A Newcomer’s guide to “Staying Warm under $200” in Canadian Winter (Toronto edition)

Since I moved to Toronto in summer ’16, the only thing that’s been playing on my mind is how to face the legendary Canadian Winter. From the freezing cold to the woeful wind, Canada has been successful in offering the most notorious winters for years in succession.

Of course, you hear about snowstorms and bone-chilling wind in other parts of the northern hemisphere but Canada is perhaps the next best to being in the arctics in person. In fact, half of the country enjoys an almost Artic-like winter already.

While I resorted to the usual Google Search for “Winter clothes in Canada”, one name kept flooding the results; Canada Goose. The almost-legendary “Made in Canada” brand has enjoyed a loyal fan following over the years and has recently become a fashion icon for the rest of the world. Themed around functional premium winter wear, Canada Goose’s success has made way for more fashion-themed premium brands like Nobis, Moose Knuckles, Rudsak and so on. But being a new immigrant without a job in a country where just about 90% people live paycheck-to-paycheck, $900 just didnt seem like a feasible investment.

Apart from price, another crucial part of the game was the length of your outerwear. In Asia for example, a jacket runs up to your waist and a coat up to your hip (or shorter in modern cuts). Since overcoats or topcoats are rare in this region, I naturally only brought the standard-sized items from home.

Once in Canada though, it’s a different story. You get parka, fishtail parka, bomber jacket, mid-length jacket, jackets that sit below the hip to jackets that run down to your knees. There are literally endless combinations depending on how much coverage you are looking for and what look you are after (utilitarian vs. fashionista). It’s delightful and dizzying.

Since I love getting to the depths of any topic, my research on winterwear was no different. The next three months were spent gleefully on buying and trying almost a dozen jackets. And while they all contributed to my understanding of winterwear, almost all of them were returned back to the stores.

Why were they returned? And which one finally made it to the closet? Read on.

First, the list of jackets/parkas I ordered, tried and returned before finalizing my winterwear for 2016-17.

