Posts tagged ‘change’
A few months ago, during a CREAM (Certificate in Rural Enterprise Administration and Management) training session for micro-entrepreneurs in rural Bihar, we enquired about the professions of each. Turned out that each of the three women taking the course aced at multi-tasking ; apart from managing the house, each held down two other occupations. My first reaction was amazement at the amount of work that they packed into their day, but later I was struck by the fact that two out of these three women ran beauty parlours (or as they pronounced it, ‘saaluns’) out of their homes.
We asked these ladies which treatments their customers went in for and it was more than just hair-cuts – facial, eye-brow threading etc. In villages in Bihar ! So beauty consciousness is increasing not just in urban India, but in rural India too.
This article from the Mint also mentions this trend, albeit in passing. This article, from the Mint again quotes Mr. C.K.Ranganathan, Chairman and Managing Director of CavinKare, “The rural consumer has become more beauty conscious and is willing to spend more on personal grooming.”
Wonder which are the companies benefiting from this trend ? and whether they are using these ladies who run beauty parlours from their homes as influencers ?
We’ll try to dig deeper into this topic with time, so keep visiting this blog for more information on the topic.
- Zenobia Driver
Ask any Indian housewife for her mobile phone and check for the ‘saved’ numbers. Apart from her family (including the favourite niece in Canada) and friends (his best friend from school in Florida), work numbers (if she is a working woman),doctor ,restaurants etc., there is another irreplaceable list. One that literally makes her weep if she loses her phone.
This list includes, apart from the mobile number of the household help (of course every self-respecting house help in the city has a mobile), the sabziwala (vegetable vendor), fruit wala, plumber, electrician, pan wala, dvd wala, istri wala (ironing man), dhobi(washer man), and AC/Washing machine repair wala. What is amazing is that, the other day I happened to stop by on the road to buy a jasmine plant from a redi wala (person selling things from a hand cart) selling plants, and asked him where I could find him next. Out came his mobile and he promptly asked me to save his number for future use!
And while I may know the physical location of the fruit and vegetable vendors, I certainly don’t know where exactly my electrician and plumber are located. I call on their mobiles, they arrive and do the job. C’est Finit (That’s it). My kabaadi wala (collector of waste / old newspapers/ bottles) is a phone call away and do I even need to know where he recycles the stuff ?
These businesses thrive on the mobile phone. Their numbers are their visiting cards and their customer referrals happen when we hand over their mobile numbers to friends and family over a meal,when someone inquires if we happen to know a decent plumber or AC repair man. Maids and drivers who are looking for jobs in an area often just give their numbers to the building watchman, who then will give them a quick ring in case there is a ‘job opportunity’ in the building. If someone is low on ‘balance’, you will most likely get a ‘missed ‘ call and then call them back. Even my mother uses the missed called method, to let the friend who accompanies her for their morning walk know that she is on her way.
The system works…. curious though it may seem. There is a whole new business model in operation here and it has spawned a whole new way of expansion and growth for these small self -made mobile owning entrepreneurs, who make up an indispensable part of our world, and dare I say, the Indian economy.
Who needs bricks and mortar then, when you have the Advantage Mobile!
My five year old nephew was chatting with me during a journey once, bubbling over with curiosity and a million questions about everything. Instead of entertaining myself by warping his mind with made-up answers the way Calvin’s dad does (for examples, see this link), I tried to answer his questions as simply and logically as possible. However, reality is often stranger than fiction, and some answers related to geography and astronomy sounded far-fetched to him. So the young man turned his gimlet eyed gaze on me and warned me, “Are you really sure ? Don’t lie, ok. We can go home, open the laptop and check on googil too.” Once kids relied on older and wiser ones for information, now we’re redundant since there’s good ol’ googil.
Another young 3 year old – a friend’s son, gave me the next anecdote for this blogpost. He gets confused reading books because once he’s done reading the page he swipes his finger across to get to the next page – the way he’s used to doing with pics on the iphone; needless to say, that doesn’t work at all with a book and it leaves him confused, frustrated and cranky.
While on the topic of young ones and technology, there’s an interesting anecdote in this blogpost – as an aside, you should follow the link and read the whole post, interesting example of communication going awry due to incorrect assumptions. The comments on that post are also worth reading.
But I digress, the anecdote follows :
Setting, San Francisco, where some friends recently told me how their five year old went up to a framed picture in their living room and started pinching at it with his fingers, the exact same gestures one would use on an iPhone to zoom in and out of a picture. “Broken, broken” is all the five year old said after that disappointing experience.
