With the new campus being set up just outside Mahabalipuram, I am fortunate enough to be part of a batch watching evolution right in front of my eyes. Just like the way, reptiles slowly took to the trees and began to fly after sprouting feathers, I find myself at a very interesting spot, watching numerous small businesses spring up around college as days go by. This epiphany happened at the place we fondly refer to as ‘The Blue Mall’. The Blue Mall is a small blue coloured house, set a hundred yards from our college. We occasionally step out to get ourselves some hot Maggie noodles and omelettes. Until a few weeks ago, the exterior of the house was pretty dilapidated. We generally had to sit on a badly made makeshift fence, or stand on mud. But this time around, there was something new. After much staring in the darkness, we realized that the mud had disappeared and in its place were proper tiles. The house bore a new look. Where once remained a scruffy bush, now lay a well set flower bed and pots. And all this was thanks to the simple business of selling Maggie and omelettes to hungry MBA students bored with the canteen menu. When we moved in, the owners only stored cool drinks and a few biscuits, but thanks to some of the girls at college teaching them how to cook what we desired, they found a very profitable business and are showing the first signs of expansion and growth. First tiles, the next thing, we’ll probably get decent chairs to sit on. Soon enough I am sure the menu would improve to include more dishes. Come a few years, a buzzing restaurant, giving competition to the college canteen. All this, thanks to Great Lakes setting up a home far away from the hustle-bustle of the city.
This got me thinking as to the number of such small businesses have cropped up since the arrival of our batch. These businesses will continue for many years to come, along with every passing batch of Great Lakers. Take for example the tiny store set up inside our campus. What began as a simple store for soap, toothpaste and basic necessities is now a flourishing business for the nice lady who runs it. The store now stocks every kind of cool drink, confectionary, snack and stationary. The lady running the store is perhaps the best example of ‘Customer Relationship Management’ in action. She understands everyone’s tastes to the point she almost knows when to get what shampoo for which person, how many chocolates a person eats, what kind of chips do they prefer. If the store does not stock it, a request is made to get the goods in a few days. She also sells on credit to every student. Another example of a flourishing business in the out of nowhere.
The autorickshaw guys in the locality can now send their kids to college thanks to our students. An auto guy who would previously roam around earning not more than 500 on a good day, earns nearly 10 times these days. As explained by one of the auto rickshaw guys to me, they would at best travel between villages charging a flat rate of 5 rupees. The occasional trip to Chennai would come at about 30 per head. With us, we do pay a premium, but the premium is for them. For most of us living in the city, the rates demanded are pretty reasonable. A small nexus has formed between the students, who can call any of the auto guys at any time of day or night. The auto driver is more than glad to come immediately, drop us, and pick us up from Mahabalipuram, irrespective of the time, as he knows he is bound to get at least Rs300 from the round trip. Understanding their customers, they even know which restaurants the students frequently visit. Even trips to the nearby Mayajaal multiplex are at a subsidiary rate, with no waiting charge. The auto has made customers for life. One of the more enterprising chaps speaks hindi, and is well connected to get us any sort of vehicle, right from a Sumo to a Scorpio at an hour’s notice.
Take the city of Mahabalipuram itself; restaurants see greater sales on weekends. Besides the usual crowd, every restaurant on a weekend or a relatively lazy evening is filled with students from our college. Many of the restaurant owners serve us beyond closing hours, and even know the dishes we regularly order. All this, by the simple act of moving the college from the heart of the city to the outskirts. Each one of us is an enabler of sorts; creating business for nearby people. Businesses based on tapping simple needs of desperate city-bound students and placing it on a strong customer relationship foundation. I’d really like to come back 5 years from now and see what other businesses sprout up thanks to the college. Am pretty sure we’ll get a dominoes and Café Coffee Day soon. If one looks at it, not only is the college giving the country future leaders and managers, we’re improving the standard of living around the college too. Win-win situation for the nation.
– Nikhilesh Murthy