Aashisha Chakraborty takes Tara and Michelle through her experience of surviving and thriving in a male-dominated industry with her book: “Mis (s) Adventures of a Sales Girl”. As the conversation unravels we learn about Tara and Michelle’s misadventures in their workplaces, and how they creatively handled the tricky situations. How did Aashisha find her way back after getting lost in Chandni Chowk? Why does she consider herself the CEO of her own book? And how did this mindset help her publish the book?
Tune in to find out!
Here is a link to ‘CogVerse’, written by Vivekananda Selvaraj: https://amzn.eu/d/2BO8YFn
Books & Movies mentioned in this episode:
Produced by Aishwarya Javalgekar
Sound edit by Kshitij Jadhav
‘Books and Beyond with Bound’ is the podcast where Tara Khandelwal and Michelle D’costa uncover how their books reflect the realities of our lives and society today. Find out what drives India’s finest authors: from personal experiences to jugaad research methods, insecurities to publishing journeys. Created by Bound, a storytelling company that helps you grow through stories. Follow us @boundindia on all social media platforms.
Welcome to Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara canderel. I am Michelle D'costa. And in this podcast, we uncover the stories behind some of the best written books of our time, and find out how these books reflect our lives and our society today. So tune in every Wednesday to enter a whole new world with a new author and a new idea. Yes, and after three years and 2 million listens, we are back with a fall fat Season Five with hard hitting questions and life changing books. So let's dive in.
Hi, everyone. We are super excited to get to know Ashish Shah Chakraborty today, whose book misadventures of a sales girl had as in splits, because it's loosely based on her own experience as an MBA graduate who's a northeast she gets placed in the south and Chennai, and what how she survives being a woman in a male dominated sales profession, right, Tara? Yeah. And I think, you know, it was so interesting, because Michelle and I are both two MBA graduates. And this is an aspect of ourselves that we don't bring onto the podcast very often. And we're very excited to bring this aspect to the podcast today. And I really like how the book you know, takes your experiences from, you know, the cool MBA classrooms to the hot scooty seats as a sales personnel and Geminis eat. And then there's this family secret that gets revealed. So there's a lot going on. And I'm excited to find out, you know, the secret behind your Skokie sales tips and survival trips, there the reality of working in sales in India. So let's get started.
Yeah, welcome, Aisha. Thank you so much for this warm welcome. And I'm quite excited to talk to fellow MBA grads, and I'm sure you understand how it was. So yes, please fire away. Awesome. So the first question is why this book now.
So as you know, I have wanted to be a writer for very long, and everybody tells me that you view all writers when we just tried, and I wanted to write something more fantasy more filosofi. But when you get into the ground reality of something, and there's a story bubbling inside you. And I think that's when the whole deadline piece comes into the picture and the book comes out. So this book was accidental, in the sense that I did not mean to write this book, I mean, to write some other book. But then because the experience was so overwhelming, and so much as in so much more, I thought that this needs to be told, because not many people like to talk about the ugly truths are the unwritten rules, or all the things that are not so much glamorous, not the things that we learn in the schools, you know, so again, right from the STPs, and the four Ps and five Ps of Marketing, straight down to as Dara said, you know, the hot seats of the salespersons bike. So I think that is the transition that I wanted to first of all, you know, make clear, but then there are other layers to the novel as well, because the girl is 25 year old, she has adult ID, and she's gradually learning to, you know, keep up with the whole pace of life relationships. And I think this is also a novel of growing up. And then finally, a more important but subtle lead and I wanted to give is, despite all the progress that we've made, as you know, as a country, or you know, as a as a community as a female community, working women still are about 27%, which is less than, you know, just less than short of 30% of the whole workforce, among which very few women are in the senior roles. And if there is a cup, there are a couple of women, I think it kind of the face a lot of the proverbial glass ceiling is still there. So yeah, this is how this whole this is why I've written it. Yeah, I can totally understand because like, when I worked in HR, I it was in a construction company, and it was full of men, right? It was it was just you know, you could hardly see any woman engineer there and I used to wonder Okay, how many professions are there out there like this, where you know, men dominated which are unfortunately a lot out
So, but what do you know, actually, your book reminded me of the placement that I didn't take, you know, back in college. So after my be calm, I was actually placed in Deloitte, Hyderabad, you know, New place, new role, all of that. But I didn't do that, you know, and you're in your case, you you took up that challenge, you went to Chennai for a sales role. And since the book is actually loosely based on your own experience, I'm really curious to know what was that moment like, when you actually saw the ticket pitcher die in your inbox? You know, could you please bring alive that scene for our listeners? Oh, god, that was a disaster. I mean, to think that I'm based in Delhi, and I should be going to the cushy headquarters of telesign. I say, I mean, I had expected that and historically that had happened. And then suddenly, without any rhyme or reason, a mail drops in and there's a ticket. And you know, there's no going back. It's, it's the first it's my first brush with an organization, which is demanding, fixed, and which will not take no for an answer. I mean, there's no question. There's no asking that, Oh, would you like this? Would you like that? It's like, this is your place, and you better go there. So that was like, Okay, I got a rude shock. And like, Okay, this is going to be how things are like, Okay, fine. Let's, let's go ahead. So I for one, I'm a person who usually just does not say no, usually. So if suppose somebody tells me that, hey, can we go to is Becca, Stan tomorrow? I'll be like, Okay, let's try it out. So I'm that kind of person. So I did not say no, because I'm like, why not? I mean, it's not like I'm going to hell or something. Which in inevitably, I mean, of course, you will find out when you read the book. But that's the whole idea. I was super shocked. I was like, Why, like, why don't they realize that this long surname is not South Indian, its East Indian, you know, best fingers. So probably some weird confusion. But then yeah, that's how the story came about.
