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BLT Diaries: THE rural stint update and other stories

Anybody out there?No?Ohh I see you.Delurk.Delurk now.

Didnt have net access last two weeks. You know how bad that was?Like Tulsi Virani without her mangalsutra.So went and bought a plug and play connection and now I am going to have a very bad case of typing diarrhea. First bullet points update.

  • We finished the factory stint. It was as exciting as a walk in Thar desert at mid noon. We learnt valuable lesson that even “happening” places like Goa can be dampner if you go there a) during monsoons b) with 0 company.
  • Then we came to the famous, much bandied about rural stint. This has resulted in life changing experience for certain BLTs, for others it means watching Splitsvilla on MTV at the chummery (which can be life changing in its own way). of course I am no way hinting I am doing the latter.
  • I am involved with the Shakti program. For the entire day I work with women who earn anywhere between 500-1500 for a month of hardwork. They are further saddled with alcoholic, non working husbands or maybe are widows with 2-3 daughters approaching marriageable age. I come home and watch Carrie and her gang on SATC in their world of Jimmy Choos and casual sex. Difficult to believe often its the same specie I am watching.
  • My project involves raising micro-finance for these enterprenuers. However bank managers are far more interested in my education qualifications and how much I earn. Very very dicey playground that.
  • I get a car to travel so no more hanging onto dear life on trekkers, buses or cattle. Colored glasses in the car gives you its own moments in our gaons. When balding uncle at red light decides to look into the glass and felao haath on remaining chaman, give shape to his teeka, and settle hair on moustache. After this impromptu grooming session is over, you quietly roll down the window and look ahead with perfectly straight face. Uncle will tie up the lungi double fast and walk while the face-color will resemble that of beetroot. or small children with broken tooth, running noses who will press onto the glass or run after the car. Or women who will push themselves in through the window and ask which gram you are from.
  • The village panchayat secretary who said he will do my work only if I come the next day but since I have a car with me, I may as well drop him home.
  • We are slowly accepting that we have for all practical purposes we have attained gol-matol behenji status. This is what happens when you pump nothing but junk into your system on weekends. Indijoes-cornerhouse-carmelpopcorn at Inox and you develop natural cushions which can make any seat a Gold class comfort.
  • We went into a Guess showroom populated with skinny-pianted-on-jeans and oversized-tee type of girls. The innards burnt with envy I tell you. So when no one was looking we quickly slipped with a slink fit into the dressing room. The effect of that trial was as good as this.
  • I havent gone home for 5 months now. Discounting a week long stay make that 7. Spent Onam eating masal dosa at a non descript highway hotel. Sob!
  • One Cafe Coffe Day every 10 kms on Bangalore-Mysore highway. And Baskin Robbins and McD. at Mandya? Why?
  • Villages visited so far : Chickbelapur, gauribidanaur, chickmaralli, hanakere, hathahalli, bannur,thornalli, jodipura, shivarpatna, barnalli, malyagodan koplu. Tomorrow Tumkur.
  • Saw couple of good movies. Rock on rocked. Despite the filmi masala. Despite Farhan Akhtar’s voice. It reminds of when life was about living your dreams and not student loan, car loan and house loan. The songs where nonsensically catchy-like rock songs are. I couldnt really decide whether to salivate more for Farhan, Arjun Rampal or Farhan’s home. Wasnt the home gorgeous?
  • And Farhan played i-banker in it. Just before Merril got lynched and Lehman got broken. Hmmm. All B-schools are worried about the placement scenario. Summers-Lehmann-PPO-New York-fat paycheck route seems temporarily closed. But one B-School must be getting sound nights sleep. Finally we alums can see and appreciate the foresight in being bombarded with FMCG companies and other “safe” sectors on Day 0 at alma mater.
  • Reading “IIM to Ganjdundwara” by Rohithari Rajan. Another one set on the BLT program. Liked “Earning the laundry stripes” by Manpreet Sodhi just a tad more. Maybe because it was the adventure of the first woman in big FMCG Co’s all boys sales club.
  • I av bought close to 14 books this year- 4 of which are currently lying bedside waiting to be read. including “The namesake”, “Everyone worth knowing”, The Zoya factor” and “Watch me Disappear”. All originals. I gave up buying pirated copies. The authors deserve it dont they? I am still open to downloading illegal music though. Madonna has enough money. hmph!

Have run out of steam. Breather. Then next post!

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Posted by on September 17, 2008 in BLT, Uncategorized

 

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BLT Diaries- Men are from Mars and Saleswomen are from..