How much and in how little time technology is changing the reading and viewing habits of this generation of toddlers ! Paraphrasing the headline of this Forbes article, does this change herald just the death of print or will it also eventually lead to the death of reading too ? I fear that it may be the latter. What’s your point of view ?
- Zenobia Driver
While I was musing over the comments on last week’s post, I happened to flip through a book on birds, the environment and conservation*, and a chapter on some survivors caught my attention. The book’s title is clear, it’s about saving the birds, many species of which are threatened by rampant deforestation and are on the verge of extinction. However, there happen to be a few species that have adapted surprisingly well to the change in their environment and have flourished as human habitations and farmlands expanded over grasslands and forests.
Are there any lessons businesses faced with a rapidly changing environment could learn from these hardy survivors ? Read on and let me know what you make of the examples that follow.
Background – Farmland as an ecosystem :
Agricultural land is not a natural habitat, it exists at the expense of some natural habitat. Agricultural ecosystems differ from natural ones in several respects that are important to birds and other wildlife. In most cases the biggest yields are obtained by growing a single crop in large fields, dressed abundantly with chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Relatively few kinds of birds can thrive in these conditions; tree nesting species have nowhere to nest, and ground feeding and ground nesting birds are vulnerable to the heavy machinery used to plant, manage and harvest the crop. Not an easy environment for any bird species to thrive in, right ? But a few did.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus Ibis) :
A common sight on the outskirts of most cities and in rural areas, often spotted on grassy patches within urban areas too.
Cattle Egrets are exceptionally successful followers of pastoral man. The Cattle Egret’s success lies in its great adaptability. Where the birds used to follow the herds of grazing herbivores across the African savanna, they now adopt the same close relationship with man’s domestic cattle. Throughout their range they are associated with cattle, feeding on large insects and small vertebrates which the cattle disturb as they move through the grass. The birds divide their time between sitting on the backs of cattle and foraging around their feet.
In Africa they can still be seen accompanying herds of wild game as they must have done before people began to replace the game with cattle. The African Cattle Egret is just as much at home with the cattle of the Masai and other pastoral tribes as with the migratory herds of Wildebeest, Eland and other animals which are gradually being squeezed out of grasslands and bush as pastoralists or farmers take over the land. Indeed, the egrets are probably better off with cattle than with antelopes, for cattle do not migrate the huge distances that wild game do, and never stray far from water.
They are useful rather than a hindrance to herdsmen and so have little to fear from man. They take insects that graze the same grass his cattle eat, fertilise the ground with their droppings, and even give warning of approaching predators. Cattle Egrets have occupied a new niche, created by man, and have even colonized regions where their natural niche does not exist.
The Rosellas :
The eight species of Rosella are all brilliantly coloured, long-tailed Australian parrots. Several of them have adapted so well to agricultural land that they are sometimes treated as pests, at least in parts of their range.
The natural habitat of the brightly coloured Eastern Rosellas (Platycercus eximius) is open woodland and lightly wooded grassland, and this has enabled the bird to adapt readily to the farmlands and gardens of human settlement. They spend much of their time on the ground, eating grass-seed. They are versatile feeders and have no difficulty in adding a wide range of agricultural produce to an already varied diet. They feed not only on fallen grass-seed, but also on spilled grain in farmyards and fields, and seeding grasses in pastures, but also on seeds and blossoms on the tops of trees. They seem generally to take grain that has already been spilled, and thus lost to the farmer, and probably do little actual damage except on the occasion when they take orchard blossom. They find the blossoms of fruit trees at least as attractive as those of native species, and can do considerable damage in orchards.
In the more thickly forested part of their range, the closely related Crimson Rosella (P. elegans) was better adapted to the native habitat, but as the forests were cleared, farmed and settled, Crimson Rosellas were less able to adapt and have been replaced by the Eastern. An interesting comparison from a business perspective, isn’t it ? **
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto):
Until the end of the last century, Collared Doves were found in southern and central Asia, east to Japan and west as far as Turkey. They were found mostly in dry or lightly wooded country, usually close to human settlements and cultivation. Then they began to spread northwest through Europe, reaching Britian in 1952. They first bred there three years later and by 1969 had swept through the country to become common birds of garden and farmland. In the following decade their British population increased fourfold.
(One interesting – and unexplained – point about their expansion is the mystery about the original cause of the expansion. Why did the Turkish population of collared doves move so suddenly to Europe ? The spread of human cultivation in Europe preceded the arrival of Collared Doves by several thousand years.)
