I thought it was just another boat party but I was not aware of the adventures that awaited me at the canals of Xochimilco, also known as the xochimilco trajineras because of the canoes that take people for a ride. The place is filled with tourists, mariachi bands, and lush floating gardens.
However, wait for sometime and you will see the adjacent island with severed limbs and cracked heads of severely weathered dolls.
Welcome to la Isla de la munecas, the island of the dolls.
The legend is about one man, a lost relationship, and a dead girl’s doll.
Hundreds of photographers and thrill seekers travel to this haunted island of dolls every year, but it was never meant to be a tourist attraction.
It all started with Julian Santana Barrera, a reclusive Mexican man who found a doll floating at the same area where he had found the dead body of a drowned girl some days ago. To honor the girls spirit and save himself from further tragedy, Julian started hanging more dolls.
Julian was apparently haunted by the spirit of the girl and started hanging more dolls in order to get rid of the spirit. He soon realized that the dolls themselves were possessed by spirits when they started blinking their eyes and moving their heads. He continued hanging dolls all over the place. Apparently, he was marked by the fact that he was not able to save the little girl’s life.
After 50 years of collecting and hanging dolls, Julian was found drowned at the same spot where the girl died.
Yet la Isla de las Muñecas lives on. Locals tend to the island, while travelers from around the world seek out the site. Some even arrive with new dolls to hang in the trees, continuing Don Julian’s eerie tradition.
Stories from Mexico, brought to you by Niloy Jain, IIM Indore IPM-5 participant on student exchange. Stay tuned for more adventure!
“Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the bravest of them all?” – And the answer, as expected, wasn’t that impressive! I knew it. I knew it from the start.
This was my second week at Austin, during the five weeks International Immersion Program at the McCombs Business School (University of Texas) that IIM Indore offers to the EPGP participants. However, I knew that something had gone wrong. I felt a sense of sudden transformation from within, a sense of insecurity and vulnerability that increasingly heightened my dependence on my fellow mates. From the feisty girl that I used to be, I had somehow lost all my high spirits and would hardly step out of my room!
But this was not how I wanted to see myself. Being born and brought up in a very traditional family, I definitely have a very clear view of what is “good” and what is not. Yet, I was never told to be a subdued person who would just stay indoors. I interacted with people, laughed and giggled through life. Naturally something was hurting now!
Told myself, this jinx needs to be broken. The time showed 10.30 am on a Saturday morning. It was already late, quite late- since I require about a couple of hours to get all decked up. And that’s a must when I’m going out!
Anyway, the ordeal of happiness was finally over, and it was a super Saturday noon – with a bright and warm Sun welcoming Austin. I knew that I couldn’t afford to miss the chance. Quickly flipped through the Transit app and decided that the Aquarium would be my destination. The next bus timing showed 20 minutes to go and the walk to the bus stop was barely a 5 minute one. So, I had enough time.
Reached the bus stop and started awaiting the bus. The vehicle arrived on time and I checked the destination route. The driver wasn’t aware and asked me to help him find the right stop for me. Poor me, I knew nothing at all! But I decided to put up a brave front. It was as ridiculous as an illiterate man attempting to educate another! I had to live with that as I’ve an Indian accent and it was quite possible that my words were not being well comprehended by a Native American guy. Anyway, the journey began and started matching the stop names from my app in anticipation of being ascertained that I’ve embarked on the right track.
Nothing seemed to match though and to be candid I started getting goose bumps thinking that I’d probably get lost in America! Suddenly some wisdom dawned on me and I thought I better check on the direction to which the bus is traversing. And guess what, it was just the opposite of what I intended to board!
The driver very politely got me down at the next stop, suggesting how I should reach the desired destination. It was freaking hot and I started waiting for the chariot to my destination. The chariot arrived at the designated hour and after the long wait in the scorching Sun, the driver’s polite greeting literally seemed as though Lord Krishna had descended and was assuring me with his iconic “Tathastu” that I would reach my destination safe and sound. The bus was not much crowded and I went and occupied my all time favorite ‘aisle seat’.
Soon after an aged man came along and sat beside me. I’m usually quite stoic and refrain from eavesdropping into other people’s business. However, lofty ideals do get shattered at times; after all to err is human!
Couldn’t believe what I heard!!! This man was apparently talking to a lady whom he addressed quite respectfully. He was stating his apprehension over being treated in a regal style and some unknown people paying for his super luxurious stay at a hotel. He was repeatedly mentioning that he’s very perplexed as to what made him get all the royal treatment that he was getting and he’d no clue who was sponsoring his food and accommodation.
I kept looking straight but my ears were all up and eyebrows all risen. His plight seemed analogous to that of a creature who denies sumptuous meal in anticipation of getting butchered. And I say that with all the due respect. My instant reaction was to change my seat, as things seemed heavily fishy out there. I was just attempting to locate a good alternative when my chariot came to an unexpected halt. I saw two stout men entering and the entire bus became pin drop silent for a while. After a pause it struck me that they were the well celebrated US State Troopers and instantly my heart missed a beat.
This article was written by Sreemoyee Saha, an EPGP participant at IIM Indore.
There are some things we feel are far too big for us to care about. They seem irresolvable – distant – not our problem.
But they could very well be!
Today was a tiring day, we went snorkelling and kayaking (and the best part was the open bar on the boat!). We finally headed back to our hostel to relax for a while, perhaps just lounge in the balcony.
I think I dozed off for a while because I didn’t even realise when Roger came and sat down next to me. He smirked in my direction, I must have fallen asleep with my mouth hanging open again. He offered me a can of beer and a cigarette (which I obviously refused, lol).