So we have entered the last leg of my sales stint (provided appraisal goes well, HR finally reads mail etc etc)

Was given a target of a cool crore and some. The regular TSO who handles the territory being handed over to me would have lost many a days sleep as he saw me trip over wires , and smack bottles off the table in expansive hand gestures. So he has held my hand and helped me take my baby steps into selling .

If you thought only volumes mattered you would be talking about the company pre-2004. Now we have various excels with permutations and combinations of the target which need to be satisfied as well. So we need how many SKUs of the product sold, how is the credit/cash scenario etc etc. Basically a whole lot of numbers to be tracked, and lots of targets need to be met.

So I hop behind my salesmen on their 100CC bikes for daily 70km+ journeys by the end of which the substantial behind wants to resign from the job and apply for a plush leather cushioned banking profile instead. My salesmen aged between 25-45 are all different. Some are shy where all the conversation comes from one side-mine,some gregarious story tellers. All with bare minimum knowledge of hindi. So we use hand gestures, repetition of lines ad-infinitum till either one gives up or the throat goes dry in trying to get ones point across.

The shopkeepers curious on seeing why any woman in her sane mind would jump behind bikes in oversized helmet and then proceed to grin foolishly as they ask questions in fluent bengali would then whisper conspiratorially with the salesmen. All in all its a man’s world out there with guest aberrations like me.

Had a regional meet-party to celebrate 20% growth in past 6 months-the co people, the salesforce and the distributors. Saw my previous distributor in neon red fitted shirt and tight ‘gins-pant’ swaying to an item number after couple of Fosters. Him being 6ft length and breadth wise.It scarred all present for life.

A salesman from nearby territory fell of his bike and hemorrhaged to death. He was driving at 80kmph without a helmet. He was also getting married in 7 days time. Gave a long lecture to my guys after the incident. Vigorous head nodding took place. Next day saw one of the salesmen happily pillion riding without helmet. Lost all cool.

I look at my appraisal form which asks me list examples of qualities like a global mindset, external orientation, real accountability. I really dont know what I will write in those columns.

Does putting all your boriya-bistar and yourself on a redi to be taken to railway station count? What about sitting in a room full of mushtande and giving them higher targets and lower incentives?Go from super particular about how I look when I step out to combining twice worn yellow kurta with red salwar because all your clothes refuse to dry in the flooded district you are putting up at? Eat dal roti every day and spend each of your evenings alone watching TV in a cheap motel count? Is countering the daily struggle to be taken seriously and not a passing guest who needs to be humored mean anything?

Some say this was the toughest, its all uphill now. i donnot know…if I should be happy to go back to my preferred decadent lifestyle or be sad about the each-day-new-adventure I will no longer have.

PS: have loads n loads of pics. However transfer cable is lying in Cal. will put them up ASAP

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2008 in BLT, life, Uncategorized

 

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BLT Diaries-Random thoughts

I am sitting in a much fancier hotel in Calcutta while I type this. We (my team for now that is) is going to some place by the Ganges called Falta tomorrow and so today my sales officer and I lugged my suitcase, my bag and myself and him into a state transport bus, got down bag baggage because it did not go where we wanted to and then got into the right one. The bus driver drove as if there was a bomb wich might explode the moment the bus touched any speed below a 100. Every time we whisked past a oil carrier, I would imagine a very violent death and thank God I was only imagining it.

Past week I have been to Kolaghat and Moyna, both classified as Rural Distribution territories by my big FMCG Company. Which means they do not have means to directly distribute their soaps and shampoos to these areas and hence sell them to sub-stockists. Fascinating did you yawn? The point of this para was to get the point across these are not easily accessible areas by means of transport. Often for my comfort the sales officer (henceforth SG) would arrange a bike. Now I am a bike person as in bike vs car argument. However, sun beating the daylights out of you(sometimes I crack myself up!) and 100 kms on a Hero Honda 100CC on roads as smooth as Om Puri’s cheeks can cause your back and ass to die and go to heaven.

Another day we took a jeep. Now these vehicles are driven in a fascinating manner.

Once the inside is filled, the driver waits for the top to be filled. His assistant still calls out after its become a double decker. The new guests simply dump the vegetable bag they are carrying onto the laps of one of the paasengers inside and proceed to hang onto the side as if it’s the most natural thing to do. One guy came, put the baby he was carrying onto the lap of the guy next to the driver and proceeded to hang. Every turn he would shout ‘too close’,’vehicle approaching’ etc. Of course I was sitting inside with the crotches of 5 men blocking my view. If you are claustrophobic this will cause serious trouble.

