Chennai Express

Chennai Express

It’s been a hectic 3 weeks. Our product was finally done, and we had to sell it. We’d created several sales leads over the course of last few months, and had to go around for scheduled meetings. And that’s what we did last week. Boy, the reaction from the market has been very encouraging. And that would be an understatement. Couple of our prospect customers liked the product very much, but suggested some additional cutting edge stuff to be added. Back in Mangalore, that’s what we are doing now. Putting our heads down, and back to work for the next 2 weeks. Meanwhile, here’s an account of our sales trip

Tuesday, 17 Jun 2008 10:00 AM.
So, we’ve to travel to Chennai. Tomorrow. We are all set with the demos, brochures, wires, nuts, bolts, and the almost fully squeezed out tube of tooth paste. But there’s one thing missing. Oh, yeah – we needed to travel to Chennai. As in, we needed to get our a** moved from Mangalore to Chennai. A seemingly simple chore of booking a ticket. In my previous company (as an employee) all I’d to do was fill up a form and the ticket would be on my desk within couple of hours, neatly folded and slipped inside an envelope. And we could do it couple of hours before the journey. (I even knew of some of my pals who used to book and rebook tickets just to assess the patience level of our travel desk!). Maybe that pampering had its effect on us. We could do the most complex code and circuitry in the world (our product is pretty complex, mind it). But when it comes to the common day-to-day chores, we found that we’re as efficient as 4 year olds (Benchmark here would be my son).

Cut to Scene 2 – AB the quiz master: You need to travel to Chennai tomorrow. What mode of transport would you choose? Aapka options hai: a) Fly, b) Take a bus, c) Train. Which one do you pick?
Me: mmm..hhmmm..mmm..
AB: Clue chahiye? (Clue pops up on my screen: Startup > Travel Budgets > peanuts. Bus > Mangalore-Chennai > nahi nahi)

Well, that was a no-brainer. Train da best option. > Frantic search > 30 something firefox windows activated. Confusion prevails. No tickets yet. Phone a friend. IRCTC the right site. (Very imaginative folks we have here, huh. irctc, icici…Ask us mallus, we could suggest you some decent names – right, Bilu, Jibu?)
Tickets searched. No rows found. What about Tatkal option. Oh yeah, we were in luck. 5 berths available by ‘Chennai mail’. We don’t mind getting inside a rucksack, getting our backs stamped with a ‘Chennai’ seal as long as ‘Chennai mail’ could deliver us as an overnight package. So now, we truly were all set. We’d board the train at 1.15 PM on Wednesday.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008 1 PM.
An Auto starts from my friend’s abode, picks me up on the way, races (read: moves along steadily in the heavy afternoon traffic) toward the railway station only to be stopped by a signal light just meters away from the station. Time ticks by, with the probability of our boarding the train diminishing (the law of diminishing returns?). One last ditch effort from Auto Sankar, and we found ourselves on the platform, running to get to our bogie. Just as I was rushing to the bogie, I heard a voice from behind, and from the corner of my eye, I saw a man waving madly at me…….

….I stopped for an instant, as Ben ‘my friend’ Johnson whizzed past me to finish the race with a smirk on his face. The waving man walked towards me looking extremely puzzled, and asked in a surprised tone: ‘What are you doing here? I thought you went to Mumbai yesterday?..’. This time it was my turn to be perplexed, as I tried to think if I was acquainted to this man in anyway. Nopes. It was the first time I was seeing him, but he seemed to know me pretty well. The train’s siren jerked me out of my thoughts, and I blabbered something to him while I got back to my sprint to board the train. Maybe he knows one of the six other unfortunate souls on Earth who looks similar to me.
We’d booked ourselves on 2nd class to,you know, feel the life around us. The 15 hour train ride went off well, with us not sparing any of those tea/snack vendors who came our way. Dot 5.30 AM the next day, 2 well fed (stuffed) souls stepped out onto the Chennai Central platform. Our colleague from Chennai took us straight to the ‘budget’ hotel in T Nagar. Expecting too see a Ginger/Orchid/ Gold Finch kinda budget hotel, we were in for a surprise. The budget hotel he’d booked was a real ‘budget’ one, and let me stop at that.

We freshened up, debriefed (yeah, both ways: a) changed our briefs and b) discussed where we could get decent breakfast) and got ready for the day ahead. Yummy Saravana Bhavan Masala Dosas kept us going for the day. Our sales campaign was successful, and at night we got together at Hotel Savera for dinner. I thought the Tarot reader at Hotel Savera added a good ethnic touch and wanted to spend some time with him to check on the future of our company. I would’ve done that, had it not been for my concern for the waiting chicken tikkas turning cold.

The next couple of days we followed the same routine, making it a point not to miss our date with Saravana Bhavan Masala Dosas. Chennai coffee is amazing, and you should try that if you get a chance. Quick visits to some of our friends’ places, a shopping stop at Spencer Plaza and we were all set to return. The train journey back was pretty tiring, and we were relieved to step out of our train to the familiar Mangalore rains. Home, Sweet Home. An interesting, successful trip!

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