Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shoe for a shoe

Jail term for a pioneer

Wiser counsel seems to have prevailed. Muntadhar al-Zeidi, condemned for three years in Iraqi jail for throwing shoes at George Bush is out in six months They pronounced a three years sentence for a brave visionary who tried to change the world through innovative thinking! If we need to put Al-Zeidi, the Iraqi hero for flinging his shoes at George Bush behind bars, why not put all the marketing gurus and most of all Philip Kotler in jail, whose text book of marketing management clearly describes the marketing strategies of market expansion and product extension.

Saviour of soles

The shoe factories in Guangdong province of China were reeling under the impact of financial crisis. The anguished migrant workers losing their jobs and dreading the prospect of being reunited with their families in their rural abodes were desperate. “Stimulate domestic demand as a substitute for exports” cried out the venerable economists, eager to give advice and bring succor to the lives of the affected poor in export reliant countries. But can even the 1.3 billion Chinese consumers match the demand created by Americans, who on an average used to buy 30 pairs of shoes in a year!

It was a remarkable demonstration of the innovative thinking that the Guangdong Shoe Export Association hired Al-Zeidy to throw a pair of shoes at George Bush and demonstrate a new use for the product to boost its sagging demand. Imagine, if people started throwing shoes as well as wearing them? With millions of appropriate and deserving targets and billions of potential throwers, the factories can open their gates again and the workers can get back to the task of stitching the uppers to the soles. The Chinese government’s buy-in and support was secured, and the Prime Minister Wen Jia Bao himself volunteered to be the spokesman and a target for shoes in Cambridge University earlier this year.

A whole new world

Special shoes will be designed for bankers, made from sub-prime materials and leveraged at the heels. The politicians will get thick leather shoes to match the thickness of their own hides. The insurance companies will get shoes, the risk of wearing which will match the risk profile of the assets that they insured. We could even get rating agencies to rate the shoe in terms of aerodynamics, the speed and distance to which it can travel, and how much it will hurt when it will hurt the target.

The market could be segmented both by the thrower and the throwee – stilettos for the highbrow, the humble canvas shoe for the amateur, sneakers for the nimble, athletic types and budget shoes for those on a shoe-string. Shoes could be color coordinated for maximum impact – black shoes for Obama, white for Bush, brown for Manmohan Singh and yellow for Wen Jiabao.

Shoe for a shoe

The mind boggles at the opportunity, if the principle of “a tooth for a tooth and a nail for a nail” could be extended to “a shoe for a shoe”. The great leaders and the eminent public speakers, would then come to the meetings equipped with their own set of shoes, to fling them back at any miscreant who dares to throw one at them. Imagine public meetings, in which shoes are flying like rockets in each direction and every swing contributing to the rescue of shoe industry in Southern China, and ultimately to the rejuvenation of the global economy.

“Let me make it very clear,” president Obama said. “White House will not abandon the view that a shoe is a wearable accessory, whose primary role is protection and adornment of the feet. However, if it can find additional utility as a saviour of the global economy, I am sure Secretary Geitner will welcome it with open arms.”

In Dongguan in Guangdong province of China, as the shoe factory worker Lian Ping uses his chopsticks to voraciously swirl multiple strands of noodles from his bowl to his mouth, he can be rest assured that his next bowl of noodles or rice is not imperiled by the lack of demand of shoes in the world. He has to thank Al-Zeidy for this - who would not have spent six months in jail for nothing – he would have saved our soles.

Written by Ashok Sethi

1 comment:

Janny said...

The funny thing is that your blog is blocked in China...I had to use a lot of tricks to catch up with your interesting writing.