Aggarwal Uncle’s Grocery Store Vs Supermarket. Is it really worth having too many options under large, Air conditioned roof?

From last Tuesday till Friday I was busy working on a new project for a client that we just acquired. It is this project that brought me closest I have ever been to Supply Chain & nuance of “Hi-tech” products.

Note: Hi-tech products being the one that generally follow “Veni, vidi, vici” “came, saw, conquered the market” & then company decides to kill its own product by launching a better version/new update etc. It is these products which apparently makes supply chain such a difficult science.

It is one of these discussions that pushed me 20 years back when there were almost no “Hi-Tech” products available in the market; time when no company was interested in killing its own products. Days when no phone was followed by phone ver 2.0 followed by ver 3.0 within months. Let’s go back to that era for a quick 5 min; let’s visit our good old-fashioned grocery store

Up until around 1998 we were only familiar with what we now consider as old-fashioned grocery stores. These grocery stores were so-called service shops. The grocer received his goods from the wholesaler in large volume packages. Wholesalers rarely delivered prepackaged products in consumer sized packages. This situation gave the shop attendant, (Aggarwal uncle) the responsibility to repack the goods in the desired package sizes. The consumer did not gather the goods himself, but had to ask for each separate article and define the desired amount to uncleji.

ImageThe queue had some typical characteristics. The number of cashiers (servers or customer care executive in the queuing model) was limited; but even with limited number of cashiers there was no abandonment & high wait time was great fun! The service time included several actions. Besides handling the payment uncleji also had to gather, weigh and pack all the goods that I/customer desired.

Then slowly & steadily, “Self serving stores” picked up followed by supermarkets. Wait time reduced but at what cost. We lost personal touch that was there in shopping at uncleji’s grocery shop.

I don’t know when but sometime during my college days suddenly all companies started growing glut of products & services, flooded the market with multiple variants of same product line  (e.g colgate has more than 10 variants, my god! At the end of the day isn’t it just toothpaste) & in bargain created a challenge for themselves; how to make customer notice & buy its product and services.  

ImageThe example of this glut is everywhere now. For evidence, just wander down the passageway of local supermarket. Britannia which sold one type of bread in 1998 today offers at-least 5 types. This prompted companies to start spending billions in pursuit of grabbing customer’s “Timeshare”. Securing and holding onto customer “mindshare” for any particular company’s products and services became increasingly hard to achieve. Advertising spend increased; a reflection of companies’ efforts to buy their way into people’s brains.

But tell me is it worth at all? I am currently having a feeling that good old days of uncleji with far less options to choose from were far better days. I think we were more at peace then. What say?


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