Yeah, I remember also, you know, oftentimes, if to move for jobs, and we growing up, you know, and moving to a very different cultural context, very exciting. There's so many fun and positive things as well. But it is scary because as a young girl so for my first job,
I actually had to move to Delhi and I was 22. And you know, I've lived in born and brought up in Bombay, right. And for a girl young girl, I was used to roaming around taking cabs, coming home late at night, all of those things, and then you know, that culture shock of going to another place is so drastic. And even though you know people from that place my cousins live in Delhi and they're like, We can never live in Bombay, there's always this Delhi Bombay divide, but yeah, definitely moving to a different cultural context is difficult. And that's what the book also covers. So the main protagonist, Ina, you know, Michelle mentioned she is loosely based on you.
So, you know, I also want to know, you know, how much of it is sort of you and how much of it is not you, because the book obviously revolves around inner story. And it also goes very deeply into the points of view of male characters parents. So how much of it is you how much of it is not you, and how much of it is based on real on real people.
So, first of all, that I do understand the whole piece about staying in Delhi, because I'm winded alight since birth, and I can, I mean, I still find it okay to roam around till 12. And one and I still know my parents who, you know, asked me that, okay, if to be back by 12, you can go later than that. But someone who's grown up in Bombay, I'm quite sure they'll get a huge shock, because this is a scary place for her, you know, women. So that way, I think janai was far better, I would say, and as for inner, the protagonist, so she, I wanted to make this more multicultural. Because being in a B school gives you that feeling people from different parts of the country come and coalesce to, you know, call us to study together. The south, the North, the east, the West, everybody just comes in at one point at one place, and you actually have a good melting pot of cultures. And I just really found this whole idea of moving to a different place, settling in difficult, definitely, but a place where you can explore, you know, if you can explore yourself, you can explore different cultures. So this girl, as I said, is a Bengali. So the background I've kept the same because it's always easier and less imaginative, because I wanted to focus on the other aspects. So the background I've kept the same the story the drama is definitely fictional, but the sales events, the sales backdrop, the whole going about in the heat, going from shop to shop, the
modus operandi, the way males treat you sometimes, the way I would say sometimes not all the time, the way you are met with different professionals at the office, the way you're not given any time of day, you know, as an intern, as an intern, it is actually difficult to make your voice heard or to Make your presence felt, even if you may be far more qualified than the other people in the company. Still, you know, it's all a very hierarchical structure. So I think those things, those underlying feelings, and these, those, those underlying pointers are true. But the overall scene, the people, people's characters have all been etched out, of course, my imagination. So the Bengali girl brought up in Delhi going to Chennai, that's, of course me. And there's no, there's not much imagination involved there. But of course, the backstory, and what happens there, who are the people involved, that's all fictional, as usual. So I've just done the classic thing that any person, any writer, any first time writer probably does, you know, it's easier to draw from your own experiences. And as I said, Before, the story kind of jumped out. And I was like, I don't know if I would write that literary fiction ever. But this, probably, I just want to keep it, I just want to get it out. Because this is a story I feel needs to be told, because I would have enjoyed, or I would have wanted to read something real, before I went in for something like this, because this would have given me an idea of how to face such a problem. And a few days ago, I think there was this girl who, you know, from mica, who's also studying sales and marketing. And she said, she got an internship or I think she got a role, sales role. And when she read my book, she's like, now I feel more confident about going in there, because I know what I'm going to face and I know how I'm going to face it. So my strategies are laid out, I know what to do and when not to do and today, the good part is working women are ready to take action. If it's a toxic work environment, they're ready to move out, they're ready to switch, they're ready to call out in case of things going missing. That's a positive point. And I feel this book will kind of I mean, I hope that this book will kind of take a step towards that kind of spirit for new professionals.
Yeah, and you know, we were actually curious as you shall whether, you know, sales girl had read sales girls had read your book, and whether it helps. So that's really, really good to know that it has helped. And another thing you this reminded me of was, you know, when I was doing my MBA, I often wondered whether what's in the textbook, whether what's in the theory is really out there in the workplace, right? And then we all know that things are very different in the workplace. But I think most of the things you do learn on the job. So you know, what I'm curious about to see, yes, you had a very big culture shock, right? You know, you're a North Indian and South India. But apart from that the biggest change, I will say, is being a woman sales personnel, you know, in a completely male dominated environment. So can you please tell us what were the few things you or your character did to overcome this challenge specifically?
So, yes, Michelle, you're right. It's, it's daunting kind of to not find a single female face anywhere and not because you wouldn't want to be or you are not capable enough to be on your own. It's just a little weird a little unsettling that there are no women on the floor or anywhere is it like it's like mechanical engineering all over again, you know, one girl in among all these hundreds of guys, so I thought MB would have a better sex ratio of obviously, I'm wrong.
So yes, as a sales girl, I feel it's a more rugged job where women are kind of considered that okay, she will do the soft skills part, she will make the presentations, she will probably do some data analysis.
