I love the food in Delhi. I mean, this is such an oblique reference to the title of the post, but I really love the food in Delhi. As a regular on random chaat thelas, kathi kebab skewers, flashy juice stalls, and with a long-standing appetite for falafels, shawarmas, momos, kebab rolls at New Friends Colony, Khan Market and other such cleverly cut corners, I have come to form a super-impression about the food-sellers in Delhi: They are all about juicy delicious food served with brilliant customer relationship.

I mean, food is really NOT the only great thing about these stalls. The more terrific story is about how these sellers have built a super-cool customer-relationship over the years, even decades. Spicy enough to pull the customers back to the stall regularly. It is far more savory a recipe to learn about business from the thela-wallas than a delicacy itself. Even the high and mighty, brick and mortar retail space owners try to mimic the grass-root culture of these street vendors. A blunt attempt, IMHO, to piggy-back on the bustling charm of street-food industry. Shame, it is though that the malls can never get there.

Recently, I ran late into a shop at about 11:00 pm and asked the seller to pack something that cost me Rs. 240. I was very hungry. The guy, a tired and sweaty seller, was in a hurry to shut his shop because of the patrolling police-van nearby. And his business was done for the day. But he generously accepted my order and asked the khansama to pack the food for me. He asked for payment very politely. I gave him a 1000 rupee note, which he promptly adjusted and gave me back Rs. 800. And said “chhutta nai hai merey paas, baki paise aap kabhi aur pay karr dijiyega“.

He did not have change, and yet converted the business impasse into an opportunity. I was simply awestruck! The guy stuck two sugar laced arrows at the same time. He reposed faith in me, a total stranger, by asking me to complete payment another day. And he got me invited for another day. Another meal, more profit. I mean pffffft!! That’s what I call a cool way to build an honest customer relationship. It is really not about management mantras or a manager-client-process approach to have a warm business relationship. The incident also made me reflect on so very little sense in having an allocated CRM manager at my bank, whose name and phone number I need to note, before I start talking to them. Or if there is any value in seams and seams of contractual obligations that ink the nature of relationship between the customer and the seller? Is not a warm relationship good enough?

And I thought to myself how such a beautiful small scale industry with absolutely no capital support, or shape, or influencing muscle can employ millions in our country and at the same time beat the process-intensive thinkers sitting in the malls simply by depending on warm customer relationships. IMHO, great business is only about warm relationships, the risk taking DNA of the entrepreneur, and the culture imbibed by the industry as whole. The spice of great customer care, can beat the mightier processes because for people it’s not the process, but the service that matters.

Only the feeling has to be great. What do you guys think?

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