Why I sold socks on roads?


Have you ever sold socks on a sunny Sunday afternoon in front of a super market? Well... I did ;) And it is the... THE craziest thing I did among others and it happened to stay as the best experience I ever had.

So, this is my story on why and how I did this crazy experiment. I know it’s a long one. But, as it is not a philosophy class for you, I am sure you will enjoy it. On top of that, I wrote some headings. If you don’t feel like knowing the whole context, you can skip some. In my view, the following are some crucial parts of my whole experience.

Now the story begins :P • "Watch” the Strategies!!! • A happy man? Isn’t he extinct?

You can directly jump to them if you are running out of time :) Hey, its okay.. you are welcome! So.. It goes like this.....

Prologue! I always have an urge to speak with petty sales people, auto drivers, etc to know about their lifestyle. One of those small talks made me think how it would feel to sell socks. One question which inspired me more is, "Will I be able to sell socks as efficiently as this guy?" And it inspired me to attempt this... selling socks :)

Start of the stop! Most of us are stereotyped and would find it crazy and yeah, I know, it is a crazy thought indeed. It is eccentric. When I told this thought to some of my close friends, they were like "Whatttt!!!!???? Are you nuts???" I could guess my parents' reaction. But what demotivated me is the reaction of a cab driver. When me, with my family, are travelling in a cab, I told this idea to my parents. Suddenly, the cab driver gave a shocked look at me. He stopped looking the road and looked back at me to the extent that he realized that I am surprised because of his shocked expression. I could see a shocked expression on his face with his mouth open! It was the time I slowly started to stop my plans of selling socks.


It begins and Again!!! Once I was chatting with KC Sir (one of my mentors and inspiration) and I told my thought. To my surprise, KC Sir encouraged me to do that. He told these exact words in the chat conversation:

Being eccentric in a brain-dead world is awesome! Go for it.

This again brought back the thought that I should do it. I thought why should I NOT do it? The only reason is the ego! That we are so and so and not a socks selling guy. What is wrong in selling socks? This is a service, after all. We are bringing socks to their place and reducing their pain of going somewhere else. So, I have finally decided to do it.

What did I do? I have invited friends to participate in the socks sales experiment. Most of them denied. Some liked it but were afraid. One said that he would come for sure, but... you know what... he did not come! Finally, only 3 of us were left. Priyank, Vamsi and myself. [All 3 of us are roommates :) ]

A week before we executed our actual plan, I went around and spent some time with some of those guys selling FMCG. I was surprised knowing their profit %. It is overwhelming. Then, I have designed some plans such that we would not have to bear much loss even in the worst case. Came back to room, discussed these plans with my friends and finally agreed upon a plan.

THE DAY! It was on 2nd August, 2015 we did this. Priyank and myself decided to sell socks. Vamsi would sell watches&goggles. First, we went to the watches guy. I already spoke to him the previous week and he agreed to my terms. As already agreed, I asked him if we can hire his place for that day and as a return we would give him his minimum profit irrespective of whether any business happens or not. Any profit above that would be shared equally. This was the deal. He agreed to that and the way he asked me out of disbelief, "Is it that you would give me the Rs.300/- (his min. profit on a Sunday) even if no watch is sold...?!" Priceless it is!!! I still remember that feeling, I don't know why. In fact, he surprised us even more at the end which I can't forget.

Then, Priyank and myself bought 10 pairs of socks from an old man sitting there and selling socks at that Sunday market in Kothaguda (Hyderabad). We thought 10 pairs would be sufficient for the day. Priyank started at Shilparamam and myself at Ratnadeep Super Market, Madhapur.

Now the story begins :P How to sell socks? It is not rocket Science for sure, but it is difficult. It surely is! I could not control my laughter for quite sometime on the field realizing that I am actually on the field to sell socks!!! :D 

What if my manager comes? What if one of my colleagues runs into me here? :D Would they think I am doing this as a part time? Should I ask them to buy my socks? Hell with my imagination!! I imagined what each one’s expression would be? :P

I was filled with thoughts. Shy. Hesitation. Still I approached a few guys. They just said no. It has been some 10-15 mins. I was clueless what to do. But I liked the feeling. Then the rescue came.. and it came from a chai-wala :) (No no, this chai-wala is not Narendra Modi ;) )

Imagine a picture of Lord Krishna preaching Gita to Arjuna ;) This guy gave me all his guidance on "How to sell socks". He asked me if I ever sold socks and you know what my answer would be – No. Then he asked why I was doing it. Now starting a lesson on "What advantages a software engineer-wannabe-entrepreneur gets by selling socks at Ratnadeep?" would certainly make him uncomfortable, so I just said casually, for fun. But my response also brought an equally challenging expression on his face. Then he said "You will not be able to sell socks, anyone who looks at you will know you are not a socks selling guy. They wont buy from you". Then I asked him, "What should I do to get some sales?". He said, "You are educated and can speak in English. So while approaching people also, speak in English. At least they will listen to you".

