Thursday, May 17, 2007

Talking pictures.

I can’t believe my eyes. Or, my luck at finding it. Here’s this simply written book by a successful practitioner from the retail space with gumption and courage of his conviction. He believes in doing things his own way, His credo is non-elitism, simplicity, thrift, transparency, trust, risk-taking, humility and rewriting the rules to suit the Indian reality. I had heard glowing things about him from my friend, Deep Bisen. Reading his It Happened in India was something else altogether, though. I liked the way the book is 'packaged' with an autobiographical narrative punctuated by "real people" commentary. The most fascinating part of his story is about the use of design thinking in communication. Talking in pictures, in other words. One of the earliest uses of this technique in India was by MK Gandhi. He shed his earlier Western garb to dress himself like the lowest common denominator of India. Believing as he did that India lived in her villages, he chose to dress like the villager. No wonder the aam janata took him to their hearts and followed his lead so readily. (Never mind Winston Churchill's "naked fakir" taunt, boys and girls.) The other interesting stuff I found in Kishore Biyani’s seminal textbook about retailing is his exposition of memetics. Gandhi’s “Quit India” was one powerful meme, for instance. (Meme is ”an information pattern, held in an individual's memory, which is capable of being copied to another individual's memory”. Memetics is “the theoretical and empirical science that studies the replication, spread and evolution of memes”. Being the bania that he was, Gandhi is believed to have said the following: "A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so." [Also cited here:] Gandhigiri anyone? That’s exactly what Kishore Biyani has been telling us. Indeed, his 2-step test to gauge the suitability of wannabe Pantaloon franchisees is based, chapter and verse, on the Gandhian precept. P.S.: Biyani is a Hindi film buff and has two feature films to his credit. It’s interesting to speculate what would have happened had he been associated with the Munnabhai series. Would he have included the above quote in the script? You may want to read an excerpt (‘Family Values’) here: Another excerpt (‘Early Life’):

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