Tridibesh Sen interned at Keventer Agro Ltd and shares his story of selling Bailey packaged water. Tridibesh is an MBA student at Army Institute of Management, Kolkata. Here’s his internship story.
“Bhaiyaa, paani lo paani, sirf aur sirf BAILLEY ka paani”—-this is exactly what I had to say during my internship days as a part of my job but of course in a much urbanized, uber-cool and sophisticated manner, maintaining a certain poised and studied subtlety in my body language and verbal communication as an intern cum sales representative of Keventer Agro for the tenure of a month. Keventer Agro Limited at Kolkata is the manufacturing, packaging, distributing and promoting concern of India’s beverage giant Parle Agro. My job was to roam around the hotel and restaurant thrived areas of the city, intrude into those swanky places without any inhibition, promote Bailley packaged drinking water to the owner or the manager and manage to clinch the sales order, thereby bringing revenue to the company as much as possible. On the first day of my internship, my boss called me to his cabin and explained me the pricing strategy of the product in detail, all of which went over my head quite easily and I almost stared at him with a weird misleading expression, an expression which was a blend of 2 spoons of dumbness and 2 spoons of portrayed intelligence.
” I hope you have got it, right?”, he asked in his baritone voice.
” Yes sir, I have got it.”, I fumbled.
” So, from tomorrow onward, go to the field and start working….your area of work is South Kolkata…try to push Bailley in as many hotels and restaurants as possible.”, he said it all.
” Sir, how will I promote and sell the water?”, I asked helplessly.
” Well, I want you to learn the skill on your own and your work profile depends very much on this skill, go and imbibe it,” he signed off.
At that very moment, I felt as if I had been thrown in the deep blue sea and just told to swim to come out alive but the problem was that I just didn’t know how to swim. There is a popular saying that in order to become a marketing guy, one has to be extremely extrovert and has to lie convincingly. Contrarily, I didn’t have either of these traits, necessary to be a sales person. I had always been a shy, reticent and diffident personality and used to get caught red handed whenever I tried to lie convincingly. So I knew that the task I was assigned to wasn’t my cup of tea and would have to go against my nature to fetch the sales order in order to become the salesman of the month.
The day arrived and the first bar cum restaurant I visited was the premium most “Silver Grill” in Park Street. Before entering over there, I just checked my look in the glass wall of the restaurant, prayed to my God and intruded smartly. The owner’s name was Mr De Silva and he appeared to be very snobby and obnoxious, owing to which I developed a cold feet and got nervous, nervous at the thought of being abashed by his seemingly upstart nature. However, I gathered some courage and straight forwardly sprung into the sale-talk and as usually faltered umpteen times while explaining the pricing strategy to him. I couldn’t even give him any valuable information about my product and he gave an irritating smirk at my ignorance and inability.
“I am sorry, Sir, today it’s my first day in sales and I am extremely tensed.”- I candidly confessed.
“Ok, it happens, don’t worry. Come prepared next time.”, he took me by surprise through his empathy for me.
The person whom I thought to be arrogant proved to be so wise and humble. I came out of the restaurant, being extremely cynical and critical of myself and as usually tried to vent out my anger and suppressed frustration through puffs of smoke.
“Sir, I lied to you on that day, I couldn’t understand the pricing strategy well enough and I need to know my product better, can I come now, sir?”- I called up my boss over phone and expressed my heart out.
“Yes sure, young boy, come fast. See, you are learning on your own…the urge is from your side…good sign, come, come,” he replied. I rushed to the office at Dalhousie and just learnt everything possible about my product by heart. Coming out of the office, I could feel the awakening in me, the slumber and apathy was no longer there. I was brimming with confidence and the reason for that was the fact that I got a thorough knowledge about my product. Philip Kotler, the big daddy of marketing, has said in his book that a sales representative has to have a thorough knowledge about the product he is going to sell.
“Knowledge is confidence”, I updated the status on Facebook. I went to Park street again and started visiting the restaurants, one by one, keeping aside the “Silver Grill”. I shed off my cowardice, my shyness, my introversion and could feel the awakening of a smart and confident sales representative in me. I imbibed the art of explaining to people and not just running through, the stammering and fumbling got minimized to such an extent that it could be easily be ignored and I started liking my job.The job seemed to be my cup of tea by then. The job had already started making me smart and confident from within and there was an exploration of the unfathomable hidden self.
Sudder Street, Kyd Street, New Market, Park Street, Camac Street, Elgin Road, Sarat Bose Road, Deshapriya Park, Gariahat, Golpark, Mandeville Gardens, Hazra,Behala, Salt Lake, Park Circus and China Town —all these areas became my second home. I used to literally visit each and every hotel and restaurant in these areas and I systematized my job by chalking out routines, dividing the areas as per weeks..for eg:-
Week 1 – Park Street and Camac Street,
Week 2- Sarat Bose Road and Gariahat and so on…
I visited restaurants after restaurants, got negations from most of them but still I kept alive the flame within me, I had the perseverance and I knew that something good ought to happen because of the unshakable honesty and dedication which I was showing to my work. Success doesn’t always lie in cracking a deal, success also lies in the belief of cracking a deal one day and that belief came true finally. I managed to take the sales order of Bailley packaged drinking water from some nondescript guest houses, juice shops, ice cream parlors of the city. Still I was waiting to crack a big deal, I was wanting to tap a big restaurant. I was still greedy and was not all satiated.
