17,000 BCE – The birth of trade, barter trade to be precise. Trade flourished as clans travelled the 7 seas to distant lands, carrying with them precious metals, stones, silk etc. to be exchanged for what them and their people needed; no monetary instruments. At best, and eventually more common above the exchange of goods, were precious metals (gold/silver) and stone as payment. Eventually governments formed and their regulation on trade birthed the currency we know today. As of today, we have caught a glimpse of what is to come with the rise of the unregulated (now) cryptocurrency – bitcoin, litecoin, ethereum… Not as many transactions, yet a promise.
Trade practices have always fascinated me, and travelling to various countries allows me to look, listen and learn more about it. Often, I find, one story is bound to another.
Hoi An, a quaint, historic world heritage site in southern Vietnam, was our destination of interest for the second time in 2017 – 11 months apart. Wet weather saw us scrambling for raincoats and umbrellas. As we alighted from our taxi, Reena dashed across to the only makeshift store at the junction, where rain gear swayed on a clothesline. 450,000 Vietnamese Dong for a button down version which, after some haggling and walk away tactics, turned into 100,000. Happy? Nah! Three streets down, the same was available at a staggering 35,000 Dong. Hence, no matter what industry you’re working with – the McDonalds on every street corner, duty-free stores at the airport, or Real Estate – the location, scarcity & necessity is crucial.
Moral of the story >> Location, scarcity and necessity – What’s Fair? The word “Fair,” being relative to time and context, not fair market price.
Several foreign faces dotted the streets, with their strange voices from near and far. Vietnam, a tourist haven. The very definition of time can be seen here. Time is a relative measure of movement from past, to present, to the future. This place has held its ground in many aspects, but trade practices seem to have evolved.
A lady on a bicycle nearly bumped into me as we were crossing a busy street. “Wow! Where do you come from?” she beamed, cordially so and true in expression. “What do you think of my ancient town?” My family moved into a shop across the street, so I decided to entertain the sweet small talk. 5 minutes in to the friendly banter, she touted her store, located just a few blocks down the street. There was, apparently, much to see there. I was almost sold!
Amazon, in this digital era, fits this bill – business brought to your fingertips instead of visiting the store. Find ways to get to customers where they are, draw them to your store at the click of a button.
Moral of the story >> Bring the business closer to the Customer, not the Customer closer to the business.
I grew up in a small town with less than 30,000 people. Sunday morning, once a month, in the courtyard of our home, the barber’s scissors snipped away at the hair of all the family’s men – seemed more like a chair of doom for those of us who loved our hair. The vegetable sellers and fish mongers would call from right outside our gate. Now, thanks to e-stores, these interactions have changed.
TripAdvisor is an amazing platform. In my travel pack, I just cannot do without the following:
1. A data card.
2. Google maps – directions to walk about, find out places of public interest. I got one for $12 (1 month validity w/ 2Gb per day) and must have saved $ 500/- or more on taxis, food ++. Great for navigating through side small alleys and lanes with names that sound similar and spell almost the same… at least to a foreigner.
3. TripAdvisor – for names of renowned restaurants and shops. It came in handy when my daughter threw a fit for Thai food. So did the wife for some jewellery, and eventually me, for a tailored business suit. We found the best Thai food and several local foods in nice ambience at simply great prices. Not the case on our first trip to the same place 11 months ago when we relied mostly on hotel staff and taxi drivers.
Banh Mi Phuong – The famous Vietnamese sandwich. Look at this video and it will show you the story.
That’s the case every day, at any time of day! In this case the price is low, so was the price in one of the family run Vietnamese restaurants we found on TripAdvisor. It’s the volume game. Low price, good trusted rating, accessibility …draws throngs of people – young families, backpackers, the new masses of world travellers.
Moral of the story >> Access and utilise modern tools to further your business – digital tools, public interests and opinion.
The need/desire is always there – time immemorial. Goods always travelled from afar to get to the user. Then, camels and horses to now, trading post/markets. Now at click of a finger are Amazon, Locanto, Redmart that use shipping, etc. Tomorrow at your window, via drones. Perhaps, the day after, to your mind via AI+VR… It’s just the experience one pays for! 50% of the current banking jobs will not exist in less than a decade. Mobile payments, cryptocurrencies, fintechs etc., will turn the banking industry on its head.
Evolutionary not revolutionary.
I leave you with this thought.
A shoemaker packed off his two sons on a journey to a remote town. This to see if there was a for need there for shoes. After a week in that town they returned, and one of them said, “They all walk bare feet and their traditional values are very strong. Impossible to sell there.” The other said “No one wears anything. This is a place of great opportunity.” So the father went into town and opened shop, buying two bicycles for his sons to help with the commute and distribution…and hence begins his trade.
Wish You All Extreme Happiness in 2018. Keep your glass half full !