Tag Archives: food

Notes from Chennai Book Fair – good initiative but not well organized

20 Jan

3 days before the Chennai Book Fair got over I visited the place – Venue : St George Anglo Indian School , Poonamalle High Road . It would have been criminal had I not gone for the fair. I am a book worm, an aficionado of books and above all I just love spending time with them- looking or reading.It was the 32nd annual Chennai Book Fair and i have been visiting it religiously for 6 years now .

I may break this ritual from next year!

It is not that book fair was a failure. It was by all accounts a resounding success . The citizens of Chennai should be proud to host such a prestigious event. I am proud of it. I am a citizen here. Lived here all my life.

But the thing is of the rows and rows of book stalls i visited ( for about 3 and half hours) I just couldn’t find a single stall where i wanted buy a book. Sure the books were all there. But then I would also find the same books in a Landmark or Crossword bookstore. Save for the 10% discount offered there was nothing special in the fair. Absolutely nothing !

So why then do I need the Chennai Book fair ?

But here are the key insights which you may find very interesting :

  • More people visited the cafeterias to eat samosa, popcorn’s, cone ice creams and soups than the book stalls.
  • Those who did visit the stalls spent more time ,again, eating out Sri Krishan Sweets and less time at the stalls.
  • The book fair is a heaven for people who are read Tamil books. Less interesting for people like me who love to buy books which are otherwise hard to find in the regular book stores.
  • It was an ideal place for parents to buy books for their kids. Just wish that they had used the stalls properly instead of herding the kids to eat at food stalls.
  • It was badly organized.

Ideas for the organizers :

  • There should be a cap to the number of stalls : I visited close to 400 stalls. No wonder people dint find it interesting. By the time they reached the 50 stall they would have walked around a lot, got tired, thirsty, hungry and bored to death. It then kills the purpose of the fair .
  • Ban food stalls inside the stall: It is insulting to see people sit in a corner with their kids clamouring around drinking tea/coffee and eating samosa. I dont blame them. The attention span of kids is like 1o min or thereabouts. You cant expect them to drag their parents to visit the stalls when their eyes feat on delcious loking straberry ice creams? If one kid sees another of his brethren enjoying a popcorn or samosa, you know what is gonin to happen next.
  • Segment the stalls into different verticals :  All the books stalls were packed like cards. Shuffled around and completely disorganized. If I wanted to find a English book stall I dont want to walk around 30 minutes before I found one. It pisses me off ! I would like the organizers to segment the book stalls in some order. English, Tamil , Kids Corner, Spiritualism . This is just an example. It could be in some order. Any order ! Just make it easy for me to find the stall relevant to me . Thats all
  • Dont give permisson to every food seller in town to open shop in the fair : I saw people who had opened mobile kiosks to sell –  Groundnuts, Cup noodles, ice creams.. blah blah… What the hell ? I am sure someone in the goverment made tons of moeny sigining permissions to open stalls like that .I am at the fair to buy books, maybe drink or eat something . I am not at the fair to indulge in eating! Jeez!

But here is something what I really liked :

Opposite to the school I saw roadside book sellers hawking duplicate copies of the same books which I found inside the fair. They were selling ” Imagining India” by Nandan Nilekani for Rs 120 ( MRP : Rs 700), ” Hot, Flat and Crowded” by Thomas Friedman for Rs 140 ( MRP : Rs 500) which i bargained it to Rs 100, just for the kick of it.  Almost all the latest books released in the market today has found its way into the hands of these roadside books sellers – all duplicate copies.One guy actually gave his visting card and asked me to contact him later for I had asked him for old copies of HBR. The guy even had a website . How cool is that ?

But here I found old , original copies of “Arms and the Man” by Bernard Shaw, “Future shock” by Alvin Toffller, “The Blind Assasin”  by Margret Attwood, ” For whom the Bell tolls” by Ernest hemingway, ” A thousand Splendid Suns” by Dominique Lappiere and Larry Collins, ” As a man thinketh” by James Allen, ” The Road less traveled” M Scott Peck, ” Short Stories” by Anton Chekov and scores of other original , old copies of classics. I bought most of them. I spent close to Rs 500 and bought more than 70 books . Not a  single duplicate copy . All the books I bought were priced around Rs 10, Rs 20 and Rs 40.  I even saw an original copy of ” Build to Last” by Jim Collins priced at Rs 60. I dint buy it because I already had a copy  bought a year ago for Rs 300.  You get the drift, dont you ?

The point is :

  • Why dint I find a single second-hand book shop at the fair selling old, original editions of  the classics?
  • How come the police allowed these people to sell printed,duplicate books right opposite to the fair ?
  • I thought more books were bought at the roadside stalls than what was actually sold inside the book fair .

The Chennai Book Fair is a great event . I did find some good stalls like – British Council Library, The American Library , Krishnamachari Yoga Mandiram, Isha Yoga, Art of Living, Osho etc. They were very focused on what they were selling to the customers. People knew what to expect in the stall unlike other publishers trying to sell almost all books and titles under one stall. It just creates too much of confusion and also very time consuming for the consumers.

