Thursday, December 13, 2018

Staff Empathy - Wake up India!

Like many of you, I too saw the viral video of the Zomato delivery guy consuming the food meant for Guests on his scooter. As a benefit of doubt, I initially thought he was eating the food he had ordered for himself or his family. I never shared the video and the ensuing Memes even to my close family or friends. Something stopped me from doing it. It takes me back to 1997 when I joined my first job as a part-time employee in erstwhile Madras. Being a humid city and blessed with four seasons of Summer through 12 months, the city was eponymous to a hot weather all through the year and about 20 days of winter. So Ice-Cream as a product category was a 12-month business opportunity and no wonder, “Baskin Robbins” set-up their second store in India here after debuting in Mumbai. I would study Computing at NIIT from 7am - 9pm and pursued B. Com from 4pm - 8pm at RKM Vivekananda College. A chance glance on the local tabloid and I saw there was a job opportunity at this shop and I headed. 

I got selected but the Franchisee wanted me to work all day which I couldn’t since I had classes in the morning and evening. So, I suggested I can work part time from 11am - 3pm which he agreed to for a monthly remuneration of Rs. 300. We were a crew of 6 and had to run all errands - from receiving stocks to cleaning tables to serving scoops. Around the same time, local brand “Arun” would sell their stick Ice-Cream for Rs. 5 while a scoop of Baskin would cost Rs. 33. We had to not just convince Customers to try and buy our offering but also justify why they should pay so much for the product.
The Franchisee was a shrewd businessman in his 30s and had an idea which took us all by surprise. He suggested that each of us can take any one scoop of ice-cream daily. There was a register we maintained and we tried as many flavours. Over a few days, we requested if we could take them home instead and make the family happy which he obliged. Over the weeks, we got tired of eating daily and said we wouldn’t do it anymore. The Franchisee had hit two mangoes with this move - he ensured we never pilfered the food; he ensured the staff knew what we were suggesting to Customers and so could sell them easily.
This was my first lesson in Retail, my first job as well. Frontend Retail Staff in India, most of them find it difficult to make ends meet. Salaries of CXOs have grown multi-fold in decades, but not that of these guys. So there is always a sense of remorse (at least for some of them) that they are unable to afford the products or services. I am not taking this as an excuse for living poor, after all that’s a choice too but they do really cannot afford even basic needs at times. I feel really bad for this Zomato delivery guy for all the negative publicity the society gave him. Imagine the humiliation his Mother, Wife and Children would face from their neighbourhood? Will anyone employ him again? With our excessive media trials, we have killed a family's reputation Sigh.
We have failed as a society, yet again thanks to our "one-upmanship" and self-styled righteousness in the garb of exposing someone who was at fault. Oh, btw that guys doesn't need our sympathy. The world needs more of our empathy. Am sure you agree. 


The Retail Staff (including the delivery staff) deserve better. Better Salary, better empathy and better social acceptance. When we give them something beyond what they deserve, they will not only display integrity but also build a better society that we live in. Remember, no one was born a thief. We just become one, thanks to circumstances.