Usually it is relegated like that there's a mental there's a autopilot mentality that kind of gets created that way. So that is a little unsettling. As I said, the first thing I did when I went out was not stay in the office, because I did not want to give the impression that she is one of those people who sits back and you know, does the reports or makes these just makes fancy presentations because that's not what I'm here for. I'm here to make a change. So as a sales girl or as a sales woman or as a sales manager, even when I was in a sales role as a senior sales manager also I made it made it a point to go out into the market and to make my face more visible, make myself more heard, so that people knew me after a bit, the retailers the shop owners
came out and used to say, Hi Mom, I don't know, they kind of, you know, on the way back from grocery shopping the kind of started recognizing me. So that was a little small successes, you know, small little wins. The second thing I felt was whatever, so they set this huge targets and especially in an industry in an industry, which requires a lot of investment, because there's a lot of CapEx as Telecom, it is cost cutting, and is kind of important. So you have to always so cost shoe cost savings in your work. That's where people you know, ask you that, what are the seems, schemes, what are the strategies that you are implementing? So, I made sure that I had, I always had a good, you know, understanding of the whole market, I had a good understanding of what data, you know, I had a good data backing of whatever I was doing, you know, on the ground. And finally, I would say, I did not say no to anything, you know, I would not give up, like they said, Okay, if you want to go there, you can go there, like Mahabalipuram is too far, who would go there. I said, okay, and they would not send anyone with me, because it's like, I don't want to undertake that kind of thing. It's your project, you do it. So I would take ownership, complete ownership of what I wanted. So I would do that end to end, or take up something and I would do it till the end. And I would not wait for anyone to help me. So this is something which I, I feel that all women should learn, or women, men, everybody should kind of learn to, you know, own up your own projects, own up your own life. And whatever you want. Just make sure I mean, you have to promise yourself that you want it and you just take it. It's as simple as that I wanted to get I mean, I had a project, I wanted to make it a success. And I did it, I did not wait for other people to revert. So you know, you send out these things that you know, so I need this help, Mr. So and so I need this help, if they're willing to give it great. If they're not, I would move ahead on my own. So that's the kind of attitude I had then. And I also have it now. So I do what comes to me more naturally. But I don't give up. If I've decided to do something, I just do it. And I think that is something which all sales women, as you know, sales professionals have that as one key element, which I feel is is an important part of sales professionals, and they kind of find a way through anything. That's what I've also learned from my seniors or from people around me. And I think that's a very important skill to have.
Yeah, you know, as a woman, as a female entrepreneur, I resonate a lot, because one of the things one of the main barriers, not mean, one of one barrier for me in sales as a female entrepreneur, is I look very young. So I'm 32, which is still not It's not sort of, it's still young. But, you know, people often mistake me for 23 and 24. And my personal life is absolutely great. It is a barrier in my professional life. And I constantly feel that I have to move, you know, past that hurdle, because first impressions matter. And I resonated with what you said, because, you know, at the end of the day, it's about getting the work done. And it's about showing the amount of work that you do, and it's being competent, right. And that's always sort of been my calling card, I feel like, you know,
you can sort of like talk flashy and all of that stuff. But if you really are willing to do anything, like you said, and you have the work backing you that's what matters. Actually, it just reminded me of an incident recently. So I was at a talk, I had to moderate a talk.
And before the talk, you know, I had I was I was meeting a lot of people, and they were I met two, three sort of older men in their late 40s or 50s. And they were like CEOs of different companies, etc. And they said, Oh, who are you? I okayed, you know, a little demeaning
that I did this talk, I did the panel, and then you know, the whole conversation after the talk, you know, with everyone completely changed. Ah, so I think it is about Michelle, have you had any of these experiences? Yeah, I just it just I went into flashback mode, you know. So like I said, when I was working in HR in construction, so I faced this on two levels. Okay, so one thing is they don't take HR seriously. Nobody does. Okay, so I remember there was this moment towards the end of the year where we do performance appraisals. Okay. So ideally, I would send these forms and it's to email right. So ideally, you know, there's a deadline people to send it in. And you know, as expected, nobody sent it in. So what I did was I had to go to, like, let's say there are these hods right head of departments, I had to go to their office, wait there, stand there and make sure that they fill the form and give it to me, right. And I just kept thinking to my
said, you know, they wouldn't have done this to a guy. You know, it's almost like a given. Right? So guys, they just, you know, it's almost like they treat them on the same level because obviously they are guys. Right. So yeah, I just it was really embarrassing and it made me think about how these, you know, there are so many so many layers to so many hierarchies in, in your work life that you don't really learn in your MBA, right? Nobody tells you this. That's something you'll figure out that.
Actually, I mean, visually, right. And both of you this is something which I've also felt acutely that everybody used to treat me like a kid, everybody still does, for some reason. A few days back somebody at work. He's actually a junior. And strangely, he's also from B school. And he asked me, Hey, how old are you? You You're not married? How old? Are you? I'm like, I mean, seriously, why am I supposed to tell you only you are too young. You look too young. When I am, by the way, a senior manager and he's just a manager of before that he was an assistant manager. But so I don't know whether it's the whole
look, bit, as Tara said, it's good for your personal life. But in professional life, you've to kind of
hurt, you know, break through everything kind of force your way through everything. So that's something even if it's a lot, and I think I've gotten used to it, you know, I've stopped thinking about it like that. I'm like, what if I was actually younger? How would I, you know, deal with this. So this is how I take things forward. And yes, it's, it's unnerving, because nobody would actually say that to a guy. And these are little things. And personally, I feel that I'm more privileged than probably 80% of other women who are in the unorganized sector, who are working just to, you know, fill their bellies and get their families going. I think I'm one of the privileged ones who got to study till the time I wanted to study who got to read and write and do all those things without, you know, getting into the whole caregiving piece, or the whole societal pressure. So I feel privileged. And even among this, and among, I think you guys must also be falling in the same bracket. And, um, you know, among all of us, we still have these weird
encounters where we feel demeaned, or where we feel that our talents are being,
you know, not considered up to that level, or there's a certain bit of toxicity emanating from somewhere and it feels quite, you know, it lowers the self esteem, I would say, and that is what is sad, because despite being among the privileged people, you are still we are still facing this invisible, broken rung in the corporate ladder, or this, you know, invisible glass ceiling, which is still there. So, that is what is I think, is a little sad, because we are supposed to be the top, I don't know, indicated are the top five 10% of the women in the country, and this is how we are also being treated. So that is, I think, sad.
Yeah, absolutely. Um, I really liked the title of the book, right, because, you know, sales is all about misadventures. We spoken about how being a young woman in a corporate is a tough thing. And I think Michelle and I have both had a lot of shares of our own misadventures inbound. So could you share an anecdote of one misadventure that you had? You know, I love all the parts in the book where the protagonist is cold calling and waiting for meetings. So what is sort of like that one misadventure, or the most far out thing that you have done for a sale?
