Thursday, April 19, 2007

Been There, Done That: A Sales Adventure

In the recent past, we have seen Indian versions of chick-lit and lad-lit coming of age, as a large number of IIT graduates, IIM graduates and even domestic help penning down their memoirs – occasionally disguised in fiction. Chetan Bhagat can be called the Rushdie (!) of this sub-genre (!!) as his capers at IIT Delhi have set the cash registers ringing and is threatening to get made into a movie as well!

Earning the Laundry Stripes is the latest addition to this genre.
I should be seriously angry with Manreet Sodhi Someshwar for taking away a book idea. But then, if the book has to be about a Management Trainee in a FMCG MNC, then she is undoubtedly more qualified – and more exotic. Not only did she train in Sales & Marketing (S&M) at the Holy Grail of FMCG distribution (HLL), she was one of the first women to do so! I did it in a location where nobody spoke the three languages I knew – but then, my Tamil jokes are no match for a kick-ass Sardarni selling Lifebuoy in Amravati!
The Woman in S&M genre was pioneered by Swati Kaushal in A Piece of Cake, which was a thinly disguised account of Nestle. The urban Indian female, pressures of a male-dominated workplace, matrimonial adventures, fleeting love interests and the problems of finding a ladies loo in a sales office – all these abound in both the books. Except ETLS is less fictionalized. Even the name of the company is not disguised. And it is more action packed. After all, it’s about sales!
The settings are exotic – upcountry Nagpur (non-Sales junta would argue even Nagpur is upcountry, but what do they know?), Etah, Bombay Metro and Gujarat. Crocodiles on roads, porn in office meetings, 45-degree temperatures, skewed gender ratios, Bipasha Banerji’s (sic) fat shoulders… you name it, she’s got it.
She merges personal adventures extremely well with the history of the times. Her observations on the intolerance between two communities plying the same trade (post the Bombay blasts) or her anguish at the condition of the girl child in rural India ring very true.
Also, the mix of her professional trials (rural stint in Etah) and personal tribulations (Sardar girl wanting to marry Kannadiga boy) is perfect. The description of her batchmates, the long-distance love story, the quirks of HLL bosses (including the Chairman), the madness of ad shoots – all add up to a page-turner you breeze through!
And hey, the book ends with the distinct possibility of a sequel. She sells soap in Gujarat. Does well. Moves to Bombay. Kya hoga next? I am waiting…

One crib about the book is that the chronology is messed up a bit. For example, the aftermath of the Bombay blasts (with Contessa still on the roads) did not have Kalpana Chawla as role model. And her Constable More episodes drag a bit.
But these are minor blips, which can be completely forgiven for her description of the Management Trainee culture in MNCs. She says it about female MTs but it can be generalized as well – "A MT passing through is like a flower-laden shikara over Dal Lake in times of terror - the novelty..." Bang-on!

At the end of it, I had two feelings:
1. Saala, bilkul aisa hi hota hain…
2. The girl has balls. (Before the feminists get angry, let me hasten to add that I am quoting the author herself.)
And these are serious compliments, a rarity in the sectarian & macho world of sales…

Finally, she quotes a Urdu couplet, which I wish I knew earlier. It would have been an invaluable tool while convincing my teams to take stretched targets!
Girte hain shehsawar hi maidan-e-jung mein
Woh tifl kya khak girega jo ghutnon ke bal chalte hain?
Sales Translation: Heroes who deliver 100% growth will go to Bangkok. The other bastards will fucking masturbate in Narkatiaganj!
Okay, maybe not exactly…


akb said...

just one.. just one joke in tamil pls. this is for the records.


Gyanban said...

"aisa itch"...hota hai.