The Bristish Council and American Library were promoting memberships at discounted rates. They dint need the money . They were just promoting and encouraging people to read good and more books. Ironically, I saw very little walk-ins to these stalls.

By the way , I did eat “Bread bajji” and ” potato bajji” inside the stall . Damn it !  🙂

Thoughts on Chennai Sangamam : Great Marketing and Novel initiative

17 Jan

I recently visited one of  shows, part of Chennai Sangamam Open Festival program and I was completely floored by it.

Few notes and thoughts :

Great Initiative : A fantastic initiative by Department of Tourism and Culture , Govt of Tamil Nadu to provide a great platform for rural artists to showcase their talents in music and dance . A great place of convergence where urban meets rural folks. But most important of all a great eye opener on the great , rustic music and dance culture of India , sans borders.

Ingenious Marketing : One of the ways the organizers used to promote the Festival was to paint the Govt buses with images of the artists performing for music and dance numbers. But the icing of the cake was – and i must say this was really ingenious – to let artists sit inside the buses and play their music while commuting.

This is simple and great marketing at zero-cost . See, the organizers had figured out their audiences. The people who are going to watch these programs are not going to come from those who are driving Honda city’s or Hyundai Verna’s. They are not going to be people who were living the hi-funda lifestyle.Your typical audience is the regular guy who on one hand enjoy beats of A.R Rehman but at the same time bow their heads in veneration when it comes to traditional music. These are the people who migrated from their native districts and villages to Chennai seeking out jobs and better life, leaving behind their old ancestral house,grandma’s thair sadams and green agricultural lands ( reluctantlyI must add ) to join MNC companies, Railways, Public Sector Banks and other govt job.

  • The audience is the guy who catches the9 am , 23c bus from Aynavaram to Life Insurance Corporation and working hard so that he can fuel his son/daughter’s engineering dreams.
  • The audience is the lady who got married and moved to Chennai with her husband and now takes care of her house and kids and 25 years later still reminiscing her grandma’s manga thoku ( homemade mango pickle). She still hums folk songs learnt when she was a kid. She still craves for the traditional foods made by her great grandmother, which is so famed in her native place. I am sure you can see her walking every day in the evening all the way to a small mom and pop departmental store to buy vegetables/fruits and other groceries to feed her kids and husband when they come back home.
  • The audience is also the 28 year old guy who moved to Chennai , to some engineering college, finished his BE in CSE/ECE/I.T etc and couldn’t go back because he got campus placement in TCS and still paying EM I’s to bank which paid his college fee. He could be married and his spouse could be an IT professional as well. He rides a bike or takes a  bus either to his office or parks his bike ( for Rs 3) and takes the train to the IT corridor where his company is housed.The same , boring job of coding, software testing . These days he is not sure when he is gonna be asked to clear his desk for good.Recession triggered pink slips are galore. He still remembers how he and his school friends played gilli danda, ko-ko in his Theni/Trichy/Madurai district. And he can still remember how after coming back from school, he takes a dip at the village lake/river and then goes to folk play/dance programs held under a thatched hut or a wooden stage . He still loves such music and any day prefers it over disgusting women, scantily dressed and dances on stages and gets paid a whooping rs 50 lac for a show ( I will come to that later).


Now imagine what if one fine day , when the Dad on his way to LIC office in Mount Road, in the 23 C; the house wife on her way to the departmental store; the IT prof guy on his way ( 8.30 am train so he takes the 7.45 am bus) to office; hears the same old , rustic, traditional, familiar folk music and smiles when he sees the artists dressed in bright red/green/yellow colors, majestically holding those from-my-native-land instruments ? What if it refreshes his mind, makes his day, gets him pumped and then he does something which he has never done while commuting in the bus : he taps his foot in sync with the rhythm of the music . The same old , from -my-native music. What if that bus has stopped at a traffic signal and the artists are playing their music and

Now Imagine , my dear friends! –

The Dad and the IT guy in the same bus, the lady is at the same time crossing the road . The bus is waiting for the green signal to come . The Dad looks awe struck at the music, the IT guy taps his foot and the housewife hums the her own native song from her land. This is a micro perspective. What about the hundreds and thousands of buses running across Chennai and millions of Chennai people listen to the artists playing everyday in the morning and evening while commuting in bus? What kind of effect will it bring ? Wont the lady go back home and pester her husband to take her to the festival? Wont the Dad take his family to the festival during the weekends? Wont the I.T guy sms his wife and ask her to meet him at the festival after office?

This is marketing at its best ! If you disagree with me , you are welcome to criticize !

Now how much money, do you think, was involved here, for marketing? What would  percentage do you think the advertising agency would take had they been hired for this ? What other costs do you think was involved ?

Govt would have incurred the cost of letting the artists in the bus free of cost and also paid  the artists who painted the images in the buses.  Any other cost involved ?

Zero! Zilch ! Absolutely nothing ….

I now look forward to the next chapter of Chennai Sangamam !