Al-Avalathi's Life (Al-Avalathi is the last Mallu to go to the Gelf)
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Posts from — June 2004

Kirana V/s Super Markets.

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The case study in BW missed out one important business model. BW did talk about this earlier but some how missed to include in the case study. The Margin Free Markets of

Kerala. As per a report in BW some months back it is the largest retail chain in India.

Colored yellow all over, from walls to racks, this is something that your eyes would not miss if you travel through the roads of Kerala. Ubiquitous by their presence, Margin Free Markets is a model that is worth emulating for the retailers.

Some facts about Margin Free Markets:


Govt models like the Maveli store had taken a back seat thanks to the issues omnipresent in a govt controlled organization.

MFMs were started somewhere in late nineties by a guy from Trivandrum. He had a partner who later (read on…) First showroom was near Verma Travels near East Fort.

Went on well, kept on building up franchisees.

The Business Model:

Make the idea of super markets shed its “Up market” image. The idea of supermarket was still a fledgling when MF started. None of the biggies had set foot in Kerala. And whoever like the Varkey’s showed some presence was altogether for a different crowd. The MFM attracted the common man for its simplicity and price factor. It helped the populace shed their inhibition towards the supermarkets.

Give every single commodity at a price lower than the MRP.

The people of Kerala never dreamt of purchasing products at sub MRP prices. Build the network. Accept all discount cards available -be it issued by newspapers like Manorama

or Mathrubhumi or by Margin Free themselves. Use of these cards make it cheaper even than the MFree price.

All the goods offered at MFMs -were packed as in any typical supermarket.

The idea was that of sharing profits. The chain gets bigger.

Number of pieces of a product purchased goes up. Get discounts from MNCs and others. Reduce the number of intermediaries. Rise up to the level of a distributor. Pass this

advantage to the consumer.

People flooded MFMs . Where else could the common man get a discount of 1-1.5 Rs for a Soap. This was immaterial of the number of pieces purchased. The idea was a big hit.

Then came the era of clones. On expected lines, there was a split in the business. One of the partners, moved to Cochin and started a similar chain with a similar logo. And the funniest part is that never do they claim to be different, entities unless asked for. They feel that revealing the truth would take the sheen and hijack customers from one to another.

Later atleast 4 of such MFM chains tried to build their networks. None succeeded as the original(s). The success of model is evident in the fact that even the Kirana next

door is changing to the MF yellow and discounts on a smaller scale.

The products offered at MFMs range from FMCG to grocery, Crockery to Electrical Appliances.

Very recently, they came up with MFREEM brand of spices and condiments. Signs of prosperity…..

And the chain is getting bigger and bigger.

Any IIM there to include this model in their syllabus?

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June 29, 2004   3 Comments

Is Kerala Healthy?

No, says a recent survey. Dun ask me who, which etc of the so called survey. CM Anthony told the press yesterday that out of 1000 people in Kerala on an average 110 people are unhealthy!!!(national average is 55)

Sound quite paradoxical for a state with very high health and social indices. I thought I would analyse the reasons for such a flaw in calculation. Here are my reasons:

Very high number of senior citizens. Experts call Kerala society a grey society. The bad effects of good health care. There are more number of grey men and women around and I am sure none of them are perfectly healthy. This takes the number of unhealthy people to a very high number.

Hyperchondria- Another result of better healthcare, awareness and more purchasing power. The people give (un)due importance to health as they are aware of various common and uncommon ailments. They know when to go to a doc. And there is no dearth of money to buy medicines (for the poor , govt hosp are there!!!) The case of Malappuram dist, supposed to be one of the most backward districts will tell more. This dist has the maximum density of docs and medical stores. Lotsa dinars and riyals come into this place and the gulf-wives spend on medicines for every silly sickness. It seems docs around the state prefer to work in Malappuram!!!

And the third reason is the most obvious one. Over reporting of such figures. More number of people are ready to participate is surveys compared to other parts of the country and so you get a skewed figure.

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June 24, 2004   3 Comments

Ecofriedliness Lallofied.

After a busy night of giving away gmail invites (i had 6!!!), my not so commonly written piece of writing on the net is back.

Started with a wish to be a regular blogger, I jus find it tuff getting time for blogging. Hats off to all those regulars.

