Shruti Sud who has been asked by several people to add a T in the second position of her surname leads us on a different train of thought. Flawless victory, we say.
Whenever I pictured what market research would involve, an image of a large branded store teeming with enthusiastic shoppers would come to my mind as the ideal location for interacting with customers and understanding the rationale behind their purchases. Thus when a marketing research project was actually thrusted on me during my internship with Voltas and I was asked to find out who the Voltas customer really was, my first impulse was to verbally administer a questionnaire on those shopping in malls and markets. But little had I known that people could be so insensitive to the little demands on their time made by a helpless MBA intern. The questionnaire being a little lengthy, since yours truly didn’t want to take the risk of missing out on any important parameters that couldn’t be collected later, took around 15 minutes to finish during which time most of the respondents would run away rudely stating they didn’t have time to waste on senseless marketing studies, leaving my survey incomplete. Only the politest among them would take the trouble of coming up with a reason for not being able to sit through the length of the questionnaire some of which were as inane as “My dog is alone at home. I need to get to him fast.”
It was on one of my never-ending rides on the Delhi Metro to my home from office, getting bored and sulking about the general unhelpful attitude of the Delhi public towards helping an intern successfully complete her summer project, that the eureka moment struck me. The place I was sitting in was the perfect setting to explore the depths of the consumer’s mind. The passengers were all sitting idle in the Metro and so had all the time in the world to spare on my little study. From here there was nowhere they could run off to giving silly excuses. Even if they disembarked at a station I could follow them on to the platform, finish my survey and then catch the next train going in the same direction. Metro with its well-developed intricate network covering majority of the vastness that was Delhi, was truly a blessing in God’s disguise for me and I patted myself on the back for my foresight in voting for Congress in the previous elections. Precisely because Metro lines criss-crossed the length and breadth of Delhi and that people from all strata of society travelled by it, I was served a sample on a platter which was representative both with respect to the region of Delhi the respondents belonged to as to their economic conditions.
So for the next 2 weeks, the Metro became my second home. For almost 6 hours daily, because that is all my stamina allowed me, I was on the move from Dilshad Garden to Gurgaon, from Model Town to Ashok Vihar – areas of Delhi that I had never visited before were experienced through the metro stations. I would step onto any train and ask the first passenger I encountered about the station they were travelling till. If their destination was at least 4 stops away I would begin with my survey otherwise I would move on to the next passenger. It was the closest I have ever felt to being a tramp. One day I bumped into an old school friend at the bustling Kashmere Gate metro station and when she asked me where I was going, I replied “Anywhere! I just need to be back at the Malviya Nagar metro station (which is right next to my home) by 6.” Needless to say, she was astounded and consequently I had to explain to her the methodology I was employing for completing my internship project.
Those 2 weeks were completely exhausting. Every day was a struggle. I had propped up an incentive of a Nirulas ice-cream at Rajiv Chowk Metro station at the end of the day for myself and at times that was the only thing that kept me going. Executing such surveys taught me patience like nothing else ever has but at the end of the day, I look back and wonder how many people can claim to having travelled on each and every Metro line that has been set in Delhi. Now that’s an achievement!