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The Great Bhojpuri Shopping Festival

The fascinating, turbulent world of e-commerce told through the satirical eyes of Bhojpuri cinema can be quite interesting

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Few industries have generated the kind of press coverage the way e-commerce has. Over the last decade, the industry has been characterized by astronomical valuations, ridiculous pay packages, internal squabbles, large scale hiring and frequent churn. While the top-line has grown over a large part of this period, almost all players are deep in the red from a bottom-line perspective. While the analysts and bankers can fret and over analyze the numbers, the journey has more than a co-incidental resemblance to a rock solid Bhojpuri movie.

In a remote, crime infested, poverty stricken part of Bihar, Sacchu and Bicchu; two best friends, grew up in the Central Business District (CBD) of Begusarai. They were blessed with intellect and were mathematically adept from a very young age. Post their secondary education, they joined the local zamindar in his trading business in the adjacent district of Samastipur. The zamindar, a potbellied balding man, had his legion of followers and critics. His mini-empire of trading made him a millionaire and earned him stardom akin to Bhojpuri megastar Ravi Kishan in his locality. His company was named after a famous river in Bihar; the Mahananda. However, there was a local newspaper, titled the Few York Times that carried a scathing article on how bad the zamindar was, as an employer and how his dungeon was a mini concentration camp.

Sacchu and Bicchu, didn't seem to mind the allegedly tough working conditions. They worked diligently trying to learn the tricks of the trading business before they decided to launch a similar business in their native town of Begusarai. Their subdued launch of their trading business in Begusarai met with instant success. People loved the novelty of their idea along with huge discounts that were being offered compared to other firms. Sacchu and Bicchu, transformed into superstars overnight. Their soundbites were being covered at the local mela, the local newspapers and they were supposedly offered a role to play the sidekick of superstar Ravi Kishan in a path breaking Bhojpuri movie.

In contemporary parlance, it is said that behind every successful man is a woman. In Bhojpuri parlance, it is said that behind every successful devar is a very supportive bhabhi. As in many Bhojpuri movies, the Bhabhi, with her enormous free flowing wealth, walked in to fund Sacchu and Bichchu's growth. In this case, there were a dozen bhabhis ready to fund them. They rarely seemed to ask too many questions; they only wanted growth. Nothing else. Sachchu and Bichchu seemed to enjoy a warm nourishing relationship with their bhabhis as their business kept growing. They were even photographed on the cover of the prestigious Bhojpuri Lime magazine; not to be mistaken for its more elite cousin the Time magazine.

Meanwhile, the zamindar in Samastipur had taken notice of their astounding growth. He decided to enter the booming market in Begusarai. This led to a bitter cat and dog market share fight between the admired zamindar and his too ex-employees. Supposedly, Sacchu and Bichhu even tried to taunt the zamindar by putting up hoardings of their company next to where the zamindar was staying.

Sacchu and Bicchu continued to grow their topline through innovative marketing. They were the first to tie up for exclusive deals for made in china gadgets and launched them in India with great gusto. Although the political discourse seemed to revolve around Bihari v/s Bahari, the Chinese brothers seemed to be making a monetary killing.

However, after the interval, things started to take a moderately ugly turn over the next few years. The real money (read profits) didn't seem to be trickling in, the zamindar kept eating into their business, the bhabhis started to lose interest in their lovely devars having been fed up of providing excessive monetary and emotional support.

Sachchu and Bicchu seemed to be getting frustrated; they got into gilli danda arguments with other entrepreneurs of similar businesses. Some of their trusted employees started to leave them (or were asked to leave). Unlike the 1970s or a certain neighboring state, terminating workers didn't lead to incessant riots.

The local muneem even reported that Sachchu and Bichchu wanted to sell their firm to the zamindar. The sarpanch meanwhile claimed that Sacchu and Bicchu won't last more than another 18 months as the greedy zamindar waited in the wilderness to pounce of them. Adding to the chaos, some muneems claimed that everything was fine with Sachchu and Bicchu's firm and it was only a matter of time.

In the pre-climax scene, the real dabangg entered the scenario. The local IAS officer decided to regulate the sector and put restrictions of how much business a seller could do on the platform. Everybody (Sachchu, Bichchu and the greedy zamindar) seemed to worry and decided to lobby. In Bhojpuri cinema, lobbying was often shown as a combination of local liquor, a couple of buffalos and pirated CDs of Ravi Kishan movies.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn't have a climax as it is yet to play out. The movie script doesn't have other essential elements like the mother angle and her ultimate sacrifices. Neither does it have Sachchu and Bichchu fist fighting the greedy zamindar in a hot barren open field.

However, the climax is going to be played out soon. Very soon!

Only in a matter of time will it be revealed if Sachchu and Bichchu's firm, named Topkart, will be a Hitkart or a Flopkart. Maybe it will. Maybe they are all living in a dream. Maybe, akin to the movie Inception, it is a series of dreams that will come to reality. In Bhojpuri parlance, if Inception was ever translated to their local dialect, it would be called "Sapanwe main Sapanwe main Sapanwa". Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict whose dreams will come true. If at all!

In all likelihood, a movie or a documentary will be made on this turbulent journey. Hopefully it will be a little more serious and a lot more realistic!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
e-commerce shopping festival Bhojpuri movies

Sandeep Das

The author, Sandeep Das, is an MBA from IIM Bangalore, a management consultant, the author of “Yours Sarcastically” and a columnist.

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