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Evolution of Retail Marketing during

unlock 2.0

This article is merely my perspective on Brick-and-Mortar format, I feel this is how we retail marketers can make a difference. Our industry has seen a lot of ups and downs, especially in the last 2 years. This incessant pandemic has created a distressing situation for both, the developers and the tenants. It got me into thinking about the importance of the W’s especially during these times when everything around is ambiguous. 

Who will return? What for? When? Where? and, why? Do you have an answer yet? You do, it’s there right in front of you, it’s been there all this while. Don’t lure people with just offers, because this sordid phase has been difficult for many and no one’s actually interested in pure indulgence. What people really need is a place where they can breathe carelessly, where they won’t have to worry about enclosed spaces and most crucially a place where they can see humans but not get in any sort of a physical contact.

How do we, at malls give it to our patrons? More importantly, who do we reform our malls for? 

Data is the key to everything, go through the customer data collected over years, analyse the buying patterns segregate it into the respective geographies and do consider the demographic profiles. There yet? Now check the data of last year entirely, have it yet? Compare them all together and once you have the common of the two – Target them! Charge!!! No, not really, we aren’t there yet. Did you ask your retailers for the data? Trust me that’s the hard part, but that is the data that’ll determine the most recent behaviour. While your data only tells you about the visits, their data will substantiate sales in totality. We are in this together and we could definitely do well with some help. At least we now have the CUSTOMERS details.

How do we Target them now? SMS, E-mailers, phone calls etc. etc.? Oh, That’s all so passé! 

I say let’s personalise it now, we are living in a world trying to thrive on human affection because that is the only thing that has kept us from losing our sanity in such unreliable times. How about you send them a personalised gift hamper, sure you’ll be spending a lot on it but you’d also be ensuring you’re remembered for a really long time. Also, you can always use some help from your retail partners. Now, that you have the attention of those that are always right (CUSTOMERS), let’s move ahead to have them back on board, safely and confidently. While you’re at it lets also record the VOC (Voice of Customers), of course hitting every door in the neighbourhood may not be the answer but we can always ask them to leave the feedback on social media. One thing that I feel we’ve been doing wrong all this while, is abusing social media, there is so much that can be done and achieved. VOC on social media would be the perfect, cost efficient manner to engage with those that you sent the wishes to and also take their feedback to understand their sentiments before we start devising some elaborate Shop and Win campaigns for our respective centres. Also, presently focus on the existing database, on what you’ve acquired over the years; it’s like answering the questions you definitely know instead of wasting time on the indefinite (Remember, we were all taught this once upon a time?). 

I also feel approachability will be another important factor. My mall may be geographically located at the best location but if the topography of the interior isn’t up to mark, it’ll get extremely difficult to understand the anthropology. Yes, disband the clusters! Give people enough space for free movement, honestly if I hated someone brushing against my shoulder in the past, I might just kill them now for being within 6ft of distance; horrible scary times! I also feel that the similar category of brands should be placed at one location like floor wise, that’s so much easier for someone who just walks in to buy a pair of spectacles. I feel people will be selective in the beginning, honestly no one would show that earnestness or urgency to rush to the mall unless they really have to buy something, also because everything is available online the brick and mortar may start a tad slow; we need to be prepared for this. Most of us have already braced ourselves but what next? Next, let’s work on some merchandise, and why not?  Let’s tie up with a hygiene provider, so what if people forgot their sanitiser and we know there are many dispensers in the mall but people prefer their own thing, lets gift them a 5ML sample, if they are ok registering with us. Let’s have that as a kiosk in the mall, psychologically helps fight anxiety when I know a kiosk full of sanitisers is around my vicinity!

I won’t talk about campaigns, décor or installations because every mall functions in their own way, as per me even though this is a time to welcome people back let’s not be festive since we’ve all been through some sombre times, we need to empathise and show our solidarity is whichever way possible. We are a business model but let’s get a tad out of the box and help the community as much as possible, times to get profitable will follow soon. We should promote local artisans and give them FOC space, the budgets will definitely wobble a bit but we can all take that setback, it’s time we put community first! We thrive collectively, and not individually. The customer should comeback WHENEVER they are ready, till then let’s work on some trust building exercises.