  1. Columbia Bugaboo Interchange Jacket A 3-in-1 jacket system with synthetic insulation. Runs larger than its mentioned size. I am one of those critiques who think the 3-in-1  shell and insulating layer quality is compromised in some way or other to ensure you get 2 jackets for the price of one in an affordable package. Columbia pricing varies greatly across retailers and during SALE events so keep a watchful eye out if buying. Their Regular Fit (which is just about everything they make) is bulky and definitely not my cup of tea. Returned
  2. Columbia Mount Tabor Insulated Jacket Very affordable option for a winter jacket (the only close competition I could think of is MEC Frostbreaker at almost twice the price). Synthetic insulation and typical Columbia design (boxy and boring). Fits surprisingly well (with space for a mid layer). Its jacket-sized length won’t cover anywhere beyond the waist. Got it at a super bargain of $71 at Sears. Didn’t get the color I was looking for, so Returned
  3. Gap ColdControl Max Snorkel Coat First true parka I tried. Primaloft synthetic insulation (which is gold-standard in synthetic insulations), long enough and has the right set of features. The term”snorkel coat” was added to my winter vocabulary (more in detail about it later). The hood can run a bit large. Order your regular size as there is enough space for mid-layers built in. Please note, every Gap product, best to wait for a Gapcash event as they easily offer up to 40% off without any BIG SALE event (not worth buying at MRP level). Got mine at $142 when MRP was $208. Returned
  4. Forever21 Hooded Utility Jacket Whimsical purchase but a very sleek design after all. Bomber style arm pockets with a useful hood and water repellent zipper. However, the quality of Forever21 products is a big no-no for me. Their stiching, zips and material can be very below acceptable standards as they are more a budget fashion retailer at the end. Prices vary greatly over time so be wary of buyer’s dissonance. I bought this at $60+ only to see it become $30 in a month’s time. Returned
  5. MEC Wicklow Jacket First experience with the Canadian superbrand MEC. Used the 3-in-1 jacket experience to order a separate jacket for Fall/Spring season. Loved the cotton-like polyester feel. However, the hood cannot be removed and the lack of any insulation failed to keep it sold eventually. A good field jacket wannabe if you are on the lookout for that style at an affordable price (Clearance price $70). Returned
  6. MEC Steadfaster Jacket A true multi-season and multi-occasion jacket – waterproof, light insulation, long, removable insulated hood with a minimalist urban-ready design. Somehow the zips are too difficult to operate, but everything else is in its right place. Excellent waterproofing and windproofing throughout. Can be coupled with a down mid-layer for winter operation (did exactly that in -19c the other day and was just fine). Do wait for MEC‘s Annual Clearance Event for buying it though. Got the $195 jacket at $120. Loving it
  7. MEC Berring Parka Synthetic insulation parka. Great quality. However, like Gap, sizes run big with MEC as well. Hands would inevitably run longer than usual (which may not be a bad thing as it works as a cover between the gloves and cuff). Had difficulty finding the right fit for myself and more importantly black wasn’t on sale. It’s their best synthetic insulation outerwear (much better than Frostbreaker). But just like other MEC products MRP is too high ($285 vs. $170), so wait for CLEARANCE.  Returned
  8. Uniqlo Warm Tech Down Coat (called Ultra Warm Down Coat in Uniqlo Canada) First of my Japanese winter wear experiments. Uniqlo partnered with a 3rd party winter gear specialist to develop this bad boy. Very very warm feeling. The fit is clearly a size larger than what it says.  For me, even the SMALL was looking bulky after wearing a blazer inside. Styled after the infamous N-3B military parka (which is not a bad thing for classic fashion enthusiasts). Runs up to the waist. The buttons in front are a nightmare to operate with gloves, though. Has down but I am not too sure about the quality of down. Important to note – although it retails for $249, you can get it at $149 during BIG SALE events like Boxing Day or Black Friday. Used it a few days but wasn’t too pleased with the length, front button arrangement and the hood. Returned
  9. Muji Water Repellent Down Coat Muji is a brand I like associating with. Although I barely have bought anything from them over the years, I am somehow drawn to them just like a Tomica car. A random discovery while window shopping. Retail price was too much for me so I waited for a SALE. Got it at 30% off and still felt too expensive (came around $208). Was down to 50% in a few days during the year-end SALE (without any Black ones though). 90% duck down, long, snorkel-style hood (reduces visibility but excellent wind chill protection), typical Muji minimalism in design. Stitching could be better but the material and build feel solid. I feel it will be serving for years to come. The only thing I dislike is the hood being non-removable and a pointless tie down inside gaiter that serves no purpose. Loving it

While many individuals in my place would settle for an all-purpose established brands like Columbia, North Face. Most actually end up with a Canada Weather Gear from International Clothiers (hearing of their gimmicky Super Triple Goose Down blend. A Canada Goose wannabe) or Alpinetek from Sears (IMO better than Canada Weather Gear but still another Canada Goose knock-off) or Canadiana from Walmart. There is also Firefly which seems to be extremely popular in the women’s segment. But since I settled for two as opposed to one (Muji and MEC) as my weapon of choice for this winter, the curious reader wonders why?

Firstly, I don’t understand why people are wearing their heavy-duty parkas every time there is a light cool breeze in Fall (yet to see Spring). Heavy jackets are heavily insulated for a reason and that’s for frigid winter and not a cool fall afternoon. A fall/spring jacket is a must for a Tronotonian’s wardrobe and mine is the MEC Steadfaster Jacket.