Wow, okay, that's it. These instances are not one. But the So first, I'll talk about the title. The title was misadventures because I wanted to focus on the fact that these were not adventures, there were too many things going wrong. And the thing that I did not like about I still don't like about many corporates and many companies is that there's this positivity trap. You keep making everybody feel that Oh, everything is going well, it feels to me like 1984 the book, you know, there's this big brother who keeps wanting you to think that everything is going great. Oh, I'm so great. It's so this positivity is a bit toxic, when you're supposed to
rev review all these things which are happening oh, this is so amazing. Oh, that is so amazing. We've done these all these success stories, Joy stories, kind of make me feel a little sick sometimes. So I wanted it to be real. I wanted the whole treatise. I wanted the whole narrative to be real. The whole problems to come out clearly, because putting things under wraps don't really solve the problems. So that is one reason why I wanted to be misadventures. And of course, I wanted to give it a playful idea because I also took it that way. And I would want anyone who is about to enter sales not to take it too seriously because it does not help. Yeah, so
Okay, so one of the things that I've done far out I think I've done too many things, but also I've done sales in places like so I did about six months in Chandigarh six months in Chennai, three months in Ahmedabad, about a year or two in Delhi. And I will talk about Delhi probably because it's the longest I've done sales in and I used to handle
the area as a zonal sales manager. So, from the Far East, Delhi Shudra, and all those areas, to Johnny jocks, you know, towns. I remember one time, what happened was, I had these territory managers who used to work under me, and they had these distributors, who used to go on the sales beats almost every day. And this today, Chandni jog is far less crowded. Before this Johnny jock used to be people used to touch each other while moving when you can't help not touching. So I had my bag in front and there were these DMS walking ahead of me walking behind me. They were like, ma'am, you'll get lost. I said, okay, so we'd go through all these little tiny gullies and weird places where, you know, the guys would be sending down packages from the roof. It was the weirdest thing ever.
So I think one guy so we were going to distributors place and I think there was this LEGO Shop owner, who got me who's like, madam, you want to see a lenga you want to buy a Lego guy, and he just caught me and he's not letting me go in. And he was so weird. It was so funny. He thought I was on a Lego shopping or something. And then we just somehow I lost my ATM somewhere. And once you get lost in janitorial, there's no way back. So you have to figure out. So it was totally weird. And then finally, we made to this meeting place where we were supposed to solve a network issue. And the team had come the team was all waiting for me. And there was this Lego guy who was still trailing behind me. He was thinking that probably I was not interested in his wares, and he has to fight harder. And I couldn't tell him that dude, I'm also a salesperson, you don't have to do this. You know, I'll take your car and whatnot. It was quite weird and quite funny. But to Chani job tails are a whole different a whole different level. So if someday I write about it, I will probably include it as a different section or a different chapter because it's on a whole different level, as I said. So I would say that was one outlier, which is I don't know what I got got from it. I think I saw some network problems or something. And then the customers keep calling you. My network is not working. My internet is not working as if I'm operating everything from my own end. So yeah, these are the weirdest things which have happened.
No, I think that chat me talk to us would be a good title for your next book.
Give us everything. Exactly. Yeah. Okay. But I think one of the far out like, I think like in terms of like, misadventures, I think we've all had so many rights. So Michelle, do you have sort of like, any misadventures that you want to share? Also, um, so for me, you know, so there's this, you know, sales mantra, okay, that the customer is king, right? So I've often found it very difficult to, I would say, you know, to come to terms with that, like, you know, sometimes when you know that, you know, you are right, but then you have to, I would say you would have to go with the flow and say yes, the customers came the customer's always right. So I would say for me, yeah, my misadventures always have something to do around that. What about you? Yeah, I think as an editor, it's a I think it makes sense because we're also people with sort of, like domain knowledge a little bit. So a lot of our sales tactics have to do with also, you know, telling people how content works or simple things like timelines, you know, how long a piece of content takes to make all of those things also go into the sales process as well. So it's it's really fun. It's always an adventure. Yeah. And I think you keep Yeah, and for me, one thing is, you know, I keep learning as I said, like with each new case with each new client, you know, I learned something new. So, you know, I actually I share one thing that I really liked about your book was the fact that it was sprinkled with so many sales tips, right? And and it's really witty. So like wonderful is called sales is all about food. The second one is use Jugaad. The third one is you know, always carry a helmet for example, i These three were my favorite. So I wanted to know, you know, how did you come up with these? Can you maybe explain these to our listeners?
I think the sales tips are pretty intuitive because sales is actually all about food. When you get your it's a ritual to take all your managers or all your friends or all your salespeople out to lunch. They expect this from you. And some even
expect you to drink with them to sit and drink with them to have a pint, and stuff like that. So that is pretty much thing. You know, in the sales world, that's pretty normal. Every Friday night, not every Friday night, but at least once a month, we all used to get together for, you know, bigger bash, sometimes once I got into like, once I came to Delhi, once I came to go go, the sector sector 29 became this hub where it used to go for parties. So then of course, the whole sales will became a little different, like Tara said, You guys talk about content and stuff. So now it became more of sales strategy of you know, different level, but at the ground level, it is all about food. So you take them to different restaurants, and you get them good food and they're happy, and then they will work for you.
Helmet, of course, like you have to use a helmet because these people are used to breaking all sorts of road rules, they are used to doing all these Road Rash things. So for you to save yourself, it's better to have a helmet, because you will spend a lot of time on the bike. And I personally regret not knowing how to drive a bike to well. So my vehicle of choice used to be a car and it does not work very well in this i Of course it does not work at all in Chandni chalk or in places like Shudra and you know other places of East Delhi. So then you I mean, you do better if you have a bike or a school t. So yeah, of course, you should have a helmet with you. And of course, you have to use your car, I don't think there's any other way you can actually sell because this is how the whole piece works. You use some tactics to get your clients you use some tactics to get your shops to do your things, you invent some schemes, you know, give them some money or tell the show them that, okay, this is the incentive that you can have. So all these extra things, which no one tells you about these are not written in on any manuals. These are not formal things. These are very intuitive things which you learn on the go, which you learn while you're actually doing the job. So that's what I feel is important. And I thought Yeah, why not have sales tips? So I did not mean for them to be actual sales tips, but I think they would help someone who's you know, yeah.
