Today was an interesting day. Within 1km radius in Karachi city, I encountered various types of businesses.
As I started off the day, I checked out the local food suppliers to the bakery in locality. Their business essentially thrives on effective distribution through various channels. The idea is that you need to be there every day or every few days to make sure your customer buys from you. Here, having the right person with every distribution van becomes a necessity, to get effective feedback and arrange appropriate response.
Moving on, I saw an interesting part of the old city area where auctions are the way to go to do business. These specialty shops in one lane in old city area of Nanak Wara sell special leaves called ‘paan’ in 3 different quality ranges. The product comes from within Pakistan as well as Srilanka (Ceylon). Their way of selling takes you to what you might have read about auctions in commodity markets operating in 1800’s. It was an interesting sight. Their business thrives on identifying the potential buyers in an auction and effective use of words to excite them about the lot being auctioned. Also, they usually have dedicated individuals sitting outside these shops shouting off their particular category and quality of paans being auctioned. The mental alertness of the auctioneer is at the core of this business – considering they procure these betel leaves (paans) within the same day they’re cut and auction them the next day (shelf life of 2 days at best), they have to sell off their lots in the 2 hours or so that the auction market operates.
During the day, I visited a local wholesaler in the high-end electrical parts in the refrigeration segment. His business focused on telephone-based order management and workforce focused on effective inventory management, warehousing and quick order processing. Here, the owner was sitting on the main seat for most of the day, however, his presence was necessary to make things happen around there since he was the only one who could talk to customers – in one or two rare instances where one of his employees picked the phone up, customers preferred to wait for the owner to get done with his conversation on another phone than register their orders with that employee. It’s how they worked.
I then had a chance to notice another businessman who picked up things from the famous ship breaking market in Karachi, Shershah. These items included things ranging from small locks and handles to large chain pulleys. The real skill in this work lies in identifying the right kind of products from the huge range available and then getting it to the right kind of buyers – interestingly, most of these small vendors/operators focus on a small niche of products and buyers only.
On on way to one of the places I had to visit, I saw an old fruit vendor and approached him. His business thrived on how his fruits looked to the people passing by and his profits could be maximized based on his assessment of the buyers’ ability to pay (It may not have been right to be doing so, but he seems to be doing it as his right).
During the latter half, I found two engineering businessmen who collected old stuff from scrap markets and reingeered, renovated and reburbished several medium-range electronic equipment, sealed them and sold them forward. Their business had a chain of buyers lined up for them – so the key to their business was in effective work in the product engineering end.
In evening, at home, I worked on some current projects. These projects are mostly being done virtually from project idea generation, brainstorming sessions, communication (in many of its forms), actual work, status updates, project management, delegation, deliverables submission and follow-ups, payments as well as banking. It’s strikingly different from the paan auction business model where things are still operated the way they were done 200 years ago!
So, common themes amongst successful businesses include: focus on effective communication (with internal and external stakeholders), product optimization, customer-centricity and hard work.
All in all, a day well-spent. Now, this blog post would be posted and read by you in your country like several others from a host of other countries. One wonders how far-reaching and fast-paced impacts can be created today through the use of technology – many things that are still considered impossible with the old-economy business models.