Secondly, a winter jacket (in my opinion) should have a few must-haves –

  • A decent-sized hood (best if removable). An absolute must if it’s in a city which has severe wind chill like Toronto. Beanies/toques are can do double duty but not enough on its own.
  • A workable fur lining (Coyote or Artifical = Animal lover vs. Tight budget)
  • A trustworthy insulation (best if goose down but a duck down will do too). If going for synthetic insulation, best to read up on it as there are many brands with different standards (e.g. Primaloft, Thermoball, Hyperloft, Thinsulate etc). Some useful reads on this are mentioned below.
  • Body coverage or length of the jacket. This really depends on your usage actually. A parka traditionally is longer than a jacket because it covers almost up to your knees (always in a women’s model). However, a lengthy top wear is going to be limit movement and seating (this where two-way zips come to good use, so do look out for this feature). For me personally, long jacket/parka is a must as I would want my legs to be equally protected since I don’t wear any snow pant or wind-blocking bottom layer.
  • Pockets and Hand warmers. With a thick warm glove (even more with a mitten) your mobility is greatly limited so please do make sure the outside-accessible pockets work for you. At least one inside pocket is required for phones or even wallet. Great if you get a hand warmer pocket as well cause then you might be able to make do with a thinner glove.
  • Lining. A useful tip on lining – make sure you try the jacket/parka on with both formal wears as well as a wool-blend mid-layer as the lining can be a make or break for many. A smooth polyester lining means easy on and off while a cotton or fur-lining would not only mean difficulty in putting it on but also runs the risk of leaving residue on your formals.
  • Price. At the end of the day, its all about the cost of ownership. I am not suggesting you buy nothing less than a Canada Goose but spending on a decent winter outerwear is a must in a cold country like Canada. All the models suggested here can be obtained for a less than $200 budget. As one shopkeeper kindly explained to me at Sportchek, a decent synthetic down jacket shouldn’t be less than $150-$200 while a workable down jacket isn’t below $300.

And I could find all of the above in my final selection, the Muji Water Repellant Down Coat.

That said I got lucky with my Muji but I strongly recommend The North Face McMurdo Parka at around $300-$350 and Columbia Barlow Pass Jacket between $225-$275 both with 550 down fill which is more than enough.

Now with the Fall/Spring Jacket and Winter Parka resting in my wardrobe, over the coming Winter months, I will try to post a few pictures of both my Muji Parka and MEC Jacket in use. And if time and patience permits, even do a piece on the other two essentials for a gentleman in Toronto – dress professionally with an overcoat and layering it right.

Till then, enjoy the chill at your will!

 

*All amounts are in Canadian Dollars.

Useful Reads

  1. Down vs. Synthetic at Sierra Trading Post
  2. Down vs. Synthetic at Backcountry
  3. Down vs. Synthetic at REI
  4. How to Choose the Best Down Jacket For a good idea on fill power/CUIN
  5. The Snorkel Coat (a type of Parka)
  6. Parka (Snorkel, Fishtail etc.)
  7. Splurge with a Canadian Winter-ready Premium Jacket Sneak peek of the very best

 

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Carry Geek 1.0

Bags2

My bag collection in collage. Clockwise in random order,

  1. Office Carry: Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase (Description | Review)
  2. Carry On: Wildcraft Techpack 45 Backpack (Description | Review)
  3. Casual Buddy: Gregory Kletter Day Daypack (Description | Review)
  4. Casual Buddy: Eastpak Out of Office (Description | Review) SOLD!
  5. One Night Stand: Gap Barrel Duffel (Description | Review)
  6. Carry On: Blackhawk 3-Day Assault Pack (Description | Review)
  7. Office Carry: Greenroom136 Bootstrap (Description | Review) SOLD!

Eid Greeting

Eid Mubarak

Got creative and thought of an Eid al-Adha greeting concept. We celebrate this occasion by sacrificing four-legged herbivore mammals in the name of the Almighty. Hope the visual befits the message…

PS. I hope you all can spot the design fault. If not, you should get in the line….

6 & 9

I started my advertising career in 2006 with a 9 lettered agency a positive

The 9th month of the following year I joined the 6 lettered legend Ogilvy

After 6 unforgettable years a new journey begins on the 9th month with Robi

Guess I could’ve just followed the numbers 6 & 9. Numerology rocks!

