Tuesday, September 13, 2016


The economics of places where buses stop for night halts are usually very interesting. For a variety of reasons. Many a time the food quality is bad - like outrightly bad - but the bus staff get a good deal (usually free) so the bus stops there. They stop at random places sometimes - like a lime juice place or a tea place in the middle of the night. Or pick up boiled tapioca (this is a mind-blowing snack - try it sometime) sellers and then drop them off a kilometre or two away while getting their snacks in return. So, the bus passengers are dependent on the place and some often end up eating there.

It was one such place the bus halted a few days ago. And this place, apart from the usual food - sometimes a 'pan' shop, sometimes a juice counter or an ice-cream counter or a general store had a few more things.

One was a shop that sold pickles. One was a toy shop. One was pop corn counter. And one was a counter that sold 'Maths' books - a book that claimed to make Maths and English easy or something like that. I wondered what these stalls did here.

Through the halt of 30 mns, the toy stall had sold a few toys to both kids and to those presumably going to meet a kid or grandkid. The pickle and masala shop had sold a variety of pickles. The pop corn counter did brisk business. The book stall did not do any business while I was there, but I am sure there is a reason why it is there. (There was another stall on 'Science at home' which was shut at this unearthly hour, but I have seen that shop do brisk business at a few other halts).

So what is happening?

My theory is - nudge. That bit of nudge - at a place where presumably people have to step out of the bus - because the staff usually locks the bus to reduce the incidence of thefts etc. My observation was that the purchases were made mostly by people who did not have dinner there.

Once people go for food they are stuck inside and the restaurant gets their business. There are a few who either carry their own food (those rascals) or do not eat. They are also a captive audience and cannot wander away too far. These stalls are there to capture their business. And with the right kind of 'nudge' - just the presence of a shop and round figure costs which are not very high - people buy them.

The toy shop is aimed at kids (some who throw a tantrum or who need to pacified for a bus journey) or grandparents who want to buy a gift. The pickles are for someone who is looking for something 'out of the ordinary' or 'local'. The popcorn is to while time and the book is also some thing on similar lines. At an affordable price the book promises genius in not one but two subjects - so why not? The science store is a very interesting one and piques the curiosity of many.

It is also impulsive buyer behaviour - but the way this halt was organised - with the variety - clearly some thought had gone into it.

What has that got to do with learning?

One - nudge is very important when it comes to learning. The right kind of nudge. Apart from pushing learning reluctant throats - nudge is a smart idea. And it works very well when used the right way.

Two - timing. The nudge should also happen when I as a learner need it. Without that, it won't work.

As I stood there watching the customers and the shopkeepers, it was a fabulous lessons for me...And no, I did not buy anything - the science store at the previous halt had already made me buy something interesting!

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