I have organised events when I was in college and have also worked with a wedding planner on a big fat Indian wedding. I always knew that it requires dealing with a lot of people, working with multiple opinions and preferences, unforeseen troubles and non-stop coordination.
The day I joined Center for Social Action, I was aware that the Livelihood Day celebration was to be organised. It was one of the most important events of the year. There were going to be 19 stalls from Raigad and Dharavi islands with more than 100 people from the Kathkari tribe of Raigad and the fisher folk community of Dharavi island. It was a big day for all as everyone was going to come together in Mumbai with approximately 1000 other people. There were cultural dances, songs and games, and an exhibition of products made by several SHGs (self-help groups). It was overwhelming to see not just their performances but also the energy and effort they had exuded in the celebration on 20th October 2018.
There was a lot to learn from that day and all those days after that when we sat down to analyze what went well and what could have been better. Sometimes, we all get so involved in the process that we tend to miss out on the obvious yet crucial detail. Here are a few instances from which I learnt about the other side of planning and organizing an event where you are not just the organizer but also the seller:
Know your Audience: I know this must have been said a lot of times before but that’s because it still remains one of the most important parameters. Do you exactly know how many people are attending the event? Well, one never does. Our event was celebrated in the premises of a church where we were majorly catering to Christians. Two of our stalls were selling vegetables. Of course they had the lowest sale as we were in an area where most people were meat eaters. Another interesting finding was that most of our urban visitors have stopped cooking themselves. So, who goes to buy the groceries? Not them for sure.
Money Matters: When you’re just about entering a market, as a seller, what is the first thing you do? Keep the prices slightly lower than what your competitors are offering. This worked for us as well. Since Gluten Free has become a trend, Ragi eaters have increased by three folds. In Raigad district, Ragi grows in abundance. Therefore, it’s used in most of our products. Since we were offering the same flour as other brands in the market, at a slightly lower price, we not only had a higher sale but also received several orders.
Product Packaging: That’s one of the first things people notice in a product. In fact, sometimes a higher price can also be justified with packaging of a product. But what if that goes wrong? What if the pickle you sold, leaked all the oil on a buyer’s clothes or in his/her car. Disaster, right? This was probably one of our biggest failure, and hence, learning. The packaging of the product has to be checked well in advance so that necessary changes can be made in time. Now we know what to focus and work upon.
Some Refreshments Maybe: Timing of an event is crucial. We realized how it did not work for us and how it could have better. Since it started around 7 PM on a Saturday, the stalls selling food items were a hit including the once selling Chai. Being a pleasant evening on a weekend, people were on a lookout for places to eat outside and take something back home. Providing refreshments could also have been equally profitable, something as simple as a tea/coffee stall.
Cater for Carry bags: After putting in so much effort to make the various products, we missed this small yet important item. It was disheartening to see people not buying our products just because they didn’t have anything to carry it. It was a lesson but it also led to something special that day. One stall was selling cloth bags and other vendors encouraged their customers to buy cloth bags from there. Guess what, it was a clean sweep for them!
Setting Objectives: What after the celebration gets over? How do we know whether it was a success or not? What do we tell others? Objectives should be one of the first things to start with, even before planning and execution. It’s vital to know your aim, expected results and outcome. When you start answering these questions before getting into the processes, things not only become more clear but also help you in gauging whether it was worth doing it or not.
Honestly, it was maddening to be a part of this day but what made it worthwhile for me was a simple fact that all the people from different communities happily agreed to come to Mumbai for their event. They not only came but performed and left with a bag full of memories. This is only a beginning to a much bigger and longer journey not only for them but for me as well.
These are such small but important things that just skip our mind while planning . I enjoyed reading your insights ,especially the example of knowing the people and refreshments one .