5 lettered me with 6 & 9
5 lettered me with 6 & 9

A Fruity Idea

Another tea time idea sees the light of day…
A tool conceptualized and developed for people of the country who pride themselves as a paradise of fruits.

Fruits of Bangladesh

It allows you to browse by seasons (Bengali calendar)

Fruit Calendar
Fruit Calendar

Or by regions (Bangladesh map)

Fruit Map
Fruit Map

And to the best of my knowledge (you bet), there has been no such initiative in Bangladesh before (except of course Banglapedia). Endorsed and funded by my dear(est) client Tang (a brand owned by Mondelez), this was a pet project of mine which the client bought into.

So type in fruitsofbangladesh and keep exploring!!! Feedbacks are welcome with open arms.

Chronicles of My Wedding Card

After three decades of “single” serendipity, it was time.
Time of my life is an expression some have used, just as much as letting life catch up with you at the end.
The reader can be a judge of my state of mind!

A wedding is an equation that is not complete without an invitation. I mean we all make a mess of our lives going over the wedding ring, dress of the bride or venue of the event. But the experience of being at someone’s wedding begins with the invitation. With a wedding card first impression is always the last impression, and there is little margin for error in it.

Not that we don’t realize it, but it seems we are never thinking out of the box about it. At least not enough to me. And nothing in comparison to the expenses made in other experiential parts of a wedding.

Having a love/hate career in the creative industry has helped forming a circle of crazy loonies who fancied anything that wasn’t ordinary, and I was in no way different. I was inspired to come up with something  interactive and innovative that’ll give a lot of intrinsic pride.

There were multiple hurdles to conquer though. Just the way life is not a bed of roses, so isn’t the pursuit of making a wedding card that was different (creative or not is an individual call).

Firstly I had to convince my loving parents.

Both of them have displayed tremendous support and allegiance to most of the major decisions in my life. I must admit (unashamedly) its only because of them I turned out to be so different from them in so many ways. The freedom of thought I practiced and the they way they understood my sentiments, led me to a path where both of them would dread to tread. Being the eldest offspring, its customary to have their hopes of a dream wedding resting with mine. There was no chance for a disagreement!

Next was the orientation to design.

Adman of some repute or typography fan of some sort, whichever angle you took; I had a better than average understanding of design. Be it my long-lost fascination for structural design (Dieter Rams to Johny Ive) or just sheer admiration of architects (Oscar Niemeyer, Geoffrey Bawa or our very own Fazlur Khan), I have been an ardent fan of the grid. Lately this flower has bloomed faster than ever, thanks to a few new-found friends and reading about ripcord ideas.

Colors for example, carry such varied meanings across the spheres of influence. While the shades of grey (black & white) are common in the West, its kaleidoscope here. Red, green and golden are staple with purple, pink and blue inducing contemporary fusion.

On the flip side we all want something that carries a never-seen-before novelty, yet never ready to compromise on their much-hyped traditions (ones that change faster than themselves). When tradition comes knocking on your door, innovation goes peeing on the floor.

The biggest of all hurdles was unfortunately, myself. The luxury of spending the greater part of my day in the company of creative geniuses and the cursed circumstances it embodies, makes it’s an extremely difficult job to convince yourself of what is best. And if you thought selling ideas for a living made you an expert salesman, try replicating that success with your parents. Save the pain and take the bitter pill!

With all this gyan and masala in the pan, the battle was between a people’s design vs. a fanboy’s dream.

Thanks to my departing friend, AA Russell (he is everything but “AA” sized) I could strike a balance in approach and ended up with this.

