Facebook Diversifies From Chat to ‘Chaat’. Make Mine Spicy Mark.

A proud Ramesh Verma; the Facebook Chatawala

I have news for Mark Zukerberg, unknown to him; he is serving up some real spicy stuff at Nagpur.

The other day while I was driving past the Traffic Park in Dharampeth, one of Nagpur’s upmarket localities frequented by students, a ‘chaat thela’ caught my eye. Now this particular avenue is full of street food stalls, but this otherwise very ordinary stall really stood out because of its name.

Facebook Chat’ is what signboard atop it said. I am sure Mark never had this variety of Chat in mind when he launched the now ubiquitous Facebook.

Orkut Sevpuri, Twitter Paanipuri, Skype Bhel, Gtalk Dahi Bhalle and BBM Tikki Chaat

For those who do not fancy Facebook there’s ‘Orkut Sevpuri, Twitter Paanipuri, Skype Bhel, Gtalk Dahi Bhalle and BBM Tikki Chaat, all Indian savories drooled over by young & old alike.

I decided to check the place out myself. I walked up to the pleasant looking youngster manning the place & asked him how did he come up with the idea of such a unique concept for his snack stall. Ramesh Verma, that’s him, told me that it was his youngest brother Raju, a 10th grade dropout who came up with all these ‘high-sounding’ names. “He dabbles a lot with computers & though I’m not too sure of what they mean, he surely was excited about them,” he added.

They live close by and set up this venture only about four months ago.

“When we saw this place blossoming into an entire street for foodies, as well as the crowds thronging the Traffic Park we felt this place held potential for us. But our problem was with so many similar stalls why would the customer come to us. And that’s when my youngest brother came up with this idea” says Ramesh.

Youngster's enjoying cyber 'chaat'

Though in every other aspect the place serves up the usual fare, their unique naming strategy surely seems to be getting them a lot of attention. He proudly dug out a neatly laminated clipping of a local newspaper, talking about thier stall.

While the big brands may surely talk about segmenting the market and branding the offering, here was our homegrown entrepreneur a school dropout with no fancy MBA degrees to tout doing the same thing. This is yet another flavour of the now legendary Indian entrepreneurial spirit at work despite all odds. Even if it is only for their creative instincts, I do hope Ramesh & Raju succeed. And may a million Raju’s blossom with such unique & creative endevours.

'Chaat' Status Updated

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49 comments

  1. brilliant!
    just hope he doesn’t get into any copyright tangle 🙂
    and i love the ‘citizen journalist’ flavor to ur post, plz do share more stories like these! thanks 🙂

    1. thanks as always adee, i he’s too small to be even on the radar of Mike, but sincerely i also hope i haven’t done him a disservice by attracting online attention to him. the citizen journalist flavour you talk about comes from a magazine ‘the happening nagpur’ that i used to publish & edit for 7 long years. much encouraged by your comment 🙂

  2. Hi Sanjay,
    When I first read the tittle of this blog , I thought that facebook is upto something new , but , voilla, when the top photograph took my breadth away , I said that this article needs to be read thru an thru , ( the falling Nifty can fall further) .
    Amazing , you got all the ingredients at the right place for this blog and last but not the least , may be this concept gives you enough “masala” for yr next set of case studies in B schools .
    cheers , Sanjay!!

    PS: look forward to yr next set of blogs ( besides the evening twitter newspaper)

    1. Umesh, thanks for taking the time to scribble your wonderful thoughts. It was pretty impromptu, the moment I saw the ‘thela’ I knew I had to do this story. I have always been a great fan of Indian entrepreneurs & their resilience to battle the odds…jugaad et al.
      Will surely try and live up to your expectations. Thanks 🙂

    1. I have always maintained & keep repeating in my MBA lectures too, that the smallest of these guys may not know the jargon, but they work the stuff at times better than the PPT generation. Thanks Aseem 🙂

  3. Interesting article. Being from the advertising background, I love reading posts like these where innovations and creativity makes things, that are otherwise almost impossible to differentiate make a huge impact.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Keep writing,
    Birdie

    1. Birdie dear…we share both our profession & this trait. I have this equation where I say the result of Creativity X Budget is a constant, so the smaller the budget the greater the creativity needed to make it work.