I visited “Silver Grill” and met Mr De Silva. Seeing me, he thought that perhaps I had come to push sell Bailley once again at his place and he got as usually irked, it was visible so clearly from his expression. I did come with the intention of selling Bailley but quite tactfully changed my mind when I could smell the rat.
“Sir, I have been interacting to so many restaurant owners these days but I haven’t found anyone as interesting as you. I am not flattering you for the purpose of selling my product but I am speaking straight from my heart, Sir, life is just not about business, life is also about an interesting interaction between two strangers like you and me, isn’t it?” – I appeased him with a dash of philosophy.
He smiled and started sharing his personal experiences in life, he spoke of how he started the business and all and also talked about his younger son who look like me.
“Ok sir, I have to go now, I have to report to office. I will come again” – I ended the hour long conversation, keeping a scope for myself to visit again. The good moments spent with Mr. De Silva got juxtaposed with moments of embarrassment and outright insult which I witnessed while interacting with the owners of Bar-B-Q and Peter Cat, the two most posh restaurants of Kolkata.
“Look, this inferior product of your company can never find a place over here, we have got a 15 year long tie up with Coca-Cola’s Kinley and we cannot break that bond,” the owner of Bar-B-Q said. I tried to defend my product and my company because somewhere down the line I started relating myself to the brand called Bailley, I started considering myself to be a quintessence of Bailley.
However, the restaurant owner snubbed me off and ousted me from his place. I felt insulted after a long time but this time I took it in my stride because a sales representative has to get used to all these, it’s quite usual. I consoled myself with few puffs of smoke. I went inside the purchase department of the age old and esteemed Flurys confectionery and had a futile business talk. They said they believe in premium priced mineral water, not in cheaply priced packaged drinking water like Bailley.
I almost felt like taking out a gun from my pocket and make him stand at the gun point and threaten him or blackmail him to take Bailley, Bailley and only Bailley and nothing else. Wish I had a gun with me at that point of time. Shah Rukh Khan rightly said in Om Shanti Om, “happy ending naa ho toh picture abhi baki hai mere dost”. Happy moments were yet to come in this story.
“Sir, some restaurants are getting Coca Cola’s Kinley at rates cheaper than that of us, they are getting Kinley at Rs 10.8 per 1 litre bottle and so we should try to offer Bailley at Rs 10.7 or 10.6 instead of Rs 11.25 per 1 litre bottle in order to capture the market share, let’s follow the penetration pricing policy.”- I suggested to my boss, being a MBA student.
“Yes, why not and we do offer at those competitive prices in times of need…look, you have learnt it all on your own, good sign.” – my boss gave me a pat on my shoulder. I visited Silver Grill once again and presented the low price offer to Mr De Silva. He got lured,ordered 7 packs of Bailley and agreed to form a tie up with us. I got a sigh of relief. Happiness followed.
Remember, it just didn’t happen only because of the low price offer of the product, it happened because I managed to develop an amicable relationship with Mr. De Silva which created the strong base, owing to which things just fell in the line. Business is not just about spinning money, it is about maintaining trustworthy relationships to keep the money spinning.
Still something more was left to be done, it was about tapping the untapped market of China Town and two restaurants called Nam King and Evergreen agreed to keep Bailley. The saying is indeed true, “denewala jabbhi deta, deta chappad phaar ke”.
Life is a serendipity and nothing else, you just have to wait for the right moment to come…..
Bailley, as you all know, is a hugely under promoted brand and the brand seriously needs active marketing campaigns and advertisements in order to remain in the market with huger market share.
Being a creative person, I suggested some interesting punchlines for Bailley…for eg:- “Drink Bailley, Live Happily” and “Purifying the system since 1993.” However these punch lines will never be used because the company Parle Agro has strangely no such plan of making an advertisement for Bailley. I may not have got any incentive from the company but what I have achieved during this period of internship is itself a moment of pride and honor for me. Money always cannot give you the pride and honor, your work gives that, just as the way my job as an intern gave to me.
If a shy and introvert person like me can create this wonder in his internship, then indeed they truly say, ” Nothing is impossible.”
Recently a friend of mine was asking me, “Tridibesh, why did you give so much importance to Silver Grill? What is so special about that restaurant?”
That restaurant holds the quintessential memories of my first love….me and my girlfriend used to go over there quite often, that’s why,” I spilled the beans.
And the project work continues…
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