Monday, September 2, 2013

The Vada-Pav Chronicles

Lokhandwala Complex, Kandivili (E) Mumbai.
There was only ONE vada-pav centre for the entire Lokhandwala Complex ,Kandivili (E) apartments!!

                It was quite a regular practice by now. Wake up late every Sunday morning at around 10 AM; get ready for breakfast and dash to our favorite vada-pav centre near the complex next to our building. It was not a proper shop but just a corner where family of husband and wife would sell Vada-pav and tea.
Priced at around Rs 2.50 per vada-pav, we would hog around six to seven at a time, drink ginger tea and then return to our rooms. It was neither very special nor had any attractive ingredients. Just some chutney powder and mirchi to go with it. But somehow we were addicted to it.

                Another interesting thing was though they were husband and wife, at business, they were more like two separate entities, the husband selling only tea and wife the vadapav. Even the money had to be given separately. It only worked well for them being at the same place as the food complemented each other very well, just like them.
            It was not only us; this shop had a huge fan base. People would eat four-five and take another set “parcel “(No, I won’t use the word “Take away”. Its parcel only). All was well until…

           Until a competitor rose, right opposite to their shop (thela, as we call it). The competitor had the same business strategy. Vada-pav and tea.  And consumers love variety and choices. Slowly the fan base began to dwindle.  It looked as if the new shop was facebook and theirs was orkut.  Everyone suddenly wanted to try this new shop. It was flooded with customers while our Jodi had very little customers. It seemed everything was over for them. But for some reason they neither complained nor seemed agitated. They just kept serving whoever came to them.

                This went on for a while. Slowly people started missing the earlier taste they were addicted to. The customers started returning. I was one of the first to come back. The new vada-pav was good but could not beat the taste of the old one.  The competitor was not facebook J . The reversal was so much that now, again, the Jodi’s shop was again full while the competitor had time to watch a movie between two customers.

And then the Jodi lived happily ever after. OR did they.


                No one calls the competitor a competitor if he does not compete.So now our competitor was back with a bang, new, improved, better than everyone. And this time, it was not only Vada Pav. It was more. Samosa, Kocher, Dabeli, Missal pav, this and that. Basically he had everything to attract everyone.  The tide changed it direction again.

         If someone made time shorter, it would have looked like a tennis match where the tennis ball named customers went from this side of the net to other.

In your face, Vada-pav Jodi, in your face, you one trick pony!!

Suddenly from nowhere I could hear CEOs of Apple, Nokia, Microsoft and Samsung arguing loudly.

                 Word of mouth spread, more people started flocking there. Apun ka to kya hai, Jaha variety hai vahich apun. Every Sunday a different snack. From that shop, if you had a look at the Jodi you could see that this time they looked very angry, very agitated. It looked as if they would burn the competitor's shop just by the look of their eyes. The faces were distorted with jealousy.

It was about time, to make their next move.

               Just out of curiosity, one fine day, I went to the Jodi shop to see what their next strategy is. After the initial discussion I came to know that they were not at all angry at their competitor. ( all what I had thought  that they looked agitated was just in my mind). They calmly said that they had been in this business for years and vada pav was the one thing they were good at. They neither had the resources nor the expertise. But what they had was immense knowledge on how this business works.
They said that, the cost at which he was giving the snacks was not giving him enough profits. He was trying to attract customers first inspite of the losses. Sooner or later, he would either have to increase prices or reduce quality both of which would reduce his customers. And again, it had happened once, that the customers started missing her vada-pav and she was sure that they would return.
Moreover they were preparing less quantity nowadays and nothing was going waste.  Also that they were still making profits, though reduced by a great margin but never went to loss.

Small budget movies that made it big were clapping

Her strategy was simple. Continue whatever they were doing and wait for the competitor to stumble.
In exactly one month, the Jodi had made Nostradamus proud. The perseverance, quality they had set and customer retention had worked.I now knew why people call all Almirah's Godrej , All headache balms : Amrutanjan and all photocopiers Xerox machine :)

There was still only ONE vada-pav centre for the entire Lokhandwala Complex ,Kandivili (E) apartments!!