There are so many ‘Days’ nowadays that a normal day with no special significance attached to it seems really special. April 15th was one such for a group of us. My brother had sent out an innocuous lunch invite to all of us a week before, but with a strange instruction – come in old clothes & then change to new ones for the photo session. Puzzling ? yes, it was until all of us trooped in to his place on the 15th, a Sunday, in casuals / old clothes. A very different ambience welcomed us …….there were about 10 tables with 5 chairs for each so that a group could sit. On each table was an arecanut disposable plate with 3 different varieties of seeds in it. Another plate was empty. Each group was named after a local river and balloons were tied to strings on top of each group. Little ones were the eager cheer leaders & volunteers for some unique activity. My talented niece was the enthusiastic compere for the event giving us instructions, introducing each group, tracking the achievements, encouraging us into singing film songs etc. What was the event ?
It was ‘seed ball making’ as a fun-filled group activity. Each group got clay & compost mixed together as a sticky mound on the empty plate. We had to make small round balls from this mix, insert the seeds in it, close it and put it away. Whoever did it fastest got some prizes too. After every 100 balls, one of the kids would stand on the chair and burst a balloon announcing the score. In all about 5000-6000 seed balls were made in about 2 hours thanks to people ‘dirtying’ their hands for a good cause ! There was lot of fun, excitement, songs, chatter, catching up, occasional claims and counter claims about which group completed how many and of course the laggards who walked in only for the photo-op☺. There were so many hands at work that my brother who had organised this entire event soon ran out of the clay mix. He and a few others were busy preparing the mix as raw material for the groups and spreading the finished balls to dry. Dried Seed balls are normally scattered in open areas or forests so that they germinate naturally without any tilling of the soil. In all, it was a great feeling to be part of this unique exercise which brought many of us together after a long time for an environmental cause. Of course a sumptuous 100% millet-meal followed which was again a ‘hatke’ (out of the box) aspect of the get together.
Seeds balls are an ancient technique for propagating plants from seeds without opening up soil with cultivation tools such as a plow. The rediscovery and popularization of seedballs (or “Clay Dumplings” as he called them) in modern times is typically ascribed to Japanese natural farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. Next time you have an event, try to include ‘seed ball making’ as part of it since people of all age groups can participate. Looking back, little did we realise that exactly 1 week before Earth Day (April 22nd) we had in our own small way celebrated it – we had felt Mother Earth in our own hands, patted her, rounded her and seeded her for our future.
Team SCS&A began this financial year with a short break to recoup, rejuvenate and refresh ourselves. We spent time in a neighbouring city that is known for palaces, museums, bird sanctuary, mother nature, clean roads and hospitable people. As you put together your budget estimates and market strategies for this financial year, I thought I will share with you a small insight into customer feedback that I carry from this visit.
My conversation with the boatman in Ranganathittu bird sanctuary went somewhat like this……..
I : How much does the boat ride cost ?
He : Madam, normal ride for 20 mins costs Rs. 70 per person. Longer ride for 40 mins around all the grooves costs Rs. 1500 per person and only 5 people in this.
I : Whaaat ? why so much difference ? 2,3, 5 times is ok but why 20 times ?
He : What can I say madam ? This is what Govt. has fixed and I have to follow the rules.
I : I see that except for some couples who want privacy no one else is using the long ride. The moment you say 1500, people are opting for the 70 ride. Is it not a loss for the Govt. ?
He : Yes, I know but what can I do madam ?
I : Why can’t you give this customer feedback to your higher ups ? You are at the ground level dealing with people and you know best what is their response. Tourism department must know this and refix the price.
He : Ayyo, no madam. I will lose my job if I give this feedback. Do you think sahebru (Sir) will listen to a low level boatman like me ? These decisions are taken by IAS officers. He will say “Yeno, neenu nannage helo ange aagbitya?” …………..meaning “what, have you also become competent enough to tell me?”
I was taken aback to hear his reply though I was not shocked, knowing our Indian hierarchical mentality, especially the bureaucracy which has the ‘know it all’ attitude (at least most of them) ! Should the tourism department not gather ground level information from the actual service providers like the boatman and the ticket seller ? where is the question of ego when today every parent and grandparent is rushing to his child / grandchild to help them with using the mobile apps, social media etc. ? when almost every CEO is making sure to spend time with the shopfloor employee or the entry level coder or the delivery boy or the sales representative or the store assistant to understand what the customer wants, what the market is saying, what changes need to be made to the product or service and how to enhance customer experience ? Direct interaction with the customer-facing employees, despite all available analytical tools and data is one of the best ways to keep your ears to the ground. Not only do you get unfiltered information, you also boost the morale of the employees which mere incentives cannot do.