Operationally when we talk about washrooms, there should be a head count, only 15 people in an hour on rotational basis, that would give so much time to the poor helpers. The specially abled should have proper amenities for example, those that have trouble hearing, can see constant messages flashing on the screens guiding them through the landscape. Also, the mall should be sanitised and fumigated every 2 hours. A lot of things were already tried and tested in the last lockdown so it’s not like we are not prepared, just that we will have to respect sentiments and understand the grievances. People should also get free loyalty points for sharing their VOC. A special software should be created for customers to be able to send their voices as and when they want. Tracking the VOC may help us in the longer run. 

Lastly, the management needs to be more cognizant of their employees because they are the front liners and while everyone is working hard to make a living, they still deserve to work happily. An exasperated employee will only be stressed and that’s not how they will be able to focus on their daily chores, keep them motivated. Also, this phase may be short-lived, given the way this virus has been altering like a shapeshifter we can only hope for things to not get worse. There may be a few more lockdowns before we reach the so-called normalcy but we know deep down things need to automate and evolve because the new normal will never be as good as what we were accustomed to!

International Women’s Day

Hello there, no need to remind you all that we are living in the 21st century because it’s an obvious fact but it is still surprising that I have lived 3 decades and more and have celebrated the same event with the same zeal and fervor every year. I am talking about the International Women’s Day, every year without fail I have cut a cake, sometime more than a cake and will do so for as long as I live. No silly, not because this day makes me happy but because co-incidentally it’s my birthday! Yes, I was born on a beautiful, eventful day and I was so proud of it as if I was the custodian of this occasion, and believe you me, I took it seriously.

Time passed and every year taught me a different lesson, why was I even happy about this day? why couldn’t all the days be so happy, warm, and kind to my fellow women world-wide? Why did people reserve their respects only for the 8th March? Then as I grew up, this day felt more like a joke because I realised those that I believed were reserving their respects were being forced to treat us well but only on that day. I think let’s call it off, let’s not celebrate this day or us anymore. I think women across the globe would be OK to do away with this day, especially women at workplaces.

We have all come a long way and I am thankful to all the women who have helped me become the person that I am. I am glad their stories inspired me, and their toil strengthened my beliefs. I am glad they set nonpareil standards because even the insurmountable challenges in my life look timid and possible. At the same time, I am also thankful to those that taught me to not take my freedom for granted, or let others walk over my ambitions. I celebrate these women every single day, I may still cut the cake on the 8th but I know I am significant and when you realise that, you don’t want anyone to do you the honours.

Toxic Workplaces

Trying to figure out what should be acceptable and what shouldn’t be at a workplace and what exactly makes the best of the workplaces toxic?

I have been thinking quite a lot about it and have come to believe that the world doesn’t need bosses, but leaders. Visionaries that inspire you to do better. Those that believe in you, believe your actions and are a part of your growth. Those that entrust you with responsibilities to not blame you when things go wrong but to teach you as to why things didn’t work. If learning is an ongoing process and an employee is supposed to learn new things every day, it’s the job of the leader to teach them new things. There’s no shame in learning hence there’s should be no shame in teaching, yet how many bosses teach?  

The other thing with toxic places is that they make workers slog like bonded laborer, expecting them to toil outside the working hours, expecting to work overtime, every day. Why do people work? We have probably gotten it all wrong! We all work because perhaps that’s the only thing we are good at, we have spent enough time of our lives doing what we do, so much so that we start finding solace in the discomfort and toxicity of the very place that takes away our piece of mind. Then again you can’t be in shackles and talk confidently about freedom, there are very few things that are actually valuable in life and anybody that tells you otherwise is lying, money is no doubt important but there’s a price that needs to be paid. It baffles me how people sell their soul and it’s commendable how they believe it’s righteous.

I don’t know how to work as a goner, because I have always put my heart and soul into everything, I am hold accountable for, exactly why I take it personally when my work or I am questioned. I don’t know why people think its ok to stomp over someone’s pride, for me it’s not ok. Loud blaring voices, shouting and calling names is unacceptable, and anybody who thinks its normal has made peace with the devil!  That’s another problem I have with toxic workplaces, where people think it’s their right to belittle people, whenever, wherever they deem fit. Honestly, it’s not!

I am sure, a lot of such places exist, anyway also glad for not being a part of an organization that leeches on to their employees and takes away their best from them, leaving them in doubt and ambiguity; another characteristic of a toxic place that makes you doubt your capabilities!

