I had to learn, at different twists and turns in life, that everything must have a purpose. There is very little place in this crowded world, and among busy lives, for anything which does not have a purpose.

But, also I learnt in the journey, it is fairly easy to miss-read the purpose of things. Does Sun exist to warm up the earth, or keep it bound in an orbit? Or, less glamourously, is the business about making money or about making a difference? Do I exist to generate more carbon or to contribute?

The other issue about purpose is that it must change over time. Because the purpose is not inate in things, but it is what others, mostly people, find in it. Since societies and people change, the purpose of things must change.

I return to retail, as I must. For example, my grocer had a purpose to exist 20 years back - he was making available, under one roof, things that I needed to buy. That changed, since supermarkets invaded our lives. Sadly, the grocers still believe that they must exist for the same old purpose.

It seems our expectations, as consumers, change far faster than our habits as suppliers or producers. I see things changing in the booksellers' world. I do see a great future of specialist bookstores, who combine a great online and offline model, offer great value on books and create communities of customers.

But, well, how many do it? I was talking to the Finance Head of an upcoming retail store in Calcutta, and asked him how he intends to reward loyal clients. He said he believes the great collection and fine interiors will do the job. No online presence, I must add. No home deliveries. Well.. it has to be that purpose question I need to go back to, yet again.


Rezwan said…
Surely the traditional thinkings had limitations and they had a particular purpose on mind. That is to run the business without much risk and no expansion plan in sight.

But to tap into the people's habit of consumerism you need to play a different ballgame. People always look for a value addition. Successful grocers in the West have shiny news fliers delivered to customers homes with exciting offers. They have online presence and some notify customers about discounts, offers etc. These discounts and offers are a gimmick to clear old stocks (first come first serve basis) but draws a huge crowd. And the usual nature of consumerism ensures more sales from the regular priced products.

Here they have a clear agenda of expanding presence, increasing customers etc.

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