Good relationships, good business

Good relationships, good business

An entertainment writer’s task is supposedly lightened as the year ends or begins for he can resort to the easy escape route of making up one of those ubiquitous lists. However, that kind of list making is not exactly something I enjoy, not least because, making choices has never been my forte. When the pool of movies that you really enjoyed, that can really qualify for such a list is limited, it is really hard to come up with a sizable number of entries. Further, what one writes about each item on the list progresses rapidly from mundane to monotonous, just halfway into it. Above all, one can no longer rely on the reader’s issue-to-issue memory loss to conceal his drastically limited repertoire of adjectives when he is forced to use one too many in the same article. When I managed to catch Band Baaja Baaraat in the last month of 2010, I knew I had found the perfect film to write about to round off the year. While this movie is not exactly mind blowing or path breaking, its ability to keep you engrossed and leave you totally satisfied even with familiar twists and turns, a barebones storyline and a predictable denouement, make it an automatic pick for the 2010 list I am not going to make.

And no, the fact that it has a radiant Anushka Sharma and one of the most meaningful, beautifully shot kissing scenes in Indian cinema has nothing to do with my decision. Being a conscientious writer for a business magazine requires that, in a movie about a blooming romance amidst a growing business, I stick to the latter and ignore the former. The thing that stood out most in the lead pair’s business venture as wedding planners in the capital city was how building good relationships and engaging on a personal level is intrinsic to commerce in India. The first contract they manage to procure is from a good natured neighbourhood uncle, audaciously forcing the decision of just handing them the wedding budget and all the responsibilities that go with it. This comes across as more of a demand from someone you can take for granted than a sales pitch to a potential customer. Even when they graduate from middle class weddings to the upscale and swanky neighborhoods of Delhi, their strategy remains consistent as they try to make a connection with the bride and groom, providing nuggets of information from their personal lives. If ever there was an effective use of the ‘know your customer’ initiative that service companies love to harp on, this is it. What could be construed as an invasion of privacy in the western world brings a nostalgic smile to the bride and groom’s faces, a trust is formed and yet another contract is won. Not only the relationships that they establish with their customer, but, also those that they establish with their contractors, like the flower seller willing to cut them a deal just because they did not whistle-blow on him, are key to their growth.

Connecting with people

In a world where faceless call centre operators and automatic voice response systems have all but replaced real human interactions between consumer and supplier, there still exists thriving businesses built on human relationships. Even the other day when I walked into a nationalised bank with my dad, he knew everyone by name and stopped to have an informal chat, every now and then. In stark contrast, I have hardly spoken to anyone at the bank where I hold an account other than in a professional capacity. Yet, there is a huge consumer base, made up of people who prefer buying products or procuring services from someone they know and are familiar with, even if that might mean paying a little extra, mainly for the assurance of quality that is implicit in this transaction. One underlying commonality in the portrayal of entrepreneurship in movies like Band Baaja Baaraat is how much emphasis there is on the value system and the people interactions that the business is built on. These movies do not deal with how expenses are cut, growth is planned, businesses are managed, but, focus instead, on how customers are won and business relationships are forged. The movies do that because that is what holds audience interest, but, the truth is, small companies do really live by the adage that customer is king. To get a foothold into the market and grow, they understand the value of establishing good customer relationships first up which translates into great word of mouth publicity that no advertisements can buy them. It is only as these small businesses grow into giant corporate firms that things become a lot more impersonal and a customer becomes just another number in the sales chart.