Monday, November 15, 2010

Candles stall at TCE, Vikhroli during Diwali

Hey friends,

Here’s is a short (originally planned to be short, that is!) report on the events leading upto, during and after the stall held at the office of Tata Consulting Engineers Ltd., Vikhroli. on 03-11-2010.

I had obtained an in principle decision from TCE to put up a stall in their office. We thought that some day in the Navratri / preceding Diwali would be ideal. We had initially planned the stall for Monday, November 01, 2010. There are about 400 employees in that office and about 300 in a branch in the next building, so we wanted to have at least 300 to 400 pieces of candles on display. Based on the feedback from the Patni stall held last year, we decided not to have any plain candles, but only the decorative ones.

To kick off the preparations, around the third week of October, we had a joint candle-making session where Shweta and her husband Unmesh came as also the women from our community made candles with various moulds. Ashish Soni got Wax, colours and other raw materials from Masjid.

At the end of the day, Shweta felt that the women would be able to make the requisite number of candles by 01-11-2010. On around 26th or 27th Oct., Shweta was to come to the centre to take stock of the situation, but she couldn’t due to a small health problem. So Rupesh suggested that he and I should go to the Satheynagar community at night and have a look at the status of production. We had a shock! The women had made only about 10 pieces and that too of a very dull colour. Rupesh explained to them about the proposed stall and the need to have at least 150+ pieces ready. I asked them to use brighter colours instead of the dull ones. We immediately took two decisions: (a) We would have a stall at only one office – instead of two and (b) We would postpone the date of the stall to 04-11-2010.

The next day, I requested our office HR department if we could postpone the date to 4th November, but they said that as there were some Diwali celebrations planned for that day, we could have the stall on 3rd. So 3rd it was going to be for, as Rupesh put it, we didn’t have a choice! We were still apprehensive whether we would be able to put up a decently good show.

Our visit to Satheynagar that night seemed to have conveyed the message to the women about the seriousness of the matter, and they had started devoting a couple of hours each day. Ashish Soni had also got small metal containers and special ‘vaat’ for the Diwali diya type candles which were also being made parallely with the decorative ones. Besides, I also struck upon an idea to use the thick plain candle mould available with us to make tutti-fruity candles which would be a mix of decorative and practical and managed to make 40 such candles. Rupesh had also arranged to have some toys from “My Kids Arena” to be displayed – the sales of which would fetch LEAD some revenue. Shweta and Unmesh too paid a visit on the weekend gave valuable tips and motivation to the team. The situation towards the end of Sunday (31-10-2010) was quite positive and we started feeling that there would be quite an acceptable quantity of good quality candles.

On 1st of November when I visited the centre at night, there was a good lot of candles. I had got zip-lock covers in which I packed as many candles as I could till 11-30pm.

Come the 2nd Nov 2010 – this was the D-day (D-night actually! ). The stall was to be held next day! We were also yet to tie up at least two volunteers who would man the stall. While Avishkar had confirmed, there was no second person. Kailash had promised to come that night to help to pack the candles. Rupesh had also sounded out Dipesh who readily agreed to come. We had initially planned to meet around 8.00 pm. But my son Kumaresh had to be taken to the doctor as he had fever. Dipesh and I finally reached the centre after 9.30pm. Kailash was already there. There was a good quantity of candles to be packed. We started rightaway. While Dipesh and I had had dinner, Kailash hadn’t. But that didn’t prevent him from working cheerfully with Dipesh and me. As we went along with our work, time too was passing by. When we had put the packed candles into cardboard cartons and the folded LEAD banner ready for dispatch the next day, it was 12.30am. Seeing that we needed yet another volunteer for the stall, Kailash promised to be there in the morning (though he was also needed at his office to handle the Diwali rush of activities). I dropped Kailash and Dipesh and went home.


