|Anoothi Vishal / New Delhi May 16, 2009, 0:34 IST|
Ideas,” the editor at the newspaper where I worked earlier would bellow each day. But when people did produce some as per the request nothing would pass muster. She was fussy about “original” ones, didn’t possibly appreciate the world view that nothing is as such in god’s kingdom, and fretted if one turned in something based on a party conversation or, horror, another publication’s reportage, however obscure. As for PR handouts, they were too below the paper’s collective dignity to be mentioned. At least that’s how it used to be.
The reason for these reminiscences is, of course, the fact that the post-meltdown world is buzzing with “ideas” like never before; if not actual ones, then at least the word itself. Meet friends over a drink post-work, go out for more formal gatherings, or even chat with friendly PR types and all you get to hear is “ideas”; how to do something new and fresh and, more importantly, monetise that. Pink slips and salary cuts, or at least prospects of facing these, seem to have shaken up the world from its stupor and galvanised more people than you’d imagine into taking stock of their lives (pun unintended).
A young couple I know have quit their respective jobs and suburban life and migrated to a farm they’ve bought on the outskirts of Delhi. I accept that’s not original thinking at all, but these are people in their thirties with kids, not some moneyed ex-honchos contemplating idyllic retirement.
Then, there’s a 20-something, would’ve-been-city reporter who has started a Medi Café on the Internet (minimal investment and all that) that brings together a panel of doctors, advice, trends and so on for its consumers. A start-up that is just a couple of months old, it is apparently quite a hit with offers pouring in to buy it up.
But that’s not all. Amongst the most interesting-yet-simple ideas that I have come across recently is Mithaimate (www.mithaimate.com) set up by a bunch of engineers (they graduated last year), funded by salaries from the day jobs they all hold. It’s a website that enables you to have branded mithai delivered to anyone in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore within 24 hours. The “mates” have a tie-up with companies such as Haldiram’s and other vendors who offer them a small cut, and they charge about 10 per cent extra over the retail price for delivery. They assure us that there is enough business pouring in from NRIs and techies wanting to celebrate promotions (yes, even now) or engagements. Clearly, the Indian fascination with mithai has not waned and has been well tapped in this case.
While such dotcom startups are fascinating, there are other ideas (that I learnt of through social conversations) that are equally unusual. With business being down, some export houses in the garments business, I am told, are now looking at targeting newer segments — most notably, the wedding market in the West, seen to be as much recession-proof as the one in India. (The average cost of a wedding, pre-recession, had reached $27,852 in the US, according to a study by Conde Nast Bridal Media, and brides spent thousands of dollars on single-wear dresses for their big day.) These exporters are manufacturing wedding gowns for stores abroad. So when you hear about Wal-Mart offering budget bridal wear, it may just be due to someone back home! There’s more: How about a back-office for taking party RSVPs in the US or Europe or wherever they take such etiquette seriously? Believe it or not that idea is floating around too.
Existing corporates are not immune to ideating either; especially in a scenario where everyone wants to value-add. The most recent example of this is by way of a “fun centre” for children — no, not at a mall, but at Apollo Hospital in Delhi. But that is another story.