You…

Love, I am still uncertain of the meaning, I do not believe it exists in phrases but I believe it exists in our thoughts…

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The Other World – Chapter 1

Dreams and yet another one, she woke up flustered searching for her phone in the dark & saw the time, it was still 3:15 am sharp. Took a sip of water from the bottle lying at the edge of the table and breathed a great sigh of relief. Turned on the lamp, then tossed and turned around. Today’s dream was crystal clear, and she could see through it like it was happening for real, but she couldn’t acknowledge the people she saw, yet that overbearing smile leeched onto her mind. Who was he? She wondered that too, someone familiar yet unknown. Whoever it was, she was bound to meet him soon, that was certain. She would meet him even if he didn’t want, she’d meet him even if she hides, she’d meet him because the people that occurred in her dreams oddly came to life.

Sarah was diagnosed with high fever when she was just two years old, the fever remained for days. She was too young to explain her plight. Her parents, devastated, did everything possible in their reach to ensure the pain lessened. She cried straight for days; her parents were slowly giving up on the doctors and the treatment seemed futile. Then one day the doctors gave up on Sarah. On the seventeenth day, her parents welcomed home an unexpected visitor, they had never seen before, an old lady. That woman didn’t look like she was a part of this world. She had a gaunt face and wide eyes, eyes that shone like they were harboring secrets. She wore a blue choga and she introduced herself as the shaman of some gypsy tribe. She was in a state of unrest, and begged Sarah’s parents to allow her to meet Sarah. The distressed parents wanted to give it a try and allowed the shaman to enter Sarah’s room, what followed next changed their lives forever.

“Mom, why do I have these scars on my hands?” asked an eleven-year-old Sarah. “Oh, these are just birthmarks, Sarah. You were born with these.” “Wow, these are so beautiful mom, it’s like a chain around my wrists, I wonder if there’s anyone with a chain like mine”. Jessica’s face turned pale on hearing this, sooner or later she will have to tell Sarah the truth, the truth about her existence, the truth about surviving, the truth about never meeting him. Sarah turned twelve the next month and as a ritual, her parents took her camping in the woods. She took along her best friend Stacy with her, they had been friends for long and she was more than a sister to Sarah. Her parents had planned to cut cake at 12:00 and were whiling away time next to the river, her friend was busy preparing for the big surprise and because Sarah knew about it, she decided to go inside the tent to speak with her cousins. While talking to them she dozed off and by the time she woke up it was already morning, she found it weird. Why didn’t they wake her up and what happened to the surprise? Startled she got up and walked out of the tent, but she couldn’t see her parents or Stacy, she panicked a bit and tried calling them at that moment she saw a boy collecting branches of wood. Intrigued she asked him if he had seen her parents, all he did was smile. The smile, it put her mind to ease. He didn’t say much but directed her t follow him, like a lost puppy she trailed him down the meadow. Suddenly she saw more people, but they all looked different. They wore different attire, they were all beautiful, it was an ethereal sight. She smiled back; she still followed the boy. Suddenly she tripped over something and cut her arm, it singed badly, how could it when it was only a cut? This place looked weird, where was she and why was she following him? She still got up but everything around her changed. Where was she? Suddenly she confronted a blinding light, she couldn’t keep her eyes open any more and then he appeared, he smiled at her and kissed her forehead. “we’ll meet soon.” She just smiled back and before she could say anything he disappeared, at the same spot stood a lady, aged yet graceful. “Happy Birthday Sarah, you look beautiful, the tribe has been waiting for you, I hope you’ll give us all a chance to greet you.” “where are my parents?” she asked. “Don’t worry they are waiting for you, at the campsite, today was indeed special and that’s why we thought of meeting you. The last ten years we have only lived anticipating your arrival and today now that you’re here we will tell you something you should know and remember.” “Am I dreaming?” asked Sarah, a bit scared of the situation. The old lady then sat on a rock and started telling Sarah the truth, “Yes, Sarah it’s a dream but that’s the only way we can communicate with you. Long ago we were banished to enter your realm, ever since we have only been trying to find ways to meet you. Sarah, you belong to our world but because we are trying to save you, we have left you with Jessica and Robert, your parents from the other world. From this year onwards you will dream, even when you’re awake you’ll dream. Don’t fear the dreams because they may seem like dreams to you but in actual, they are real. Somewhere, they are occurring.” “Its so confusing, I don’t understand. Please let me wake up, I want to go back to my parents, please”, said a perplexed Sarah. The lady exhausted said,” Sarah soon you will wake up, but you won’t see me the next time. Remember the boy you saw, keep trying to find him even if I am not around. He is the only one who can bring you back. It’s unfortunate but we’ve lost you both and he only lives in my memories now. In our world the souls are entwined at birth. He was born before you and he chose you so you can never marry anyone else. It’s a curse in your world because anyone you date or marry will face consequences that are unknown. You need to remember to not marry anyone but him.” The lady looked completely worn out now, “Sarah, please promise me you’ll remember his face, it’s important you meet him, otherwise misery will befall you when your turn 25, and you might end up losing everything dear to you including your life. Also, I will now never appear remember I am your unfortunate mother.” Slowly the old lady started turning into a woman not more than 30, Sarah was amazed at her transformation, the people around her turned into beautiful, bright beings. Everything glowed around them, they all smiled at Sarah and said unanimously “we’ll wait Sarah.” Suddenly they started disappearing and at that moment Sarah held on to the corner of the lady’s dress, “why? Please tell me everything.” The lady smiled in despair at her and said, “Soon, Sarah! Just focus on finding the boy, we don’t know where he is. Also, know that your father and mother were bewitched but your mother remembers what happened when you were two, so if you ever need a confidante she will be there. I will now only appear on the day you’re able to recall the incidents of the unfortunate night. I love you little one, and I will protect you for as long as I can.” Suddenly she saw the bright light and realized it was Stacy flashing the torch on her face. Stacy had an uncanny smile on her face. As Sarah walked out of the tent, she realized the vile reality she was only twelve of course the dream couldn’t be real! She laughed inside her head and blew the candles on the cake, but she couldn’t forget anything, did she dream, or was it real? Just when she was wondering this, she felt a stinging sensation in her arm and saw a singed mark that was never there before.

