Learning marketing through street-selling at NITIE, Mumbai

kartik

Kartik Raichura
Staff member
Learning Marketing Ideas the NITIE way.

Understanding of the pulse of the Indian consumer is often underrated, but it plays a very important role in the decisions and strategies of the business leaders. Management students need to meet and observe customers and understand them more closely as a part of learning marketing management, consumer behavior or personal selling. This has been met with some success at NITIE, Mumbai where a unique learning method has been implemented by Prof T Prasad for the first year management students.

Mandi is a teaching method where 'Learning becomes Self Discovered'. Thus the concept of 'MANDI' came into being, "A Field Sales Campaign for Teaching Personal Selling Skills through Experimental Approach".

The first year students of NITIE's Post Graduate Diploma in Industrial Management (PGDIM) course undertook this unique sales exercise and were seen dressed in one of its kind Mandi t-shirts selling toys in different parts of Mumbai on July 24 2005. The students were given an inspiring speech by the CEO of Bayer India, Mr Rajesh Agarwal who also flagged off the event. The students were given the freedom of choosing their respective groups. As part of the exercise, they were supplied with educational aids used for teaching math and science. A total of Rs 1,00,000 worth merchandise was distributed for the exercise by a NGO named Navnirmiti. The products that were chosen for the exercise were: Jodo 3-D Wonder Kit, Tangram, Pyramid and Rangometry. These products were designed with a purpose of inducing a sense of creativity and innovativeness within a child.

Each group of two students were given goods worth Rs 2000 and they had to sell at least 30 percent of the stock. However, almost every group sold out. Together the students managed to make sales worth Rs 74,000. The highest collection by a single group this year was Rs 8000. Harsha Venkatesh, a student said, "Mandi provided us the opportunity to understand the mentality of the people. All the people were interested in the puzzles and games we were selling. We were surprised to see college students and young professionals also buying the toys along with small children. It only showed us that every individual has a child inside her. Our entire stock of Rs 2,000 was sold in two hours at Phoenix mills at Lower Parel."

During the exercise, each of the student teams experienced the complete personal selling process a number of times. This gave them a feel of different customer types, their expectations, possible product objections and so on. Says Saumya Sarpal, a student, "I was trying to sell one of the 'Tangrams' (a toy) at Worli-Sea-Face to this rather uninterested guy, when a kid tapped my elbow and asked "what is this?", pointing to the frame of a house built using 'Jodo', that I was carrying. Initially I thought of brushing him off, but something in me hinted that this is the end-user of the toys standing in front of me and I should try to sell it to him. I sat down patiently, and gave him a demo. The kid taught me a lesson not to ignore anybody."

After the exercise, the students had a feedback session where the central idea was to bring reflective observation and abstract conceptualization together. Explains Yugit Bhansal, a participant, "What I learned from Mandi is that there is a market for almost everything. You only need to know how and whom to approach. When we were selling at the railway stations in Mumbai initially there were no customers but once we were able to gather few of them then the group effect propagated and after that there was so much curiosity that it was getting very difficult to handle the number of queries." The fact that the proceeds were going for a social cause inspired the students to work harder at their sales process.

However it was not a cakewalk for these students all the time. For example a person mistook a group of students to be desperate job hunters and offered them a job where they would have to actually work full time as salesmen for a salary of Rs 4000 per month including a clause that said that the job was only for a period of three months. As students hailed from various parts of the country, the language barrier in some instances also hampered some of them.

The first phase essentially focused only on the selling experience and its impact on student learning, leaving aside many other aspects of the field selling experience, such as setting sales targets and achieving them, and detailed planning including pre-sale planning, post-sale review, specific target markets and customers. Hence these are the aspects that Prof T Prasad and his team hope to cover in the next two phases of Mandi which are planned sometime during the next month. So don't be surprised if you find budding managers from NITIE back on the streets of Mumbai for a fresh and new selling spree!
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