The Art of War

One time I was told that I don’t bargain. That was in reference to some street shopping. Here’s the thing- I don’t like bargaining. As a businesswoman I find myself on both sides of the table. As a businesswoman I know what goes into bringing a product or service to the consumer- the effort, money and heart. And as a consumer I have a limit to how much I can and want to spend on something. So when I go to buy something, I can clearly see what’s gone into the costing and if the seller reduced his price then he wouldn’t make a profit.

I find that there are some consumers who want to negotiate to the point of either a no-loss-no-profit or a loss situation for you but either ways they just don’t want you to make a profit at all. They make it seem like a war. But profit is good! It’s good for the business as well as the consumer. If the business makes profit, they can put it back into the business and upgrade their quality and offerings. And of course some of that will go into their bonuses. It’s like that Axis bank ad where they show how one business transaction sets off multiple transactions. It is a domino effect. Of course, no doubt there are businessmen who are there just to steal from you and you should be vary of them.

In my business and position I sometimes feel resentment towards some of our customers who claim to be our friends and well wishers. Those are the exact people because of whom I incur a loss because they expect freebies or a heavily discounted rate. The way I see it, if you consider yourself my family or friend and if you don’t help me do good business and make a living, how can I expect a stranger to? Not just that, they also expect so much more that they know they can only pull of because my family is in this.

There are also times when customers say such absurd things that it makes my jaw drop. Like literally. One time somebody was arguing with me about how I’m increasing the rate every time that they are adding something new. I kid you not, that’s EXACTLY how the conversation went. I was stunned into silence for the next few seconds. Yeah like as though when you go to the super market you pay only for half your items. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes, some customers’ behaviour really gets to me. I get so angry that I know I can’t control it if I say a word. But unfortunately that’s not an option and the result of not letting that anger out is internal stress and mental fatigue. If only the customer wasn’t the king. I may have painted a very negative picture of customers though and I now want to point out that this isn’t always the case. On the other side of the spectrum there are customers who are so straight forward that they don’t bargain at all. It’s those customers to whom I willingly give freebies and accommodate all requests. Be kind and you will receive kindness (And brilliant service).

Then again, I never thought I’d be good at negotiating but I surprised myself. That is an art I learned in a workshop held in Facebook and through the process of revisiting my learnings and theories, I realized I learnt more about business than I ever did before.


Sunayana Sen


Oh, the struggle!

I’ve heard so many people say that working for your parents would be a holiday. I can guarantee you that unless you’re a spoilt child, it’s harder than being a regular employee. I’m expected to work twice as hard, be there for longer, be yelled at for everything that went wrong and most importantly, I take work back home. So the next time someone tells you that working for your parents is not really work, slap that person across his face and tell him to be courageous enough to start his own business.

Now, I walk a fine line between being just an employee and the boss’s daughter. My biggest struggle is with that conflict of identity. I want the others to feel free around me and not fear me. When they see me I don’t want their first thought to be “Boss’s daughter”. I certainly want to be respected- not for my family alliances but for what I bring to the table. Then there’s also the implicit pressure of being as good as my parents. I’ve heard at least ten times today that I’m a mini version of my father and now if I don’t live up to it, I will permanently be branded as a failure.

Last week I had a situation with a colleague who was slightly rude to me. At that point I felt quite conflicted and I needed to talk to someone and get it off my chest. Unfortunately, I don’t have anybody of my age so naturally I thought of talking to my parents. But the problem is that if I spoke to my dad, he wouldn’t even bother investigating; he would simply start yelling at the said colleague and then everybody would fear me. I can’t afford that. I didn’t even want to tell my mother and put her in a position of conflict. So I brooded over that issue quietly in my mind for a couple of days until I got it out. In my previous company, in such situations, the two parties would sit together, talk it out respectfully and move on. But those folks were highly intelligent and polished people which isn’t really the case in my current industry. Not even close!

This struggle continues and I’m sure it will for a while longer. The journey has just begun after all.

Sunayana Sen

An Idea That Changed Your Life

When people find out I worked for Facebook previously almost always their immediate reaction is, “WHY on earth would you do that?! You worked for such a well-known brand and now you’re working for a local brand? I don’t understand it!” And I don’t expect you to. On my last day in Facebook I posted a message explaining why I was leaving Facebook. My dream/ambition/aspiration/goal is to start my own chain of hotels one day and it was time that I made that crucial decision. It was definitely one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made recently. But now that I’ve made it, I’ve got to find my way through.

A week into my new job in a hospitality company and a friend asked me, “Do you like it?”. “It’s okay”, I said. “It’s too early to ‘like’ it”. A few weeks later my answer changed to “I love it!” My whole life changed with that one decision. With it came more tension, frustration, cut-throat competition, being at the mercy of unkind strangers, long hours and all that but every day I wake up feeling better about myself because I’m one day closer to my ambition. Just by making the decision to quit Facebook, I crossed over the threshold of dream and reality. I am living my dream. A long road ahead to my ambition but the destination is visible.

If I ever find myself on Koffee With Karan and he asks me in his rapid fire section “An idea that changed your life…” I will say, “The idea of going after my dream”.

Sunayana Sen