i­ta­tion may not mat­ter to a buyer who needs it for a pe­riod film set. In such a case, she may pay al­most as much as an an­tique col­lec­tor would for a gen­uinely old lamp of the same de­sign. And both buy­ers would have got a fair deal. This hy­poth­e­sis as­sumes, of course, that both buy­ers are knowl­edge­able.

The sum of the parts is greater than the whole: At the au­to­mo­bile spares mar­ket, old ve­hi­cles fit for the junk­yard come in, to be rein­car­nated a few hours later! Oper­at­ing on the prin­ci­ple that there’s some good in ev­ery­thing, spares deal­ers take apart old ve­hi­cles in this sec­tion of Chor Bazaar, and re­move re­us­able parts that can be sold again. For cus­tomers, this is a boon in dis­guise, as buy­ing re­place­ment parts from OEMs is ex­pen­sive as well as waste­ful. For ex­am­ple, a cus­tomer would have to buy a pair of wing mir­rors at a reg­u­lar sup­plier, even if he needs to re­place just a sin­gle bro­ken one. But at Chor Bazaar, he can just buy a sin­gle piece and that too at a steal. Be­sides, there is no short­age of op­tions; you can buy spares for al­most any ve­hi­cle, from an ob­so­lete Fiat to a Mercedes Benz. Ac­cord­ing to one of the deal­ers in this sec­tion of the bazaar, it takes two to three hours to com­pletely dis­man­tle a ve­hi­cle. In this time, all the re­us­able, re­sal­able parts are sep­a­rated, and the un­us­able parts are sold as scrap. What a way to re­cy­cle! Turn­ing trash to trea­sure: A wheel fell off your re­volv­ing chair? Don’t re­place the whole chair, just re­place the wheel. Is your favourite great aunt vis­it­ing for a week? She doesn’t have to pay ex­cess bag­gage by lug­ging along her wheel chair; you could just get a slightly used one that will suf­fice, for the du­ra­tion of her visit. Chor Bazaar’s used goods stalls are full of odd things that can be re­cy­cled, or even up­cy­cled. For ex­am­ple, there are old wooden screen doors that can be picked up for a song and used as a peg­board in a bou­tique win­dow. Or old tin milk cans that make unique planters and con­ver­sa­tion pieces at the of­fice. High street brands in Europe of­ten up­cy­cle vin­tage pieces like old sewing ma­chines as a back­drop for their col­lec­tions. With places like Chor Bazaar, one can do the same, at a frac­tion of the cost. Sur­prised that all these eye open­ers have come from a pack of ven­dors, most of who have barely com­pleted school? Well there are many more as­tound­ing facts in store. All it takes is a trip to a bazaar!

Irawati Gowariker & Ash­wini Gowariker

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