      Thanks so much,

  4. Yup nice footage to give someone as deserving as this.
    Yes, i liked the style of writing and wishing both gain with this the ‘chaat wala’ and yourself. Business modules don’t necessarily germinate from B schools, sometimes its in the genetic code and other times its the priceless street smart B schools. Kudos!

  5. Unless otharwise the thelawalas are streamlined and brought to the Tax man’s books, they should not be promoted. Thelawalas don’t pay any kind of tax (central, state or city), they create lot of unhygenic conditions around their thelas, are traffic hazards and the preparations are also sometimes infectious. Instead they should be taught/advised how to put up business thro right channel.

    1. Point taken Bakir, but what sounds good in theory is often not practical, especially in a country like India. Even here laws exist, but their implementation is sadly ad hoc to say the least. Had it not been for the millions of street food stalls & the hole in the wall retails outlets, the country would never have been able to create the kind of employment required to keep all these people gainfully engaged. At least these entrepreneurs aren’t a burden on the system, but rather contributors to the GDP.

  6. Amazing to read this being a management student. Its astonishing to see such bright & innovative ideas coming from such young lads who don’t have a fancy MBA degree to show off. Truly said that knowledge is spread everywhere, it just needs the vision, understanding & intellect to actually collect & learn from it also it isn’t necessary to spend huge moolahs to acquire knowledge :). Being an upcoming entrepreneur, it gives a great boost and drive to think something new and refreshing, simple but unusual. Kudos to these guys and you sir for enlightening us with this wonderful write-up. 🙂 Delighted to read it!!

    1. Thanks so much Nandini & here’s wishing you all the very best in your entrepreneurial endevours. With the clarity of thought & the vision that you display I’m sure soon we shall have blogs on your success story too 🙂

      1. Thank you so very much sir for the kind words of inspiration and encouragement, hope i can reach my goal and contribute towards making the society a better place to live. 🙂 Also looking forward to more of such tremendous write-ups from you, its a pleasure to read.

  7. Guess this fits the familiar adage Think Gl0bal act Local. The key being timing and innovation be it the Chai wala or the upscale malls. the early bird always catches the worm. Keep it flowing ….

  8. Creative thought .. it shows how creative anyone can go…
    caught the pulse of customers… Brand building..
    Amazing … creative Ideas must be get promoted.
    thank you for sharing..

  9. Interesting. Definitely eye-catching idea. It does make sense when a similar product is offered from a number of sellers and that one thing makes a distinction. Thought provoking when we take it in the larger sense.

  10. Wonder how I missed it. Great read and very well written.. How that quiet sleepy corner has changed beyond recognition !!!
    Next time I will surely have fb chat n orkut whatever….

    1. Yes, that’s the story of our our entire country, the good, old, quiet country is alive with action all around, though not all of it good & planned. I hope he’s around till your next visit. 🙂

  11. Disruption need not cost huge monies but definitely requires imaginations and the balls to see it through…Interesting stuff Sir 🙂

  12. Sanjay that was excellent reading. This school drop out Raju has proved that you don’t need to have an expensive and flashy education to come up with something creative and brilliant. How about setting up an award for such youngsters without any formal education who come up with such fantastic and talked about strategies. I am sure you will find quite a few willing sponsors! Thanks for taking the trouble to post this. Loved it.

  13. Yeh hai India meri jaan. This just goes to show the spirit of youngsters who actually want to make something of themselves, irrespective of what background they come from. Importantly they without an MBA zero down to PSD – Perceptible selling difference

    1. …and for a change yeh apunka India is the toast of the world not because of but inspite of it’s government, courtesy it’s private enterprise & entrepreneurs like these. Love the term you used PSD…describes your persona to the ‘t’ 🙂 Thanks so very much as always 🙂

  14. Hi Sanjay

    Good initiative from a school drop out,i am sure he will attract customers with the uniqueness in his name and offerings but the quality and taste has to be equally good for repeat orders.

    But he has proved that creativity doesn’t come out only from the board room of agencies …..

    Thanks for sharing.

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