Ranebennur is not merely the geographical center of Karnataka but also the most important business center of the State. It may not be the capital of Karnataka but a lot of capital exchanges hands at this very place that boasts of its commercial connections with most places in the southern region. Professors, including those from business schools, devise striking and attractive theories that bear no responsibility for success but the practitioners of this craft, at Ranebennur, provide valuable tips on how to run a successful business, not just economically but also ethically.
I can vividly recall one shop-owner, when I reminisce about my childhood days at this place. His name was Narayana, hailed from coastal Karnataka, had made Ranebennur his “kayada-Kailasa” (Karma-bhoomi) and had settled well. He owned a very small but a well-stocked bakery. Unfortunately, his shop was tucked a little inside and was also co-located alongside a bakery that was visibly bigger and better. The bigger shop had all ingredients for business success but he didn’t succeed.
In those days, we ate the bakery bread only when we fell sick. If any one carried bread in a basket, it meant, someone wasn’t well, in his house. So, if we desired to have bread, either we had to fall sick or feign sickness. Ours was a full family with a dozen members and at least three elders had to physically touch our forehead or the chest to certify if we were really sick and that we were now entitled to bread, instead of regular meals!! The money for the bread did not come easy from the parents, one had to pass the test of temperature! Once declared “sick”, we were given 50 Paisa for half a pound of bread. Once the money was in our hands, we made a dash to the bakery to fetch the bread, because, many a times, between being declared “sick” and handing over of the cash, we were declared “recovered” and the cash was taken back!!
Narayana, the middle-aged baker, was a jovial and an affable person. When customers came to his shop, his aim was not to ‘transact’ but to ‘interact’. If someone came looking for bread, he enquired with concern as to who was ill at home, spent a few minutes in seeking few more details and only then he proceeded to handover the bread and take money in exchange. He didn’t stop there, when the same customer returned for another pound or a loaf, he continued the emotional conversation, with concern. He kept a mental record of such happenings and never failed to enquire about the status of health of his sick clients. Over a period, he had forged a ‘relationship’ with his shoppers and painstakingly built a bond with his clientele. To us, he was not merely a baker, but a doctor. It seemed, with his bread, came the blessings!
There may be seven secrets for a successful business, but this is the most important one and perhaps will remain so, for decades to come.
For many sick and the suffering, it is “vaidyo narayano harih!”
But, for us, at Ranebennur, it was, “Narayano vaidyo harih!!”