Friday, May 13, 2005

Ab Tak 56...

This month, I ended up counting that this is the 56th time I have closed a month (not counting the two/three times times I was getting married and changing jobs)!

And this month was quite a reminder of the old times when all we did was to 'thoko' stocks and then run to the HQ towns to convince the distributors to unload the trucks AND pass the cheques! (As one of my old Commercial Managers used to say, "If he has to do one, let him do the latter!")

Suddenly, you are reminded of the famous Ramgopal Verma blockbuster…

"It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it..." they state matter-of-factly as we see visuals of Nana Patekar polishing off goon after goon!

And that finds a fraternity among all those unsung ASMs in the world, who are clearing off warehouse after warehouse - all in the name of God, country and the Operations Manager!

And I realise I have made the transition from the Primary School to the Secondary... where it is no longer cool to have 8 weeks of paid up stock, you have to sell it in the market also!

Its actually a great thing that all that stock is no longer there – but one big loss is that all those wonderful “Primary Stories” can no longer happen!

Somehow, there is something inherently masculine about the whole process which reminds you of those dashing cowboys of Texas, the princely Afghan warriors and other such He-Men! And you really felt as if you were saving the company from total doom by invoicing lunatic amounts of stock!

And these stories moved around like urban legends...

"Maloom hain Bihar mein kya hua? Ek TSO ka target tha 82 lakh. Usne 96 kiya. Phir usko lagaa ki 1 crore nahin kiya to kya kiya? Yeh tha raat ke 9 baje... uske cheque distributor ka credit block ho chuka tha... lekin DD distributor ke paas cash pada hua tha... usne raat ke waqt cash udhaar dilwaya cheque distributor ko aur invoice karwaa diya... agle din cheque pass karwaya cheque distributor aur maal delivery liya DD distributor. Isiko kehte hain Distributor control, samjhe?"

"Maloom hain, Bengal mein to CFA ke farthest wall pe Maa Durga ka ekta tasveer hain... agar pura CFA khali nahin hua to woh tasveer dikhta nahin hain. To ensure this inauspiscious thing does not happen, no Bengal ASM leaves the CFA without clearing it out... Isiko kehte bhagwaan pe vishwas"

"Maloom hain Bangalore mein kya hua? Udhar lagaa tha transport strike... koi maal nahin jaa pa raha tha. Team ne saare distributor ko bataa diya ki pura din kaam karne ke baad, raat ke waqt woh log apna truck leke aa jayenge plant. Wahan pe billing hogi, maal load ho jayega aur woh log maal leke aa jayengey... transportation cost? Abbe margin nahin milta hain, kya?"

Seasoned practitioners of the trade discuss the two ways of doing that primary number – Halaal and Jhatka.

The slow and steady method is practised in cultured territories like West Bengal, Cal-Metro, Chennai Metro where ASMs want to bring some semblance of method to the madness. So you have the TSE on the phone, the computer operator yawning, endless cups of tea, Excel sheets (with DB-wise, SKU-wise averages) ready on the laptop... as the edifice is built meticulously, brick-by-brick...

The other (slightly violent) method is the preferred mode of operation in action-oriented states of the Cow Belt. So you have a very professional list of “value builders” (as defined by the products which have the highest rupee value per cubic inch of carton) ready... and at the end of the frenzied key-punching, the Region sees the depot going from –12 lakhs to +166 lakhs in 2 hours flat.

Innocent souls like the IT guys discount such improbabilities as system errors and log onto the Helpdesk. The ASM is obviously unavailable for confirmation... as he has left the CFA to take his team out for a sorrow-drowning session.

Other stories come back to you...

Of the time when your distributor in Begusarai got his bank manager to issue a draft from his residence on Republic Day (Yes, this can happen in Bihar! And bank holidays in the last week should be F#@$ing banned!!)

Of the time, your distributor held stocks in excess of 1 crore (yes, 1 followed by 7 zeros!) because he wanted to go to Bangkok in a distributor competition! (PS: What he did in Bangkok is another story!)

Of the time, a good friend of yours refused an opening in credit card sales because he did not feel comfortable in a job where he could not see 4 weeks of floor stock!

Of the time, you asked your star TSI if he needed anything to pull off yet another miracle and he replied, "Do cheez ki zaroorat hain... Hamari koshish aur aapki kismat!"

Of the time, your SO felt that there is a similarity between month-endings and Ashoka's Kalinga War... Something to do with the bloodshed and gore while it is on and of the repentance and mourning once it is over!

That is when you end up counting that this is the 56th time you are closing a month as the whole-and-sole in-charge of a sales territory...

55 times you have killed distributors under an avalanche of Dettol Soap 75 grams, Mirinda 2 Ltr or Saffola Gold 1 Ltr...

