This is a Guest Post by my BESTEST prof ever! I'm not saying this to gain brownie points, but he is truly one of those people whom I admire and respect. The other day, I'd just finished writing a guest post for a friend, and I asked sir if he would right one for me. And 48hrs later, there is a beautiful article from his side. Sir, Thank you so much for taking time off your schedule and considering my request. I'm really out of words to post a good introduction.
Here is the post:
The Purchase Manager
If there is a weekly routine that I look forward to in the humdrum monotony of life, it is the Sunday evening visit to the Malleswaram vegetable market with Kamali – my wife. In that one hour and a bit I get to learn the essence of good buying, and the lessons never stale.
The one-minute manager that she already is, she checks the preparations with a quick eye to begin with: correct timing, five separate bags, enough cash and more particularly enough change, key schedules for the following week etc. And sweeps off in the direction of 8th cross, with me bringing up the rear.
Through the five minutes it takes to reach the first vendor, there are incessant instructions: ‘remember to buy amma’s medicines and collect my blouses from the tailor on the way back’, ‘did you say your colleague’s son’s birthday was some time next week? We should get some gift from Devi’s’ and ‘do you have shaving cream? Don’t expect Ganesh Stores to be open at some unearthly hour in the morning’ etc.
And then the purchase starts, and with it the management training. First there is the appraisal, with the help of a quick walk, of what’s on show. The ‘regulars’ are acknowledged with a smile or a nod, with sotto voce asides to me, “see the aubergine there? Looks good” or “the old lady is not there today, it’s her daughter. She’s a proper militant, you know.”
The sequencing of different items of purchase is a masterly lesson in scheduling. You can’t buy the tomatoes first, and if you have to (“there’s heavy demand today – let’s buy it now or we’ll get only leftovers”) it should be stored in a separate small bag that she will carry. The dudhi and mota alu will be starters so that the bags get solid base. The different varieties of beans can’t go into the same bag. The karuveppilai and kotthamalli as well as the greens will be on top. And she follows this order meticulously, with very little backtracking at the same time. In between there are also the ‘specials’ – for the amavasya, the Friday nonbu, or the paratha lunch pack for our son.
The selection – now that’s where you get taught quality management. Vendors give her a pan the moment she crouches down, and she starts picking expertly. The seller tries to pitch in with her own, which invariably get thrown out by Kamali. Wherever the stall proclaims ‘no picking’ she doesn’t buy as a policy, with few exceptions. Similarly there has to be scope for bargaining: ‘fixed rate’ shops take away the whole fun of buying, by her standards.
The bargaining is a treat. Even as my wife speaks her first words the vendor realizes that she’s not a Kannadiga, and switches to her tongue – Tamil. The amazing thing, though, is that while her Kannada grammar is atrocious and accent even worse, Kamali knows the Kannada names for every single vegetable. While I watch this bilingual tussle at each stall the bags start filling up and I become useful at last – as the porter.
The denouement is equally impressive – the accounting. Even as I put down the loads and attempt to ease my bulk into a sofa comes her voice, a mixture of gentle entreaty and imperious command, “list the items and tally the cash, please?” I marvel at her prodigious memory as she rattles off the amounts she paid at each point of purchase and reconciles the spending with the cash taken and the balance in hand.
And to cap it all comes the ‘financial analysis’: “My God! Prices have gone up again, did you see? For about the same buying last week we paid some 10% less!” There, but for stick-in-the-mud Tamil Brahmin male chauvinism, goes a business leader.