What startups can learn from street hawkers in Kolkata

What startups can learn from street hawkers in Kolkata

December 19, 2013

An afternoon in Kolkata is perfect for every entrepreneur to learn their business and entrepreneurial lessons from. A small trip around the city of Kolkata, visiting the road side food stalls can be a great opportunity to learn the best lessons on entrepreneurship, some of which are not even taught in any B-school.

The lunch time, which is commonly known as the ‘rush-hour’, is between 12 noon to 2 pm (sometimes extended to 3pm). This is the lunch time at every office in Kolkata. People flock in numbers filling up the street side food stalls. The demands of personalized choices to suit perfectly the taste buds of hundreds of hungry customers keep rising. Each one of them is ready with the cash in hand with an urge to get the right taste in the fastest possible time.

3 Lessons that can be learned from road-side food stalls of Kolkata:

How to Build a Strong Brand: 

There are hundreds of places to buy a plate of lunch from. But then why do people ranging from daily wage earners to MNC executives take an extra pleasure in eating at the road-side stalls over lavish restaurants or food courts? Is it only because of the cheaper price they offer? Perhaps not. Hungry customers standing in long queues or crowding in front of a small food stall is a common scene in Kolkata to pick up the food of their choice. Each of these very popular food stalls has one thing in common. They serve food of one particular type. Hence, they exactly know what to serve their customers to match their tastes and demands.

They don’t operate as generalists, they operate as Specialists. Their brand is well defined through the type of food they serve which drives repeated as well as new customers to their business every day. Whether a start-up is selling rice/chapatti or software, the concept of a business expansion, customer satisfaction and quality delivery remains same.

Creatively Different:

One needs to constantly think creative to grow. Food business has kept on innovating to serve newer food to their customers. Kolkata is a place known for sweets. The age old sweet shops of the northern fringe of the city started using fruit flavors to give the same old sweets a newer taste. Even chocolates are largely used as an ingredient in sweets these days. But why is creativity so important? Creativity differentiates one business from another. It will act as an advantage to gain over your competitors and grow your customer base.

If your creative ideas are original, then your competitors can’t copy you easily. Creativity will give each customer a whole new experience from the same old product they use.

Quality is the Keyword:

You need to serve your customers what they need no matter what the size of your company is. When visiting a stall that sells chat, the customers will look for dahi and chutney. So at every start-up the customers will crave for the basic things which the entrepreneurs will constantly have to supply. At a small road-side stall selling biryani the shop owner serves green salad with the food. This is like exceeding the customer’s expectations. Every start-up in the similar ways must not only meet the needs of their customers but go beyond their expectation.

Written with inputs from Xenis Infocom


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Comments (3)
 
Shinjan Reply
December 23, 2013
The article proves that street vendors are as good as the best management graduates. Just as the dabbawalas of Mumbai - who got Six Sigma rating and whose methods are studied by the best management schools in the world, I think street vendors' methods are worth emulating by corporate management.
Samik Mandal Reply
December 23, 2013
My favourite street food now is momo. Quite cheap compared to restaurants. The ones at the Exide & Park Street crossings are my favourites.
Arkapriyo Reply
December 23, 2013
Can't do without my daily dose of phuchkas.
 
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