55 times you have surreptitiously exchanged Harpic orders with Haze Agarbatti, Pepsi 200 ml orders with Mountain Dew 2 Lt...

55 times you have written down the list of the "value-drivers" and referred to it repeatedly while doing the last 5 lakhs...

55 times you have vowed to quit and join a child-education NGO after the blood and gore of the closing...

55 times you have decided to stay on after reading the scheme approval mail...

55 times you have sung the signature tune of month-closing to your Boss... (Those who do not know this tune, it goes like this - "Cannot commit, Sir... But I will try")...

55 times you have led a territory, which is screwing up one way or the other...

And the likelihood of getting out of it alive depends on how well you manage to counter-balance the nuts with the screws!

Salesman Number 1

This is a very old piece - written in 2000 A.D in a place called Cuddapah. It is put on the blog in keeping with (what the author very pompously feels is) "popular demand"!

Imagine a film called Salesman No.1... starring Govinda in the title role.

Govinda is a country bumpkin studying in a b-school in Bihar! His classmates include Johnny Lever and Mohnish Behl (side-villain).
His Marketing professor is Kader Khan... who utters wonderful shairis like "Distribution badh nahin sakti ghar mein baithne se, Brand Equity ghat nahin sakti zamane ki sataane se..."
Govinda's father (Alok Nath in a guest appearance) was a Lever's TSI who was killed by Naxalites trying to improve the distribtuion of Lux in rural areas! And HLL did not pay any compensation to the family, which is why Govinda's mother (Farida Jalal) has stopped using soap!
Govinda has vowed that he will not rest till the market share of Levers soaps in his area is 0% (remember guys, this is a Hindi film!)

Anyway, on placement day, Mohnish Behl gets HLL because he has contacts (his father - Gulshnan Grover - is the oldest Levers distributor in the country!). And Govinda gets RCI!!!
By the way, Johnny Lever also does not get Levers... he gets, say, SBCH!

Anyway, they are both sent to a vague rural area for theirs MTs stints... where Kader Khan (in a double role) is the RCI distributor and his brother Gulshan Grover is the HLL distributor (Mohnish has got this stint in his father's area... guys, guys, guys - this is a Hindi film!).

Guess what, Kader Khan's daughter is Karishma Kapoor, who promptly falls in love with Govinda. She keeps accounts for her dad in the daytime and sings songs with Govinda when she is free!
Song situation:
"Main to primary kar raha tha,
Main to secondary kar raha tha,
Main to schemes chala raha tha,
Tera undercut hua to main kya karoon?
"

Johnny Lever has also fallen in love with the SBCH distributor's daughter (Guddi Maruti, as usual!) and... Song situation: "Horlicks jo pyar karega... Woh gaana gayega... Aquafresh daaton mein pehchana jayega..."

Govinda works very hard and improves the RCI distribution greatly... and the Levers soap market share goes down steadily. Meanwhile, Mohnish has good fun with a village chhamiya (Rambha in a special appearance) - and she can even sing a song... "Luxy luxy luxy mujhe log bole..."

Ultimately, there is huge pressure from the top for Mohnish to mend his act. And he gets to his evil ways - with assistance from his dad!
They go and tamper with the RCI records to convince Kader Khan that the Reckitts ROI has fallen felow 24% - AND Govinda is flirting with his daughter!
Blinded with rage, Kader Khan bounces a Reckitts cheque - and stops distribution till such time Govinda is removed from his territory!
Govinda's targets go for a toss - and to make matters worse, Levers is about to launch Savlon soap in the area!
He is also forbidden to meet Karishma, saddened by which Karshma sings, "Ab teRO BIN jee lenge hum, zahar Mortein ka pee lenge hum..."

Govinda's transfer orders are sent... and just when he is about to leave, Johnny Lever discovers the gochi in the RCI accounts and phodoes the bhanda to Kader. Kader Khan realises his mistake - and immediately gives a draft for the bounced cheque! And as a dowry for his daughter's wedding, he promises to match the Savlon display budget with an equal sum from his own pocket for Dettol!

The Climax: The news of Mohnish and Gulshan's wrongdoings reach the ears of the Levers ASM (Kulbhushan Kharbanda).
And it is also discovered that Govinda's father was not killed by naxalites but by Gulshan's henchmen because he had refused to pass false secondary claims!
Hence, there is a high-voltage clash between Gulshan-Mohnish and Govinda-Kader-Johnny in which Govinda beats up the baddies with a Customer Order Book! (FMCG guys will vouch for the size and hardness of this object!)

The Happy Ending:
Alok Nath is declared to be a great TSI, and his pension is paid. Farida Jalal starts using soap again. Mohnish is sent to the Andamans for his next stint.
Gulshan is stripped off his distributor-ship. And it is given to Kader Khan.
Johnny Lever marries Guddi Maruti.
Govinda marries Karishma - and quits Reckitts to join Infosys!