Mummy's choice
Mummy’s choice

+

My Choice
My Choice

=

The Jacket and Envelope
The Jacket and The Envelope
The Card(s) and Jacket
The Card(s) and The Jacket
The Equation
The Equation
The Equation explained...
The Equation explained…

tokhoni.com

Three of us from work were bunking work in the middle of a hectic pre-Eid weekday chattering away in the lobby of akhoni.com. I had already tasted blood (of online “cash on delivery” shopping) during my stint in India and coming home to find a office-full of online shoppers was surely a welcome sight.

Year after year I’ve made presentations (to clients and my bosses in the region), held discussions and read news on how Bangladesh is a sleeping volcano of digital potentials. Sadly that line of conversation went on for years without bearing much fruit. Not anymore!

Since its origins the onslaught of local “best deals” sites has been rather noticeable. The first time I saw the signature akhoni.com billboard nestled among the behemoths (i.e. Aarong, Cats Eye and Banglalink) last year, I had unknowingly started browsing the site from my phone. I must admit, it wasn’t appealing at all. The deals were mostly travel related and anyone with access to a credit card (or even privileged mobile subscriber) would have seen better packages already.

During my India days, I grew great respect for their flagship “cash on delivery” services. Led by flipkart.com (yes, the makers of those kids turn adults ads), India has experienced a boom in online retailing for the last few years. From the books-only flipkart (which now carries just about everything else) to the india’s largest fashion store myntra.com (as they claim), the services have at times been friendlier to customers than the actual retail experience.

Surely this “online retailing” helped to get boutique and small-time brands out in the open. For just about everybody could fight for a share of your spending as long as they were under the umbrella of a trusted brand (i.e. flipkart or myntra). Web-only clothing brands started popping out in a country where just making a visible enough mark in retail would entail a 1000 stores. Zovi.com (and more recently yepme.com) in fact pioneered concepts like “virtual dressing rooms” and “try before you buy” to enable a more real-time experience for buyers. I mean compare pushing traffic at a busy hour to get to a store and not finding the style you are looking for vs. going online at God forsaken hours and selecting just about everything with one click. To top it all, you don’t even need to pay till you see it with your own eyes. If I am not wrong, the idea of paying only after getting what you’ve paid for (i.e. mistrust in the retailer) is rather unique to our part of the world. And I am pretty sure cash on delivery was born out of that.

Global giants like amazon.com and groupon.com have also made their entry into the Indian web space (through junglee.com and crazeal.com) but unlike many other industries, they are not tasting success that easy. With some of the local players already investing in vertical integration (delivery and collection), the global dominance is long way off. Unless of course the billion-dollar bullies buys off the million-dollar minnows.

I was still kidding with my colleague about the services of akhoni, as the bright idea of opening a site of our own came to be. Before I say any further, I admit of being a shopaholic of their appealing deals. From buying wrong-sized tees that fit me like a blouse (as some have pointed out) to computer accessories without having a need for one, the “discount diarrhea” has surely struck me bad. And the contagious online bargain-hunting virus has spread with visits to other sites with similar offers (ajkerdeal.com, hoichoioffer.com, iferi.com etc.) and influencing people with similar mindsets (mostly my colleagues).

That said, the business is still in a very nascent stage in Bangladesh. It gives “one night stand” type brands a crack at glory (who has heard of Rolla or Section 10 or T-Factory as t-shirt brands; let alone Oops, yes another brand), but whether it actually makes way for a web-based fashion brand is still in contemplation. From the site experience (mostly very poorly designed and hard to navigate) to the product delivery and return, there are a hundred ways to improve the current ecosystem. As much I appreciate seeing the likes of cash on delivery and bKash as payments methods, I despised my experience with delivery timelines and stock maintenance. While a mediocre company (only a national player, that too with a limited choice of products) like flipkart has made it this big just by quality of service, the likes of akhoni and hoichoioffer have a marathon to run.

As luck would have it, I was soon approached by some senior person at the akhoni reception while we waited aimlessly for the receptionist aka. cashier aka. delivery girl aka. customer complaint manager to arrange for my items. She was nice. Nicer than I had expected at least. Curious and proactive as well. I dunno whether it was because I had already bought like a dozen tees from them or we as a group seemed approachable, she inquired and sought suggestions about their deals and services.

