We frequent two Indian stores in Berlin – Big store and Small store.
Big store is expansive. It has everything – packets of Parle-G, Rooh Afza, LG Asafoeteda and Dabur Chyawanprash stocked in semi-organized shelves. With the familiar colours and packaging, the happy coexistence of chaos and order, I felt like I was back home.
As you have already guessed, Big store isn’t too orderly. It has a large staff, but its scale makes it hard to maintain. Its vegetable counters have wilted produce. Looking for what you want quickly turns into a search-and-rescue expedition.
Small store is compact. It stocks only important things. They follow the 80:20 rule. They stock the 20% that comprises 80% of what most people buy. My first impression of Small store was that it was nice, but inadequate. Like portions at fancy restaurants.
Small store is organized – week after week, the tamarind paste, the groundnuts and the cumin seeds stay on the same shelves. Their vegetables are fresh. A small family runs the entire store. You’d find just 2 people running it at any point, and when they find you looking for something they help out.
If Big store and Small store were side by side, my first impulse would be to walk into Big store and spend an hour getting everything on my list (along with 20 other useless things). With time, I’d learnt that it takes me just 20 minutes to shop at Small store even if I do not find one item on my list. It is more expensive to run a smaller store, but I’d gladly pay a premium for 40 minutes of my time.
It is tempting to go big – to stock everything and offer unlimited choice. But choice often comes at a hidden cost. The price marked on the packet isn’t the only price that we pay.
Small is beautiful. May its tribe increase.