Lessons in business from a street hawker

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We already know from Ram Charan how much a street peddler knows about the turnover and running a business. But, from what I saw today tells me he knows much more than just that…

I live in Dwarka (not the one made famous by Lord Krishna, this one is one of the suburb in New Delhi), some of the self-acclaimed educated lot call it home. The shopping complex (or the market) tells as much about the locale and the population. The book-selling hawkers on the roadside boast of the coveted business and hard-core literature stuff.

I was taking a post-dinner stroll when I got pulled by some stuff that one of these hawkers showcased. Before I get further into this, let me also mention that I’m talking about a 4ft x 4ft space on the floor where all the books are arranged on a mat [This has to be really quite portable as this guy may need to wrap up and run every time a constable – a cop – comes patrolling. Thanks to the business arrangements (!) the constable doesn’t rough him up as many times as the government would like, or would they who knows ;)]

Right in the front he had couple of books on A R Rahman (who won 2 Grammys yesterday!), then few by Erich Segal (who died few days back), some Sherlock Holmes (recent movie release) and more stuff so current that would embarrass the Home page of professionally managed Amazon and the shelf space of Barnes and Noble…

The bookseller here is a 12-year-old who cannot read even his native language properly (forget about reading English). He knows most of these books by cover and designs. But, he knows about running this small business effectively.

Shelf space is the key (He’s got space of 4×4). Use it for the customer-pull. Keep the current up-front.

Manage Supply to demand (J-I-T anyone?) Grammy win for ARR and the time for the relevant books to his shelf = Half a day! Valentine’s day coming up – get more Mills & Boon already!

Flexible Business model. This guy goes for any model that gets him his return for the day’s investment. Sells paperback, Second-hand (used), Lease, Supply-on-Order, Retail/Whole sale, and even free Home Delivery!

Cross-sale!!! (You want Covey? Why don’t you take Tom Peters today, get this back tomorrow & I will replace with Covey by adjusting the price difference!)

Knows his customer. Within few seconds he knows what you’re looking for without you saying anything. (Sir, do you want White Tiger. Booker winner sir, it is good.)

– Keep the store light and mobile (there’s a warehouse few steps inside) 🙂

And did I mention this 4×4 space seems to have almost all the books from my reading list on Amazon. Talk about targeting the segment! The same guy at the central Delhi market would be selling Playboy and How to learn English in 30 days!

Lessons learnt! Can we execute some of these from our 400×400 offices?


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  1. #1 by Satyakam on February 3, 2010 - 9:50 am

    Good one!!!!

  2. #2 by Sudarshan on February 18, 2010 - 10:19 am

    Excellent observation !!! Management gurus can take a lesson from this….

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