The man in the monkey mask

I came across Ankur Indoria’s story via The Hindu.

I absolutely love Ankur’s spirit!

Here’s a BBA graduate refusing to wait for an internship opportunity in some company and trying his hand at entrepreneurship however small it may be in size or scale. The fact is that he chose to go ahead and hit the grind with his idea!

But it’s not just the bravery of launching the idea, but also the intelligence and creativity thrown into the mix!

What intelligence? A small list:

1. A brand!

Now, most street food vendors do have a brand name, though they sound more innocent and humble than professional (like “Sree Laxmi Venkateswara Chat Stall”). Ankur, using the education he gained, creates a more professional-sounding branding that works to make it stand out and be memorable? Why? Because his catchment area is Bengaluru’s Church Street. Creating a brand that could help attract people in the street he would sell is a great starting point.

Still, why need a brand for a food cart? Because a grilled sandwich (that he sells) is available literally in every corner Darshini in Bengaluru. And they are very good/tasty too. So, for people to consciously choose one place over another for a commodity item like a grilled sandwich, the bar is really low. What could help is recall value, beyond taste and/or price (both of which are very standardized already). How does one create a recall value? A starting point is the brand name – OH-HO! But there are 2 more ways Ankur adds recall to his entreprenuerial effort – read on.

2. The single-item menu!

Ankur is one guy, with limited resources! So, he chose a single-item menu in order to make it manageable for himself, and turn it into a USP too. No decision-paralysis for customers – head to Ankur’s stall and get the one thing he sells! There is just one item with one price-tag – Rs.40. And since it is vegetarian, both vegetarians and non-vegetarians could have it without any issues. Smart thinking to suit his limited means.

3. Packaging – this is the best part!

Not only does he have a stall that plays music, but it is also a stall that you cannot forget easily – after all, it is run by a guy in a monkey mask!

Photos via OH-HO’s Instagram page.

This is brilliant because there is NO other street food vendor wearing a monkey mask! This is a BIG idea to gain awareness and recall value without spending big bucks! When you lack the resources to package your outlet with glitz or glamor, or differentiate yourself in a commoditized space, you become the product’s packaging yourself, as the entrepreneur!

Clever and ingenious, though this has been used in other ways by other street vendors too. I recall a soan-papdi vendor from my days growing up in Srirangam (near Trichy) who used to sell the most incredible soan-papdi in a large bell jar and he used to clang his bell in a musical way while also shouting in a peculiar way that became his unique callout! Even if we do not see him, the sound and callout attracted us wherever we were up to mischief in the street and we used to rush back to our homes to get some money to buy soan-papdi 🙂

That is also a way to uniquely brand the product, much like the monkey mask. The monkey mask is, of course, unique because it is so unusual, unlike street vendors’ callouts that are quite common (by now) – you least expect a man in a monkey mask as a street vendor and that surprise element gives Ankur an edge.

I do, however, wonder about two things.

What Hindu’s write-up does not mention—and this is something that is understood, I presume—are things like Ankur registering his street vending effort under the necessary rules laid out by BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) and FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India). These are basic requirements and there is no reason to assume that Ankur has not thought-through these. This is also a way to avoid the street cops harassing him since that is a very, very common occurrence in India/Bengaluru.

The other aspect is around making a profit, or at least a break-even. This too is obvious and there is no reason to presume otherwise. A BBA graduate would obviously be aware of the expenses he incurs, the price at which he sells, the minimum he needs to sell to either break-even or make a profit so that the venture is both meaningful and profitable.

Overall, I believe Ankur’s little entrepreneurial effort is an excellent inspiration for college students to emulate. Besides mentioning in their CVs about where they interned or worked immediately after college to gain real-world experience, adding that they ran their own venture like this, complete with details of innovative marketing practices, would be a terrific value-addition to their resume!

Follow Ankur’s OH-HO page on Instagram.

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