©Prakriti Kundaliya

Summer Nostalgia

Today while playing hide and seek,

We realised there weren’t plenty of places to hide;

Neither tree trunks, nor slides inside,

How in the world do we even pass our time?

It’s been ages that missy went outside,

or ran after a detached kite,

She doesn’t know any kids her age,

and doesn’t know the fun of summer break!

She hides inside on seeing a new face,

Only house helps are her saving grace…

I remember when we were her age,

We used to look forward to summer days!

Climbing up the tree and cycling unceasingly,

everything done assiduously!

The fun it was, to stay back at granny’s place,

and laze around reading,

Tintin, Asterix & Obelix the entire day!

Video game parlours were always full,

and life in summers was never dull!

We used to wait in excitement for the candy floss man,

And ran like maniacs behind the ice cream van.

The evenings were spent not in the park but fields,

where each had occupied space for their teams;

Cricket & soccer were the obvious sports,

nevertheless, someone always chalked out the ground for pitthu & stappo.

Evenings came and so did all the mums to the ground,

they sat on the bench and gossiped around;

the summers I remember were crazy and warm,

it makes me nostalgic but I remember most of the smells and sound!

I remember how my friends called me from 3 blocks away,

Their persistent shrieks would always brighten my day…

I remember the smell that encroached the veranda to reach my room,

The beautiful white ‘raat ki rani’, spread across the garden, in full bloom.

These are all recollections of my summer memories,

I am scared missy would have a different experience than this.

The times have changed, and I pray they change again,

Before she grows up, I want to live it all with her,

Once again!

When all you have is today!

“I don’t want to live anymore”, said the healthy but tired soul.

“I don’t want to die, please save me”, said the dying, wrecked soul..

Yet before we ever acknowledge the desire to live, dawns a realisation that someone has already finished writing the climax to our ending, as if to remind us that life works as per his plans. As if to remind us that being just a drop in the ocean doesn’t mean we can control him, who contains the ocean!

Every passing year is a gentle reminder that my days are now numbered, I can be certain of now but not tomorrow then why do my thoughts only think about what could be, and not what is?

Long pause…..! Imagine it…! Take a deep breath, think… Didn’t you ever feel it at some point in your life? It is anything but depressing, it’s the poignant truth! Life, finally looks more precious than all the materialistic things hoarded over the years.

When I see people succumbing to covid 19 I am scared, for tomorrow is a distant thought. All the dreams and all the plans may never be accomplished. What is, is now! If that’s what it is then I’d start focussing on the small feats.

Small feats that give big joys like making my daughter smile, investing time in her growth, being there for her everyday, like there’s no tomorrow!