I did not understand properly what logic it has. But I did. And you know what? It worked!!! In the next 10 mins, I could sell all my share of socks!!!!

At Shilparamam, Phew! Yeah, very few! Priyank, on the other hand was trying to sell but he could not :D Now that I have gained confidence that we can do good business, we went to that (socks) old man and asked for some more. This time he refused to sell us. He said that he would give only ankle socks. We are not left with choice. So we had to accept his deal. Now, to boost the sales of Shilparamam branch, I started selling there :P Both of us tried. Tried. Tried and tried hard and tried even harder. See, you must have been tired of reading "Tried" these many times. Imagine how much tired we must have become trying for so much time ;) We could sell only one pair!

One more lesson... location matters!

We moved back to Ratnadeep. And again, we could finish off our sales quickly. We don't know socks have this good market :D

“Watch” the Strategies!!! We went to Vamsi's stall and found that he was able to sell 7 watches and 1 or 2 goggles. But that is not it, more interesting things happened at Vamsi's place.

The stall owner (on Sundays these guys set up a temporary stall and sit there on the sides of the roads to sell) told Vamsi some of the strategies they make. If it is a festival season, they bring bright colored watches more in number. According to him, girls love to buy "matching" colors and even the cost is a bit high they tend to buy it. (Oh?!)

He sells watches placing them on a small table. He puts all the cheaper watches at the edges as even if someone steals a watch, they usually do from the edges.

The most interesting thing is this... This guy went somewhere leaving Vamsi at the stall. Someone came to buy watch and stayed at the stall for sometime. Later the owner came and asked Vamsi if that watch over there got sold and to Vamsi's surprise that watch is not there but he did not sell it. It was STOLEN!!! Then the owner took out that watch from his pocket! Live demonstration of how thefts would happen and needless to say, be "watch"full ;)

The owner also spoke about how a small change as a car parked in front of their stall would decline their sales. How Telangana formation affected their business... How traffic signals affect... Seasons affect! A rainy day means no business! No money for that day!!! Literally, petty business is really simple to think of but complicated in reality.

A happy man? Isn’t he extinct? By the end, we could earn a profit of only Rs.165 on watches. The owner actually guessed it at the beginning that as this is the month where schools would reopen people would be already spending so much on school accessories, so they wont buy watches more. And it is true. On an average, he would earn some Rs. 300-400 on a Sunday. But that day it was far less. As we had agreed to give his 300 regardless of the profit, we offered him the amount. But, as I said in the beginning that he surprised me even more, he did not accept the amount! He was so good that he refused to take that amount.

His business just revolves around Rs.5 and Rs.10 profits. And moreover there was an agreed deal and further, we are happily asking him to take the money. But this guy, he said, "No", with a smile. We requested him to take the money so much but he refused! Finally, I played a small drama and convinced him to take the amount.  That moment, I thought. He is taking home Rs.165. A very small amount, how can he manage his family? There may be days when he has good profits. But sure, it does not run into thousands. A few hundreds max. On a regular basis, we spend this amount for a very light lunch if we go to a restaurant! And that is his amount to feed his whole family. And he is happy! He is content! He refused to take that extra 300 also. I leave this here to give you the freedom to understand what all you can reason and understand from this. It cannot be explained, it should be understood, I think!

So, by the way, did I mention how much profit we could make by selling socks? Oh, sorry, we shouldn't reveal all those business metrics ;) Try selling and find out how much you can! :D But I can tell you how much satisfaction I gained out of this crazy experiment. It is priceless!

Thanks for reading ! Suhit.

Abhishek Sharma
Apr 2, 1:01 PM
I see an influencer in you. So inspirational. #blessed😭 🙏
Volker Oppmann
Apr 2, 1:34 PM
Challenge accepted. On the next book fair we are going to sell socks along with books. Or maybe even socks for books. To keep them warm and carry them...
Apr 2, 5:19 PM
Woah!!! That sounds crazier Volker Oppmann 😂