I am not from the marketer’s tribe

after taking delivery of a kurta from karol bagh, we were discussing what will go well with it – sandal or a juti- when i spotted a kolhapuri shoe shop and decided to check the collection. although i know that a juti goes best with a churidar pyjama, i believed sandal was a better bet. one can wear sandals at all times, unlike a juti that is to be worn on special occasions. Thus, sandal was worth the money spent. but the shopkeeper was hell bent on making us buy a juti instead. i decided to teach him a lesson – we tried around 20 pairs – half an hour later i said that my friend doesn’t likes any. this pinched the shopkeeper badly. out of the blue he said, “both of us are in marketing and you shouldn’t play such tactics with your own people”.

me in marketing! what gives him such hints? oh, maybe the laptop bag i was carrying. i was infuriated. “How could he draw parallels between us”, i thought in mind. “hey i am not from marketing”, i said, making it very clear that i was in no way related to the marketers tribe.

in india, marketing is synonymous with sales. although MBAites learn to differentiate between marketing and sales during their B-school years, once in jobs, the difference dilutes quickly. many of them stick to sales and only occasionally get to use the marketing principles they learn in their MBA books.

when it was time to decide specialisation after 1st year of management, there was a choice between finance and HR. marketing was nowhere in sight.

i hate the term, job, and people who belong to this tribe.

despite such hatred for the job, i had to actually don the marketers role for a day; i will forever hate myself for that day.

lemme describe how this happened.

There were still a few months left for my MBA session to get over. everyone was busy searching jobs. each time someone got a job, people would congratulate him/her with a big smile. in their hearts, they were concerned about when will they have a job to communicate to friends. my condition was very similar.

then one day i came across this advertisement in some indiscreet corner of the indian express newspaper.

“wanted admistrative assistants. earn 15,000. walk in for interview”

lately i had also started looking for jobs in newspapers and classifieds. i had also registered with some placement consultants. also i was looking for administration jobs, rather than HR or personnel that appeared far fetched.

the opportunity looked attractive.

i took a pune corporation bus and reached the address mentioned in the advertisement sharp at 9 the next day. the office was housed in a two-room flat constructed upon a shopping complex’s terrace in pune. there was a cramped reception where an office boy noted down my name in the visitors’ register. from inside the other room, i could hear people shouting certain phrases in full volume. occasionally, there were sounds of laughter as well. (i later learnt that this was a confidence building session used for marketing professionals).

after around half an hour of sitting unattended, a thin, bespectacled guy approached me. after the initial introductions, he started by explaining the business of the company. the company had tie-ups with certain UK based publishers and their business was to sell these books to schools, individuals, etc in the local market. No resume was asked. neither did they ask me what kind of job i wanted or applied for. he told me that he was moving to field in some ten minutes and i was welcome to join him. a HR working in the field – that’s quite contrasting. i aired my views. the guy was diplomatic – how can you administer the things inside the office until you know what’s happening in your market. he is correct, i thought. so i hopped on his bike for a ride through pune.

once out of office, i began to rue over the wrong step i had taken. why did i agree to come with this guy. his choice of location was further giving me goose bumps. he had chosen kothrud over all areas of pune to sell those books. many friends lived in this area (i didn’t know the exact location of their residences or i would have stopped him from entering those flats). i would have died out of embarassment had any one of them spotted me doing this. i had scolded many when they tried to force me into choosing marketing as a specialisation. now when they see me selling children books (costing a mere Rs 10), they would have their revenge on me.

the day was unlucky for him as well. not only was he not able to make a single sale, some customers also scolded him badly. i felt bad for him but fear and embarassment was what ruled my mind then.

also for the first time in my life, any dog barked at me. it was a huge alsatian dog, parked in the compound of a doctor’s house. had the lady of the house not reached on time and the dog was not tied in chains, he would have fed on both of us.

each time a door opened, i slid beneath the guy. efforts to demotivate him were a failure. he had for the last three months bore such treatment and become hardened in the process. marathi uncles and aunties, live in couples, sweet college going girls, bachelors, north indians – pune certainly had a diverse crowd.

when selling to individuals didn’t help, he decided to focus on schools. most schools were closing for the day. at no place were we allowed a meeting with the principal. the kids were waiting anxiously to reach home- it was thus a waste of time to try sell to them. where kids showed interest in the books, the parents were not ready to waste money on the books.

despite the wasted sales effort, i learnt an important marketing lesson – price will not attract customers, even if it is very low.

what will attract customers then? none of us knew. at 4.30 in the evening, he finally decided to let go. i heaved a sense of relief. it was as if a huge burden was shifting off my shoulders. i immediately caught a bus to pimpri and slept like i had never slept.

thus ended my first and last day at marketing.

my hatred for marketers seem to have taken shape from this incident in my life.