On the “stall day”, the 3rd November, 2010, I picked up the packed stuff from the centre and took them to my office. Our office HR department had already sent mails and put up bills on the notice boards announcing the holding of the stall and exhorting the employees to support the cause. The slogans read “Light up your homes! Light up someone’s life!” They also got the tables placed at a vantage location near our canteen. Before long Kailash too reached there. Shweta Desai from our HR department had also arrived to help us. We took an initial stock of the candles and Shweta got plastic trays and helped to keep the candles neatly. Avishkar also reached the spot and swung into action with us right away. We also unpacked the toys. By the time we had the stuff on the counters, it was past 12.15pm and the first of the employees had started trickling into the canteen. While Avishkar was at the toys counter, Kailash took position at the candles counter. I was planning to have our Office Head visit the stall to inaugurate the event – but was disappointed to learn that he was out of town! A few employees came by and glanced at the candles and toys. Some even enquired wheter the candles were scented, etc. but no one had bought any item! Kailash and I looked at each other – was this going to be a flop-show?

Then an employee made a “Muhurat” purchase! It was then that I saw our ex-CEO and now senior director Mr. A. P. Mull walk out of the office towards his car. I rushed over, told him about our stall and requested him to visit. He graciously agreed to do so. We briefly told him about LEAD and o ur activities. He made a token purchase of a beautiful conical candle.

Then started a steady stream of employees at our counters and the buying spree had started! Kailash and Avishkar had a tough time catering to the customers, but were enjoying doing so! I had planned to go back to my desk once Avishkar and Kailash were well set – but the heavy rush of buyers prevented me from doing so. People evinced keen interest in the various designer candles and toys on display.

While all types of candles were being bought, out of the toys, only the cute hand puppets found buyers. A good quantity of candles and toys had been sold, and we had reason to smile! Around 2.30 pm the main lunch time rush of employees had petered out and Kailash informed us that he had to go to his office to attend to a multitude of waiting activities.

There was a brief lull in sales. Shweta Desai again joined us to help out. As part of the company’s Diwali celebrations, there was a housie game organized in the canteen at 4. 00pm. There was some good sales during this period too. It was 4.45pm and we were considering closing shop. Then Shweta suggested that we hold on a little longer as by 5.15pm, people would start coming down for the evening ‘nasta’. Her prediction proved true, there were many employees who had missed on buying during the lunch hours who did so now. It was well past 6.30 pm when we finally decided to call it a day! Shweta helped us to classify and pack the remaining stock. Shweta had really rendered valuable help to us and her persuasion skills won us quite many customers – thanks to her! Avishkar and I put the cartons back into my car and bade each other goodnight.

After coming home, I took final stock and tallied the money – while doing so I made an additional sales of Rs. 100 as my wife bought 4 beautiful candles worth 25 each! It was the end of a satisfying day – We had made about Rs. 3500 from the candle sales and a ‘commission’ of Rs. 420 from the hand puppet sales! Thanks to Avishkar and Kailash for their salesmanship! Thanks to Dipesh and Ashish and Shweta and Unmesh and Kartha madam n her daughter Anu and all others who helped directly and indirectly for their invaluable contribution! Thanks to Rupesh for the leadership! Thanks to TCE for the wholehearted support to LEAD!

Check out the photographs of the stall at:
http://picasaweb.google.com/lead.airoli/CandleStallAtTataConsultingEngrsOn03112010#

Post stall activities:

Kartha madam’s daughter Anu agreed to keep the balance candles at her boutique “Moksha” – and out of these Rupesh and I also handed over a portion to Ashish Soni who proposed to put up a small stall in his society.

On Diwali day, Rupesh and Kailash went and distributed almost the entire profit (Rs. 2000) along with sweets to the four women who made the candles – the employees of TCE had lighted up their homes and helped to light up someone’s life!

Points that we learnt: Many employees (consultants that they are!) asked questions like “Are the candles scented”, “Will they float in water”, “How long will this candle burn”, “Will the full wax burn in this candle”, etc. We should thoroughly test-burn each type of candle and be able to give right answers to such questions to future customers!

Cheers!
Ramesh
LEAD

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