Yeah. No, so that I get a light and like funny and also very, like, common sense, right. But the but those are sort of like,
the obvious ones are what sometimes we need to take, pay attention to so so I really like I like the one about sanitizer was
the new follow that up, always, always carries ham ties on capital letters. Like we need this now more than ever with those things. I don't even know at that point of time, but COVID coming in. I mean, otherwise, it would have been a whole different ballgame. It was only, I mean, even then I needed the sanitizer, post COVID. And even during COVID I've done sales. So I think sanitizers and big bottles are a godsend. Yeah, no, I think these are like survival tips, you know, where it will make a post pandemic, I think even in our daily life, or we could use it like, for example, do cardio. I think this is something Indians are really great at. And it reminded me of, you know, all the time Sarah and I have recorded
and Tara's Ducard I think for one of the recordings was she used a pillow foot to avoid the echoing and the reverb, it was so much fun. And and me, you know, I've like tried all kinds of headphones, your phones, you know, all kinds of devices. And for me to the sales is all about food thing. I remember something that happened recently, right. So we are planning to start a food podcast, okay. And I was speaking to people, you know about their essays about food. And I realized that, you know, what I did was I, like, you know, it's obviously a virtual conversation, right? You know, yes, you can meet people in cafes, but we also have a lot of conversations on the phone, you know, on Zoom nowadays, and I realized that, you know, I was actually having my tea while speaking. So I use that as a conversation started. And it actually worked so well. You know, it's almost like you're sitting beside the person, you know, as you said, over coffee over to food. I think that's how people board and sales happen. Right? I totally agree. I totally agree. Yeah, no, that's interesting. So we spoken about, you know, sales tips and all of that, but I want to know, you know, what is the sales mantra that you don't like, what are things that haven't worked for you?
I think, as I said, a lot of these toxic positivity is like me, you know, getting these getting these lists of success stories from your juniors and from your teams, making them forced, I mean, forcing them to kind of say that oh, these were my success stories. These are the things I did
I think it needs to be more honest. And it's one should understand that this is how it is, instead of creating a picture, a picture, which is supposed to be rosy, not all pictures are rosy. This was primarily why I wrote the book, I wanted to show that it's not all rosy and we should accept it. And not create, not try to keep creating pictures, keep painting pictures, because you know, you've to put it up in the during the appraisal. I don't believe in that. So that is something which I completely don't believe in, you know, I think it's, you know, you must have heard or I don't know, there's the star format, or you're right, the situation task Action Result. Sounds very fancy, sounds very amazing, and structured and everything, but not everything fits in the star format. Not every situation or every project you take up is as important or as good or as perfect as that. And that is something which I find is a little I don't know, it does not go down well with me. So this is something which I have not really adopted. I do use these this format, of course, in the projects, which I feel are suited to it. But if we have to be more dynamic about it, we have to be more hands on about it instead of just force feeding. As I said, a lot of positive stories, a lot of things which are not true. So it kind of kind of hides the reality. This is what I yeah, this is what I feel.
Yeah, and you know, actually, my I relate to that on a different level as well. You know, like, apart from sales apart from our work life, like as a writer, I think the rejections and the failures teach you much more than the successes, right? Like the success, probably once in a blue moon, but it's often the rejections that you collect that that really make you understand who you are, you know, so yeah, I totally get it. What about you? Is there any sales mantra that hasn't worked for you? That hasn't worked for me? Yeah. Oh,
well, I think I think I went because I went to Masters management. And I think I didn't really learn anything about sales, I think whatever I've learned about sales is on the job. Speaking to people, you know, so I agree with you, I share all those theories and all the good in in, but that may not be so good in practice. But actually, yeah, you know, speaking of
sales, and writing, and all of those things, we speak to so many writers who are trying to pitch their book to publishers and literary agents. And that's also kind of sort of selling yourself, right. So what was your journey to getting published? And what advice would you give writers, other writers on selling their books to publishers, or readers even?
That's interesting that when I started writing in college, I felt that I don't want to sell I mean, that's the last thing I want to do with my writing, because it's something which I write out of which I do out of love, and which I do out of, you know, a need to connect with the reader need to connect with myself my higher self inside, and I didn't want to sell it. So that's the kind of idea I had, when I started writing this book. As I said, it, it was just a chronicle, or it was just an added narration of the story or narration of the incidents that had occurred to me. And that's what I intended to do. But you're right, when you reach out to publishers, or when you reach out to agents, you have to tell them why the story would work for readers. And why it wouldn't. To be very honest, I didn't do anything of the sort. I sent him the synopsis, the whole package, like whatever is required by the publishers, you know, the synopsis, the sample chapters, and whatever. So all that stuff, I'd given it out and see, I was confident of what I wanted to tell. So I feel if you're a salesperson, your product as to be also strong.