Impatient and excited, I went on telling her about supply chain improvement and vertical integration and better in-site experience (thank god I didn’t go all the way to mobile app). I guess she didn’t expect such ideas coming from a 29-year old man buying a Batman and Bane t-shirt. But there it was. Another sad realization of how we are as managers. If you are in the business of online-retailing and be lucky enough to hold a senior post, you better be somewhat techie and aware of the who’s who of the business. The couldn’t possibly be any other industry where living “in the now” was more important than the business itself.

The do-it-all girl was still not back. And my colleague and I were not short of ideas in any track. May be give tokhoni.com a crack.

PS. In spite of it all, I appreciate the great initiative taken up by akhoni and all. The hope is still on…

This article is also available at http://www.newagebd.com/supliment.php?sid=124&id=913

The Ramadan Block

I had just finished writing a blog about Ramadan choir, before it vanished into thin air

Now I have lost the energy to roll out another. But the message in it was like no other

What am I writing now is unknown to me, perhaps the reader can just let me be

I know it sucks, but reality always hurts

PS. “Writing is 90% procrastination…” according some guy named Paul Rudnick, so excuse my dig at it.

The Showdown

Don’t go by the title. It’s how we say don’t judge a book by its cover. To me retail experience is what you get in a KFC or Pizza Hut. They don’t just sell junk food but also make sure you keep coming back over and over again. By definition it means a retailer who packages an experience together with merchandise.

Still sounding heavy? Well let me elaborate on today’s dissection then. When McDonald’s or KFC or Pizza Hut decide to open an outlet in a locality, the simply put the neighborhood puny out of business. Remember the chicken revolution of the late 90’s and early 00’s. A brand made famous by yummilicious chicken broast that used to be as popular as Haji’s Biriyani and every part of the city seemed to have a branch. From Kalabagan to Banani, Rifles Square to Uttara there was no shortage of the infamous HELVETIA sign.

But no sooner had KFC come in, the bright shop boards in red and white started looking stale and shabby next to the red n’ blue. With one outlet alone, KFC was outselling all of Helvetia’s spread out branches. It was actually the other Yum! Brands franchise Pizza Hut that nailed the coffin of local franchise business in Bangladesh. The big boys were here with their gun-slinging kill ’em all attitude. And desi lungiwalas didn’t stand a chance in front the western denim. The dark days of colonialism were imminent, and so were we (the consumers) ready to change our platter.

A decade later KFC is a household name in every corner of the country. With their recent opening in Cox’s Bazar they have catapulted themselves as the undisputed market leaders in the fast food industry. Their offering may not be so healthy, their innovation in menu could be non-existent but the experience they give is still something to die for. Even on a hartal day with heavenly traffic (i.e. no traffic), the buzzing atmosphere during lunch in a KFC outlet doesn’t fail to surprise me!

With Transcom Foods hitting the ball out of the park with both Pizza Hut and KFC, it was time for MGH Group to come forth. Their Nando’s and Barrista chains have also proved to be quite successful. Not so much a quick-serving food chain, Nando’s is still offers a decent fight to KFC with charcoal-grilled chicken. Of the other international brands in operation Pizza Inn still has a long way to go and Coffee World has lost its charm to the newer players in the market. Basically its not so difficult to conclude, we are a nation of early adopters. We pick up on whats trending at an early stage only to chuck it off our wish list in a few years time.

Enough with background, my point of interest was in discovering how an Indian food chain is successfully fighting off the brands that made such a dent around the world, specially in our beloved Bangladesh.

Enjoying or not, I am stuck living off fast food for a good few months. I could blame it on the quality of hotel food (which I’m yet to taste), but I much rather resort to the universal fact of convenience. Quick-serving chains didn’t just make it BIG overnight. The convenience is quite incomparable.