The biggest problem for me is well the ‘pee’ problem. Now please keep your jhaadi wala jokes to yourself, its really tough! 2 years ago a BLT quit 2 weeks into the program because she couldn’t walk all day and couldn’t use Indian style. Now I can use any style but am a cleanliness freak when it comes to loos. The first time I asked my distributor where the bathroom was he looked at me and replied sheepishly “actually we don’t have any woman here na,,” That’s the state in most places I go to. The shopkeepers don’t even get female customers forget female company people! They just do not know what to say (or the language to say it in either!). but my sales team has been so fantastic I do not realize am the only woman in all nearby radius most of the time. And no untoward incident till now. Maybe because am always accompanied by a burly SG.

So anyways today marks 2 weeks in Calcutta though I have not really been in it. But I have liked what I have seen. This is not a wanna-be city. Its embraced its slow, leisurely way of life. I have never seen anyone in a hurry here. Also every one loves to chat and I really regret not knowing the language because the hindi here kind of makes Sanjay to Sunjoy so there is only so much you can follow.

On other news I am going back to Mumbai for some 5 odd days. Considering by now I have screamed myself hoarse that its my favorite city, this will be my last tango at NITIE. I am also selling off my beloved desk top. For 3 years it was my most loyal companion. Through happy photos, loud sad songs on winamp, a zillion movies-good and bad, marksheets, presentations, reports, CAT scores and calls, to gtalk cupid!  It was my friend through good times and bad. It was customized just right. Switching it on after coming back from vacations with my favorite playlist intact and password neatly prompted, all favorite sites at a click, it was like meeting a friend who knows everything about you.I really cant imagine it sitting in some cybercafé, touched by some freak searching for fraandship on Orkut and downloading porn. How can this be made a painless partition I do not know, but trucking it home meant an additional 10-15k which wont even be what it is valued it now. Would you or anyone you know want it? And treat it like family. I will keep the 20Gb songs intact.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2008 in BLT, life, Uncategorized

 

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BLT Diaries-photoblog

                 

This is the road linking Calcutta to Burdwan. The rural roads were a dream. Way ahead of city roads ( Mumbai , Bangalore…hint..hint!)

                 

A wanna-be Mumbai local: A state transport bus I would use if the saleperson did not have a bike. Jam packed, smelly and a wanna-be F1 driver.

                 

best seller in mid size segment:harvest just over. Roads blocked with carts carrying the harvest. Sitting on bike balancing my suitcase, laptop bag, handbag and a large polythene i rub elbows with bullock horns. If I shouted I loose balance. I just pray. Hard. “ab bazaar main tezi aayegi. paisa aaya hain na”, my sales officer tells me. Bullshit is taken in a very different sense when your rubbing elbows with a bull.

                  

Cafe Coffee day: Small earthen cups for tea-coffee. Shopkeepers often mistook me for some auditor who checks if displays and shelving is proper and gives monetary rewards and plied me with tea and sweets. The first time I was offered this cup I graciously gulped down the tasteless fluid and put it back carefully on the counter. My salesman took it equally graciously and smashed it to the ground. Disposable these are and dont hold more than a mouthful. Thank God. After evry sweets and chai session I prayed to the good lord to save me from various gastro ailments. Thankfully he listened. In fact he was so attentive I havent lost a kilo. Sigh!

                     

Cherlie and Charles:Very surprised to see a familiar packaging of my regular deo and perfume I double checked. Charles and Cherlie it was! With the familair loop in place. Attention Revlon fortune waiting, at the bottom of the pyramid! Also seen many counterfeits- Murmure, Safed, Ayna. Dont miss Ego-perfume for the man!

                       

River Damodar:Floods for a month or two. Almost all houses in Calcutta are built of its soil. Crossing it I got all excited and made the driver stop to click photos. Got down and the bridge swayed due to wind and passing trucks. It was like an earthquake. I looked down at the water. Imgined myself drowning. Clicked a couple and asked the driver to drive for life. He well just smiled.

I have a bunch of pics. The clarity leaving much to desire. The zoom facility little doubtful. But still memories captured for quite a bit. Thanks to my Nokia 5310. Endorsement done. Can you buy me a digicam please.(BF hint, hint!)

Also am on a data card whose  bill i would be paying. Only one stipend got in mid-March. Salary long way off. Second stipend also missing. IN short serious cash issues. Further saying who will pay phone bill and internet bill? (BF, hint , hint!)

So till salary day this should suffice..Mecheda here I come…thats a place by the way, not a man!

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2008 in BLT, life, Uncategorized

 

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