Only a good sales strategy will not work because it's a wholesome product, which you're looking at. So now I'm talking more like a marketer. But you know, as I said, sales and marketing goes together, the product has to be good enough, only then your strong stream strategy accompanying it will work, because you will take the product out to your readers or to your clients or your customers. But at the end of the day, even if your strategy is top notch, and your distribution is awesome, but if the product is not up to the mark, then it will not sell or then it will not reach its intended audience. So I feel personally that both of them have to go hand in hand. And
a person has to believe in their product, like as a writer, I have to believe I mean, of course, I do believe in what I say is why I'm talking to you right now. But a lot of writers probably do not have the right intention do not have the right process. So in this case, in the case of right
thing, because you are the CEO of your book, if I were to use the sales terms here, you decide or you write your book, you publish your book, and you market your book, you sell your book. So you are the whole and sole CEO of your book. And in that case, you're responsible for each of its aspects. And I feel that makes you I mean, that makes you the wholesome owner of it, kind of literary entrepreneur, if I may say, so it can encompasses all the aspects, you have to believe in the book, you have to believe in what you're writing, you have to stand up for yourself. And I think then the rest of it flows automatically, in case of being a separate salesperson for a company. The other person's, there's this whole different department that's doing product, there's a whole different department that's doing marketing, there's a whole different department, which is doing sales, among which you may be one cog in the wheel of the sales department. But in the case of a book, you are every thing rolled into one. So in that case, you have to be the complete owner. And you can only be the owner, if you believe very strongly in it. And I think the first thing that you have to believe in is that the story is, needs to be told, and who needs to hear that story, you need to know it first, you need to love the story. First, you need to enjoy the story first. And then things automatically flow through. Of course, there's a process. And I think if the process is strong, I don't I've not thought about the output or the impact as yet, but I'm sure the impact would be strong in I mean, equally strong if the process and the inputs are strong enough. Yeah, no, no, absolutely. I think looking at a book as a product is something that we have been actually, you know, we're trying to convey to a lot of writers to our classes, you know, like through, let's say, through our publishing guidance platform, or let's say, even through book marketing services, because I think what also happens is your writer gets very close to their work, right? It's almost like an abstract concept in their head. But no, it's actually a product, it's a product that's out there. And as you said, there are so many people involved in making a book, come to life, you know, so, you know, talking about your own book, you know, it actually reads like a satire on corporate culture. And you know, we are discussing, you know, how dry it is right. But I'm also curious to know, you know, about that moments, those moments where you actually had fun in Chennai, so, you know, could you maybe share an anecdote of as well, well, I would say you had mostly like the best time of your work life over there.
Okay, so I did have a lot of good times while on my sales experiences throughout my work as well. So, yeah, so in Chennai, I think Pondicherry was the cherry on the cake. It was fun. It was beautiful. It was very relaxing. And of course, I did not witness any kissing couples, among my friends. But I went with a batch of friends who, from my own college who were placed in different companies, and it was a lot of fun.
So I think that, so these little outings and these little places, so that is one thing, which I would fondly remember. Apart from that also checking out new cafes every evening, I would make it a point. Not every evening, but at least every week, or at least twice a week, I would make it a point to check out these cafes. So there's again bottoms, which is the book cafe. And there are all these Odyssey is a good bookstore, ways to go and read. So I'm at a lot of good times. And then I used to do a lot of walks, you know, just start off and walk up, walk to Mariner Beach, meet up with friends, and then come back after a drink or two. So of course, we had her good times as well. But I think punditry would be the icing on the cake. And I mentioned one more thing about Pondicherry. So there's there was this temple, and Nakula Vinayagar Temple, which I've mentioned the book as well. And there used to be an elephant in the temple. She was such a cutie and she would, you would go and give her a banana and she would bless you on the head. It was so much fun. I wanted to, you know, play with her and stuff. Recently, I found out a few days back that she died. And I be I mean, of course, it was the face small moments that I had. Yes, it was a small moment, which I had with her but it was such an important moment and I'm so glad she's in my book. And it's she's she'll always be there. You know Lakshmi will always be there. And I'm really happy about that. You know, it's this tribute. Yeah, I'm gonna find it very soon. So I'm very excited but I think in our sales journeys, you know, there's been so many Yeah, we've talked about the challenges but I think we're doing it because we really enjoy it like I'm in this definitely because I love it. You know, I love the thrill of closing a sale. I love
sort of like, you know, I love speaking to new clients, because it's sort of like a, like assembling a puzzle, you know, like finding out what they want, making sure that, you know, we can deliver it assembling the project, seeing it through to completion, all of these things. And in the process, you know, because it's such an outward facing job, the amount of like, interesting people that you meet from all walks of life is just fantastic. I was doing a project
with Iam on homestay owners in Osaka, and, you know, and I had to talk to all of these sort of homestay owners would never have access to otherwise. So there's so much different this way to need for experiences you can also have through this, what about you, Michelle? What are some of the interesting things that you have done while you're doing sales? Um, I can say yeah, like, you know, I immediately get into this problem, creative problem solving go forward, you know, and what I kind of like to do is, I envision whom I not envision, as in, I know who my client is, right? So what I kind of do, I like to do, even as a writer is I try to put my shoes sorry, to put my feet in the other person's shoes, right? So I actually try to imagine, okay, now I'm the client, what do I need? Right? So that helps me a lot in understanding how do I deliver the product? And I think often, you know, the, the difficulty comes in when, let's say, the, you know, service provider doesn't understand the client. So for me really getting into their shoes, getting into their, you know, their, let's say, their veins and trying to understand what they really want, that helps me, I think it's, it's a lot like writing, you know, I always tell like the team, you know, I always say that, you know, before you speak to a client or another writer or anything, just close your eyes, and just imagine that you are them. You know, it's, it's, I use that analogy, because it's it is like imagination, you're imagining you're you're using that empathy.
And I think that does help connect with the client. So definitely, yes, yes. Okay. So, you know, I shall we know that, you know, some sales girls read your book, you know, you must have had a lot of people reaching out to you, but I'm curious to know whether your colleagues actually read your book, especially your male colleagues, you know, was there anything that surprised them?
