Over heard at a local store - "Bhaiyya, yeh koi doosre colour mein nahin hain?" which loosely translates to "Is this available in any other colour?" If you think that this is a conversation about an item of clothing or a regular accessory, you would be wrong. This in fact, is the latest item sported by the locals of Pune, thanks to the place being the swine flu capital of India. This is the MASK. Just like the mask in the movie "THE MASK" (obviously) granted special powers to the wearer, the locals here are hoping that their mask, available for Rs. ten to Rs. Three hundred, will give them the special power of keeping the swine flu at bay. Some being the fashionistas that they are, want to accessorise the mask with their outfits, hence the question on the colours.
That the swine flu is something no one has a real handle on, is pretty obvious now. It spares some and takes others with virulence. It is quite amazing that in the middle of all the chaos, confusion and tragedy, some have spotted a marketing opportunity. The mask are selling like the proverbial hot cakes at almost every street corner. Like the tickets of a hit movie that is house full, there are even black marketeers who are hiking up the prices ( Simple economic law of supply and demand!) I have seen the same mask sold at a difference of forty five rupees, within a few feet of each other.
If this is not enough to convince you about how you can work on people's insecurities, here is another --- brilliant sales man or opportunist, you decide. Yesterday, I received a text message which read something to this effect "Good morning friends, all day doctors ,news say that if your immune system is strong ,you can prevent swine flu. so what is the way out...something that has got 4 basic ingredients...immune booster, basic nutrition, system regulator, toxin cleanser..all these 4 together in xxxxxx, the king of herbs, do not wait for the h1n1, to come. Tomorrow it could be h2n22, like the police in the Hindi movies who come at the end. Act now..secure your and your children's lives. consume xxxx......" and so on, ending with a 'happy to help' sign off.
No prizes for guessing, the person is in the herbal supplement business. The message was in textese ( lot of short forms) . Is fear not a primal emotion that keeps us on our toes? Right now there are thousands of people in Pune who are willing to pay any price to stay healthy and avoid the latest threat on the horizon -the swine flu. This was almost a match made in heaven, and many business gurus would probably admire the wonderful marketing ploy, adroitly disguised as a desire to help. Proves that even in times of fear there are other emotions at work as well.
Masks in colours, maybe with sequins and mirror work, herbal supplements.. who knows what is next? Who ever said, "we are continually faced with brilliant opportunities, disguised as insoluble problems", probably saw this coming.