After Ambica Soni, Maneka Gandhi could be regarded as my second bete noire. But loved a cloumn by her in the recent Outlook where she said the use of earthern ware as chai cups(on Lallo Railways) in trains is a dumb idea. Long back my dad had told me this fact, but did not read more on that anywhere.

Her argument is that earthen ware are non biodegradable and how else can we find Harapan pots even today intact, had they been otherwise. Good logic. Once smelted in kiln , clay loses its bio degradability.

So what is gonna happen to the shards of tea cups from railways. They can’t be recycled, then what???. Reusing(if not broken) is unhygenic , I guess.

Probably , eons later students of history would find out that a mode of travel called Rail existed and Earthen Tea Cups were used.

Finally, Plastics are better. Atleast they can be recycled to make non food grade plastic goods.

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June 22, 2004   2 Comments

Another gmailer is born.

The birth was caesarian,the child is alive… and kicking!!!!

After days of toil, I got a gmail invite from Mihir Saxena . I had been struggling to get an invite the day I heard about it. Mailed atleast 50 people around the world literally begging for an invite. Of the few who cared to reply , everybody had to say the same old five letter word -SORRY!!!

Thanks a lot first to PG and then to Mihir and ya.. my night shift. When Mihir posted on PG that whoever PMs him first would get an invite, I knew I would win the game. Reason is simple-very few were online in PG at 2:30 am. I PMed him. Got an invite. Me too a Gmailer.

My gmailing begins a day after yahoo reaffirmed their stand to face competetion by increasing mail box size to 100MB, even though it is one tenth of gmail’s 1000MB.

I am trying to figure out on how to make the best of gmail-invite others….

I think i can invite only if I have invite others link on my Gmail page…

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June 17, 2004   12 Comments

A few men

This piece is on few men I adore. I rarely do respect people.I know that it is not a virtue ,still….

I respect only a few. Mostly the men with brains. Here is my list.

Jairam Ramesh-IITian , Carnegie Mellon Univ, Economics Fundoo.

Shashi Tharoor- writer, orator, UN official, mallu, next UN Secy Gen(media says, as it is asia’s chance next time)

A man with a sack full of degrees.

Sreenath Sreenivasan- Foreign educated, Son of an IFS, journo, hubby of Roopa Unnikrishna(Shooter-Arjuna Awardee)

and now Hari Kunzru- half kashmiri,half Brit- writer.

One thing is for sure. I like ecomomists and writers. My likings are narrow, you could say that. Never did it cross this domain. After reading Kunzru’s site,I understood that a writer is not born on a day. It takes a lot of effort to make one….

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June 13, 2004   2 Comments

Pk Pickle

Wondering what this is all about?

Last week saw an ad in TOI . National Foods ,Pakistan was calling for distributors in India. It seems we are gonna have Paki pickle,salt,jams, ketchup etc soon in India. Great to say the least.

I dun know how pk pickle will be sold at competetive rates. There are two chances.

We may have these products being sold subtly as Indian. Then the price too needs to be Indian.

Or we may have it as a phoren food item like Australian Apple juice or European Chocklates.

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June 11, 2004   No Comments

Toothing-The latest fad

Staying away from blog for days. I had no other option. Had tons of stuff to blog every night(night shift dude!!!), but had no time to blog.

Read about the newest fad in UK-Toothing. Frankly, I’m almost a month behind the press. But this is not a Tech News blog, it’s my own thoughts….

Lemme jus tell you a brief abt what I imagined and how close reality is.

I used to wonder if I had a phone that would get me the numbers of all phones(at least of the same service provider) in my vicinity. I had this “creative thought” whenever a good babe walked near me with a phone.

Told a couple of friends about such a device. I thought such a thing should be possible. You can search for hot spots (Wi-Fi) using a Wi-Fi device. Then why not jus a phone number of the best babe around me, that’s what I thought!

And Voila!!! I get to know about toothing. A way to talk between two Blue tooth enabled devices. No permission required. Jus ask “Toothing?” and then its your luck. Its nothing but anonymous sext( SEX+TEXT) messaging. Its a huge huge fad in the UK.(as per news reports, how else would I know?) One more term that’s added to the techie jargon along with Toothing is Bluejacking. This is SEXT messaging someone without permission. If she agrees, fine…. Toothing starts off!!!

The disadvantage for us Indians is we have only a small penetration of Blue Tooth devices… Hope things change fast .

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June 8, 2004   2 Comments