Interesting question. So, yeah, I mean, I think some of them did. And the person who I've fashioned the dragon upon me actually, I had a word with him, because, you know, we had a meeting a while back. And I don't know, he said that, you know, you didn't send me your book. I mean, I was like, Okay, I will be sending it enough. But don't don't take the character too seriously. I made a lot of modifications to it and stuff. So yeah, those fun conversations have also happened at the workplace. And a couple of my friends and colleagues have also reached out and some of them bought the books, and you know, showed it to me, they did reach out. But I think, you know, the kind of corporate culture that I'm in, there's too much work, too much to do to leave time for all this. But those who did reach out, they thoroughly enjoyed the book. And they were like, Hey, I wish I had written that book. Because that's exactly what I felt like, or I'm so glad you wrote this book, because I wanted somebody to have put this down. So I think these reviews are these conversations are pretty good to have when everybody's saying that, okay. We wish somebody had put it down. And thank God you did. So especially my female colleagues, who were also in sales, and I have two three people who were with me since I've been throughout in the same company, and some of them have moved out. They were truly happy. They were like, who is so glad you've made this happen? So yeah, it was it was quite a fun journey. I'm still the book is about three months old. So it's not very old yet. So I'm also still gauging what other corporations or what other people have to say about it. But the people who did reach out I think they enjoyed the book thoroughly.
That's That's fantastic. And when you congratulations on that the book does really really well. So now let's move to our next section which is the fun quiz segment it's a new section we're introducing this season and before that a special shout out to all our listeners in Chennai we have a special partnership with the listeners of Chennai live radio station and we have over a million listens in Chennai so hello to all our listeners from Chennai. Okay, so let's start the quiz so I can begin Okay, so which of these is your favorite sales tip one carry sanitizer to learn to choke back angle three be on time for know when to say no.
I think I would say carry sanitizer because I am in effect a germaphobe. So but but but there are other these other tips are also important actually.
should not lash out at anybody in anger. But then yeah, for me, it should be a sanitizer any day. I am a germaphobe and with COVID it has gone way beyond. Yeah. Michelle, what about you? Which I think I would pick beyond time because I think being punctual sets the whole tone of the meeting or whatever, like an encounter whatever. Yeah. Oh, yeah. I also agree be on time, you know.
I think we have before time that's it. That's exactly before time. Yeah.
Good point I must learn.
All right. Okay. So one dish that you tried in Chennai, that you find mouthwatering, a idli. The sambar see dosa de Fuca.
All these things I tried before in Delhi as well, I tried the first one. I tried the two new things I tried in Chennai. I'll tell you one was Upham and the second was pongal. And both of them have mentioned in the book as well. And they were awesome. They were really awesome. If you've not tried them dry up. I still have them in Delhi. There's a place here I have. Yeah. It's so so good. It's so so good. But yeah, since you've mentioned now, four of these topics, I mean, four of these dishes, I would say my favorite would be with the pump.
Dosa, you know, so okay. Yeah, I think me. Yeah. Yeah, I think the least favorite is Italy. I don't know. It's pretty nutritious. Also, I don't know why it's the least favorite for everyone here. Okay, so one thing that was difficult to handle for you in Chennai, the traffic the heat or the noise, the heat any day the heat, I mean, traffic and noise I'm used to in Delhi, but the heat or Lord,
I can still feel it. Even right now. When in winters in the deli winters. So yeah.
Oh, okay. All right. If you had a choice, which of these products would you sell? A sanitary napkin? Or men's underwear? Or a condom? Or jewelry?
What a what an array of products you've laid out. A safe bet would be jewelry, but a condom would be fine. I've always wanted to make those memes that your ex makes. So yeah.
If I was in the marketing department, I would do for condom. But if I was in the sales department, I would go for jewelry. Ah, yeah, that's smart, actually. Okay. What about you, Michelle? Me, um, I will say sanitary napkins because I've also found it a little weird that, you know, we still have to go to the pharmacy and they and they wrap it up with a black bag as if it's almost like something to be ashamed. So I would really love to make sanitary napkins so common. It's almost like as if using a tissue. I think you've stolen my arm. So this is exactly what I was gonna say. Yes. Okay. Okay. One sales mantra. Which of these sales mantras do you most swear by? One customer is always right. To the secret of getting ahead is getting started. Three, your most unhappy customers is a greatest source of learning for don't deliver a product deliver an experience?
Well, these are all amazing, amazing mantras and, but I think the final one is one I would swear by because that is also what we are looking towards as an organization. Also, we are moving towards that to deliver an experience. Because what people value is the kind of value they get from a product and that's, that's what differentiates everything. So yeah, deliver an experience would be my mantra.
Okay, for me, I think it is the secret of getting ahead is getting started. Because I think it's all you know, those jitters that you get, like, even with writing or I think even with a new creative project that you do, it's always those first steps is where you have the most doubts. But if you don't take those first steps, it never happens. So what about you, Tara? I think the experience I think that's really valuable. Yeah. Okay. All right. So one movie that accurately represents what the sales world is really like? Is it Wolf of Wall Street? Or pursuit of happiness? Or three idiots? Or wake up said,
Wow, that's a good mishmash, I watched all of them. And Wolf of Wall Street is too. I mean, I think I would probably talk about this kind of movie for five years down the line when I if I get into a deeper level, you know, I think mine was more like pursuit of happiness. So because you know, as an intern, the book is more about that kind of that kind of a movie and also, I love the movies so much. And I'm a huge, huge fan of Will Smith. So pursuit of happiness. Yes. Yeah, I love that movie so much. Yeah. Okay, so awesome. So now
We come to another fun round fun section of the interview, which is called reading recommendations around. So you know, Bashar, I mean, we know that you're a big bookworm. Right. And in your acknowledgments you mentioned that you thank your mom actually, you know, for not locking up your books for your exile because you still read a lot. So I'm curious to know which books were those that you read, like, you know, that you used to reread even during your exams? Yeah, you wouldn't be very happy if I tell you, but I used to be, but I think it's pretty common. I used to read Harry Potter a lot. I used to read Jane Austen a lot. I used to keep reading any book that stuck to me, I used to keep going over and over it. So it was a bad habit. I think at that point of time. I've gone past it. Now. I don't reread books so much.
