Why Roadside Tea Stalls Sell Diapers?
Customer-Centricity is not the forte of big-Tech alone
I recently visited my Hometown — Ranchi, a small city in India, filled with luscious greenery, cramped roads, and beautiful sceneries. If picnics are your thing, then this is the place to be. Be it a picnic by the babbling brooks, the happy hills, or lots of wacky waterfalls.
But enough about Ranchi. What it, like most other Tier-2 towns in India, also has plenty of is the Chai (tea) shops sprawled across the busiest streets of the city. This is the place where you will see a lot of interesting crowds.
It was evening, and a cup of tea seemed appropriate. The surrounding scenery of a green canopy-covered street and a beautiful park made us stop near this tea stall. While sipping on our hot tea in a kulhad (Clay cup), we noticed something bizarre.
Along with the packets of chips and snacks, there they were. Hanging on the ropes were so many single-use packets of Diapers!
Not something we would remotely expect to find in a roadside Tea stall.
I was curious to find out why.
People Who Flock The Tea Stalls
If you stand near these shops long enough or visit regularly, you will notice that predicting the crow, and its behavior is fairly easy.
At school/college start and end times, the vicinity of the shop will be crowded with an excited group of students, hanging out with their friends bonding over a few cups of tea, cigarettes, and some snacks.
The other set of people who visit these places are the regulars. These are usually adults who live nearby, and these tea stalls form a part of their regular routine. They come here in the evening, chat with the owner, sometimes meet their friends who also live nearby. This sometimes becomes their place to discuss the weather, politics, and other mundane aspects of life.
The third on the list are people who usually travel by these streets regularly on their way to their workplace. These tea stalls often become their place to stop, catch their breath, spend some time with themselves, away from all the chaos.
If you notice the common thread across all these personas — it is loyalty. all of these people would have selected one particular shop from the street full, and stick to it.
But, why diapers?
One curious behavior that I have noticed that also runs common across most of these people found here are, they are looking for some time for themselves.
Most of these people live with big families and are on the constant lookout for opportunities to flee the chaos.
This becomes the strongest factor of why Tea Stalls are so popular and could be found practically within 200 meters from any house.
When people are on a constant lookout for opportunities to get out of the door, a strong excuse is to do household chores! You heard me right. People do try to find opportunities to perform chores.
And if you do it so often, you will run out of items that the house needs.
That gets us to the smaller items like soap, toothpaste, and diapers.
Diapers apparently are something one could never have too much of.
So here is the man who leaves his home on the pretext of getting something for the house. He leaves the house, heads for the tea stall, has a cup of tea, and breathes fresh air. On his way back, he buys a soap or a diaper. His trip is now automatically cloaked as a necessary trip to the market.
I am into Product Management, and customer-centricity is a term drilled into us from Day 1.
Think about customers, talk to customers, understand their needs deeply, and then make something that delights them.
And it is not always as easy.
Most players in Tech have reached the top climbing the ladder of customer-centricity. They pride themselves on being focused on customers and claiming to know them better than they know themselves.
But here there were a few men (yes, it is all men industry), running Tea Stalls, who never did a business degree (hell most of them never went to schools), generating profits from Tea stalls with the level of customer-centricity which would shame the biggest businesses.
Customer Centricity can not be taught. It is something that is realized, and perfected with practice
And one needs to know almost nothing to be customer-centric. These tea stall owners just changed it for me.