Thanks to its economic boom and 2nd  largest population count, India has just about every fast food brand one can think of. From McDonald’s to KFC and Subway to Taco Bell, the choice of brands in quite diverse and mimics that of the Indian ethnic groups (over two thousand and counting). So when the Big Boys decided to step in, I wonder what were the local boys were thinking. Trembling like the Helvetia owner!!!

Quite NOT. India with a near split of vegetarian and non-vegetarian population, offered a challenge to the meat-loving westerners that they had to quickly get accustomed to. They had to adapt. And not only adapt to a different taste bud, but change their menus altogether. In came the likes of McAloo Tikki (McDonald’s India’s highest selling item) and Paneer Tikka Sub (one of Subway favorites). The meat guzzling All American McDonald’s consumer was now a veggie loving stereotyped Aam Admi (a common Indian). Their successful adaptation meant a bombardment of other international brands in the local scene, who also catered to the local needs in some way or the other. Fancy a Nimbu Mirchi or Chicken Jalfrezi, anyone?

The retail experience a McDonald’s, Subway or KFC offered was quite similar to what you find anywhere in the world. I will discontinue referring to Pizza Hut or Domino’s hereon for their different nature of service (one is principally a dine-in restaurant kind, the other being a delivery-savvy value for money brand). With a major focus on retail experience and customer journey in the outlets, these brands spend millions a year establishing a better connect with the consumers and leave them with a unique experience (of some sort).

However in reality, McDonald’s and KFC offer nothing but alarmingly uninteresting menus with quite poorly designed consumer journey. If we just take the selection, delivery and payment (not in sequence everywhere) management system, its one of the most worst-managed queues you’ll see anywhere in the world. From pushing and shoving around by the hungry mob (aka. crowd) to the congestion at the delivery counter, the experience is everything but unique. There is virtually no difference in how a McDonald’s or  KFC chain would serve food to the common man.

These amateur drawings (by me) demonstrate how virtually identical customer journeys exist in experiencing the aforesaid brands. And as mentioned, they both suffer from congestion and queues. Lets not even get down to those impatient hours (minutes in patient world) you wait for the food to be ready.untitled-0011untitled-0023Subway is a tad better in crowd management albeit catering a much smaller crowd (in most cases). To their advantage (aside from the health issue: 97% fat-free) is the live demo of food preparation and freshest of fresh items in offer.untitled-0033In my opinion (and you are welcome to differ), the best retail experience in this case is in visiting the local chain called Haldiram’s. A snacks-maker turned fast food joint, Haldiram’s caters only to the all-veg segment with commendable success. They don’t have a pan-India presence, nor do they have a charming story of how it came to be; but in my experience at least, they have the best customer management model (far outweighing the above three) among the local quick-serve food joints.Untitled.004

By distributing the functions of payment and preparation, they have literally cracked a killer solution. I admit such a solution requires a larger format store and perhaps costs high on manpower as well. But the fact Haldiram’s retail experience (regarding payment and delivery) is better than the Big Boys from the West remains intact.

From a separate payment counter to watching your food getting prepared right in front not only provides convenience but also quality assurance. With its veg-only menu and rather selective items (I think not more than 20 items in total), Haldiram’s is a case study of significant merit. Challenging and winning in a war most lose out on, India is a country where historically local conglomerates have been successful at holding back foreign oppressors (do I sound nationalist?). From the historical duels between Unilever vs. ITC to the more recent Amazon (Junglee) vs. Flipkart the success rate of Indian firms facing better-financed, better-managed MNCs have been nothing short of pulling a rabbit out of the hat. Luckily there is always a hat.

Luckily for Haldiram’s, the Indian consumers remained loyal to their roots as they ventured into the western delights. We on the other hand, are mythical creatures only seen in the land next to Bay of Bengal!!!

This article is also available at http://www.newagebd.com/supliment.php?sid=67&id=394