This astonishing expansion has few parallels, except the Cattle Egret and a few other birds. Collared Doves feed mostly on small seeds on the ground, and in Europe today they are virtually parasitic on man, taking grain spilled in farmyards or put out for poultry. They also compete with other birds – house sparrow, starlings, domestic pigeons – for breadcrumbs at garden bird tables and at parks.
A useful point about the expansion of Collared Doves to Europe is to note what all they achieved with the change : They were newcomers to the local eco-system, they didn’t even exist in that geography before, yet they managed to find enough ecological space to establish themselves and enough surplus resources to survive and thrive. Probably the Collared Dove’s secret lies in its versatility, and the fact that although its requirements do overlap with those of several other species, it does not overlap completely with any of them.
*‘Save the Birds’ by Antony W. Diamond, Rudolf L. Schreiber, Walter Cronkite and Roger Tory Peterson).
** The writer of this post acknowledges the urgency for conservation and environmental protection measures; this post is by no means intended to convey that the species that are struggling for survival or are extinct are responsible for their situation, neither is it intended to lighten our responsibility towards saving those feathered friends that are still around.
- Zenobia Driver
On my trip to the US this summer, I noticed another new trend – the craze for Chai! This isn’t chai as we Indians know it, this is Chai – an evolution of tea in a coffee culture society. They have all the variants of coffee – latte, macchiato, frappuccino – but for tea.
So, you are standing in line to get your morning fix at a typical “coffee” shop (and I’m not just talking about Starbucks, I’m talking about all the smaller chains, local coffee shops, neighborhood bakeries) and you hear orders of Chai flying all about you. And in different varieties – “A small Chai latte mocha please”, “A large chai frappuccino, very little whipped cream”, “Chai macchiato in soy milk, no sugar”. And my first reaction was a gag reflex. I’m no tea connoisseur but tea with whipped cream! In soy milk! As a Frappuccino! With Mocha flavor! – I couldn’t digest.
BUT! Curiosity got the better of me and I ventured to try it one morning to see what the craze was about, whether this chai frappuccino was worth the hullaballoo it had created. My first sip, and I thought “what is this?”, second sip “this is interesting…”, third sip “Ya, I can taste the tea in it…” and by my fourth sip “I can get used to this…” and then on I was hooked!
I visited my aunt there and noticed she had switched from using tea leaves to using some Chai Latte pre-mix. And this is an aunt who is really fond of tea, I remember her fussing over taking back a particular brand of tea from India the last time she visited us.
I went grocery shopping there and what did I find? I found a whole range of ready-mixes for Chai Latte in multiple flavors (Vanilla, Spiced, Cardamom) by multiple brands.
So, all you tea aficionados out there – are you ready to try this?
As per UN statistics, current primary school enrolment rates are as high as 88% and the female literacy rate has risen by about 20% in the last two decades; though ‘enrolment’ is not quite equal to ‘attendance’, and neither does ‘literacy’ equal ‘learning’, this is still a significant change. There’s a shift occurring here, slowly but surely.
Two real-life episodes that illustrate the change in attitudes are described below:
First there’s R bai, a feisty lady that works as a maid in Mumbai. This lady’s daughter is getting married to a man she fell in love with. R bai says that she doesn’t really care which rituals are conducted during the marriage ceremony, she doesn’t even care whether the couple undergoes the saat pheras or not, what she is insisting on is that the marriage be registered in court. She feels that rituals do not put any pressure on the guy to actually take care of her precious daughter; and that the lack of a document that can stand up in court implies that they have no recourse to legal action if he ever deserts her or ill-treats her. Three cheers for R bai for thinking of legal action against an errant son-in-law and not echoing the ‘beti shaadi ke baad paraayaa dhan hai’ sentiment!
Another heartening story is one of a kabaadiwaala in Delhi, let’s call him K. For some time, when illiterate K goes house-to-house buying old newspapers and magazines for reselling, he has been requesting housewives on his paper-route to point out to him articles about travel and give those magazines to him free. Why? Because his daughter was attending classes for a travel – and – tourism related training and needed material for her assignments and project submissions. Apparently, K had decided years ago that he would educate both his children, not just the son as many of his friends did; he was determined to ensure that his daughter would be able to stand on her own two feet and never be forced to stay trapped in an unhappy or abusive marriage due to being financially dependent on her husband.
Earlier this year, K’s ambitions were fulfilled; his daughter completed her course and got a government job.
Zenobia D. Driver