Today, if I had to read a book, it would be Margaret Atwood, or iron Rand.
But yes, I think at that stage, it was Harry Potter. I read it about four or five times the whole series. And I used to keep reading it over and over again. And I think at one point of time, I'd check I learned up the dialog says, Well, I don't have this chapters only. So it was super funny. Yeah, I love I can always read Harry Potter. So your book, you know, covers, obviously, sales profession, but do you have any other books that you like that cover other professions? Any fiction that you like, that covers other professions? One one that I really liked recently, it's called the startup wife. And it's about this couple that is sort of like putting together a start up in the tech world and like the relationship and what happens with that. So what are your recommendations?
This is actually very interesting. I did not see any sales fiction. I've always read or, you know, Dale Carnegie's, and all these bigwigs books, Napoleon Hill, not sales, but you know, per se more like, you know, life skills and motivation and whatnot. Not really read a lot of fiction around any professions. I read Elon Musk's, by Ashley Mann's and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and all those which, you know, you often come across nonfiction. But to talk about fiction, I just faintly remember this book, which you know, talks about a journey. I again, have to go back and check. I think Uncle verrico has written something, but I think that's also nonfiction. No, I can't really recommend something that talks about other professions per se. Most of those are nonfiction. So what am I like, I'm serious fiction. You said there's not a lot. I don't think there's any I've not read any sales fiction ever. Maybe it's also the first one.
That maybe because I have not read it. I'm sure somebody else might have read it. So I don't know. Yeah, but but I think I enjoy the monk who sold his Ferrari. And I think that was the only book of Robin Sharma I enjoyed. And there was one more, which Robert was exAir and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I don't know if that's fiction. I mean, that is fiction. That's not even a particular profession, but it really combines a lot of philosophies into one. I enjoyed that a lot. So I don't know which profession would that fall into, really, but I enjoyed the whole talking about quality. Yeah.
Ah, right. Eir quality assurance. You know, for me, the one profession I think I have always been fascinated with is being a doctor. Okay. That's why I love medical thrillers. So if I had to pick a profession, I think it would be all the medical thrillers out there wonderful do with data, which profession fascinates therapists I like I'm so fascinated that I wanted to, like I was considering studying psychology, and I read this really good book, maybe I should talk to someone. It's about the life of a therapist, and like it goes inside the therapy room and all her clients and all of those things. And in fact, as an Indian, there's a book that's about like, an Indian version of the same thing coming out soon, which we hope to interview as well as the podcast. Yeah, that's so cool. Okay. All right. So now that we have a lot of recommendations, let's move on to the last and most fun section of our interview. It's called the rapid fire out. So Asha, you will have to reply in one word or one by gosh, I thought this one was rapid fire. Okay.
Cool. One word to describe deadly hot.
The best sale you made
myself in my BPO like as an intern.
Okay, one place in Chennai you wish you could visit all over again?
Bondage free, but that's not enough.
Is it will that count?
Yeah, I think it's fair. It's okay.
Okay one Tamil word you like and why
dal mill word or not? That's the worst one I have colored so yeah, I think the area the I think the area Yeah reading that in your book I do don't start laughing don't know don't know that is the best word. Yes. Wow. Okay, top three iconic sales idols that you have heard about
sales idols. Okay, so
um, I don't know will Elon Musk fall in that sales idols would be a lot of I think that guy who founded the who opened the franchisee of McDonald's? Just not catching his name. I think he would be one. So these people with the startups who would be one and anyone who has actually created an empire, so I can't think about much but the guy with I think the one was written shoe Doc. I'm not able to remember the law because I love the Shoe Dog. Yeah. And even the book The movie about McDonald's the founder McDonough was such a good movie. Yeah, I loved it. Okay, so where do you write?
I write anywhere I get the chance to Inmetro at home. Not at the office, mostly because I don't get the chance. But anywhere basically, on my phone on my laptop to anywhere I get the chance. Awesome. Okay, one misadventure you would like to have with a foreign country.
I would like to have what I've already had.
Here, though, you can answer it. Okay, misadventure. I think it was during my sales stint in Uganda. We did it for about two months. And I think we'd gone to a client where we were selling some, sorry, sorry, this money product that we were selling.
The person turned out to be another entrepreneur and he started selling me his own product. And then we ended up going to a bar and we had a few drinks and I did not return to work at all. So that was a weird.
Okay, so what are you working on next?
So my next book is actually coming out in the coming month. It's about this unsung freedom fighter from the northeast. It's a part of the pm UVA scheme.
It's by the National Book Trust. And I'm also starting,
winning that I'm proud of. Thank you. Thank you about that. I don't know that just came as a I came out of the blue and I was like, Okay, why not write it? But I'm going to work on this sequel. Yes, this book sequel. And I'm probably also writing something more on in terms of fantasy fiction. So yeah, trying out everything all at once. Wow. Amazing. Sounds Yeah. Sounds like a buffet. Yeah. Awesome. So yeah, I think this brings us to the end of the episode. I shall really, really glad that we got to speak to you. I think it's one of those different episodes we have done, you know, with writers because we are also MBA graduates, you know, we are also we have done sales. So you know, thank you for your taking the time and for enlightening us about your sales tips and tricks. It was fun. I love that. And thank you so much for inviting me. It was so much fun to talk to you guys. And kudos to you for doing such amazing work. So you guys are also I mean, you guys are an inspiration. Thank you so much for inviting Oh, thank you. Thank you.
So here we are, were the end of yet another journey into the many worlds of Books and Beyond with bound I'm Tara can do while I'm Michelle D'costa. And this podcast is created by bout a company that helps you grow through stories. Find us at sound India or all social media platforms. So tune in every Wednesday if you live, eat and breathe books and join us as we discover more revolutionary books and peek into the lives and minds of some truly brilliant authors from India and South Asia. And don't forget to keep your love for stories alive for books and beyond.