Roger had served in the US Military for 30 years before he took voluntary retirement. He had no one. No mom, no dad, no cousins, no wife, no kids. No friends either.
He had always lived a life of loneliness. He discovered his sexuality very late in life, at a time when people did not know that gay people existed. He was sent to a mental correction facility for treatment. He was never married. He never had the right to marry anyone (Thanks, Obama). Now at 61, he longs for company, a partner who he can talk to. Someone who can just sit with him and watch the sunset. He is lonely.
I beg you to look in his eyes. Does this look like a face of a lonely man? It looks to me like a face of a happy man, someone who has had many laughs, his face wrinkled with signs of happiness. He does not deserve to be alone. Any one would be lucky to have him as his partner. He looks like popoye goddammit! He is so young at heart, I sometimes don’t remember he is thrice as old as me. I want to be his friend.
Roger has been receiving his monthly pension and living in Mexico for the past month. He spends his days drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Sometimes drugs come to the rescue.
He says, everyone in America hates every other person. There is so much hatred and sadness in the society, that an individualistic culture just burns a man up. There is no one to share an emotion with. People are too engrossed within themselves and everyone carries a fucking gun. Why do you need a gun?!
He told me to be careful when in Mexico and just call him in case I need anything. He’s a good man.
What are the chances of running into a man like this, on your foreign exchange stint? The same as BEING that man.
Now that we all have met Roger, this problem is not so distant anymore.
Learn all about Mexico from the eyes of Niloy Jain, 5th year IPM Student currently on his student exchange program. He is enthusiastic about travelling and photography and he writes amazing diaries! Hiral Arora, reporting live from a facebook chatbox.
Hiral Arora reports from Colloquium, the annual business conclave of IIM Indore organised by Industry Interaction Cell, talking about how to be an all round marketeer with a one to one interaction with Mr Avinash Janjire who has been associated with Future Generali and Thomas Cook travels.
In an awe-inspiring talk and lessons from his personal life, Mr Janjire took us through some interesting marketing campaigns from his work experience. As a context of his work in the Insurance sector, you might like to check this video explaining the Insurance Week Campaign, that resulted in breaking of the Guinness World Record for the Longest Balloon Chain.
Additionally, as a context for his work in the Tourism sector, you might want to check out the following explanatory video for Thomas Cook’s innovative Holiday Savings account scheme.
Hiral: As a marketer, how did you manage to work in two completely different product segments – Tourism (an extremely glam industry!) and Insurance (hard to sell, boring industry)?
Mr Avinash Janjire: I believe the experience doesn’t really change. As long as you understand the consumer and their needs, the industry doesn’t matter. You need to have the knack of understanding the consumer, the industry you can learn. Tomorrow I might join some other industry, except engineering perhaps, like an FMCG, and it won’t really make a difference. That’s the key.
H: When you portray Thomas Cook holidays as an affordable brand, does it not dilute the premium image it has right now?
A: That’s really a misconception. We have been here for about 150 years and people think that we are very expensive, but we’re not really that expensive. That’s because the product is such. We have holidays starting at ₹20000 also. But its just that the premium image comes because we sell a lot of these long haul holidays to Europe, US – which are expensive. This makes people believe that ‘this brand is not for me’.
If you compare us with any other competitive brand in the market like makemytrip or SOTC, we are at par in terms of price, we are very competitive. So while we have this premium image, we don’t complain about it, but it is not necessarily true. We are trying to change this idea because otherwise we limit ourselves to a very small segment of holiday goers. We want to go to middle India which has increasing aspiration for travel, beyond the 6 million people who already travel with us, and increase the size of the travel market base. 40% of our business comes from small towns. People want to go for holidays but price is a barrier. We want people to think that we are good but competitive. Not cheap, but competitive.
Right now people don’t even walk into our stores, thinking English naam lag raha hai (this is a fancy sounding english name, not for us!), otherwise they would probably go to some Kesari travels, something more localised. We want to appear approachable.
H: Is tourism a margin play or volume play industry?
A: Earlier it was margin play, decent money, but now it has become very very competitive. Now the margins have decreased to some 5-7% which is very less compared to the transaction value that we do, so it has actually become largely volume play.
H: In the insurance sector, how do you manage to make people buy (life) insurance and get past the mental block that they don’t need insurance (because noone wants to believe they are going to die!)
A: People right now buy insurance but not for the right reasons, they buy it for tax saving reasons and just look at the short term benefits so they end up buying the wrong instruments.
Most people don’t understand finance and can’t understand how much they have to pay and what benefits they can get. So the end up buying from agents who they know – such as family friends.
We have installed this mechanism of calling back customers who have bought insurance from us from the center. This is because we don’t know how the agent sitting in say, Indore, has sold the insurance. Once the deal is locked we call the customer from our head office, and there is a central unit which does this, to rectify what the customer has been told, like a welcome call. Questions like “Do you know what policy you have bought?” “Do you know what you have bought it for?” are asked so we know if it has been missold or not. This is because misselling is very rampant in the industry, leading to lack of trust.
Misselling happens because everyone has to complete targets. You need something, but I might not actually sell you something that you need. I might sell you something that gives me more money. There are some policies that make more money, some have a higher commission as compared to others, so I might want to force sell those. This problem exists because of these freelance sellers, most of whom are not our employees, they work for multiple agents. Most companies are trying to solve this through such back checks. However it is still not optimal.
When we are recruiting we train them in a way that they do the financial probing correctly. In our forms we have questions asking if they have done proper probing or not. What does the customer need money for – retirement, children’s educations, children’s marriage? Once we have that financial information and the customer profile, we can have an idea whether what they have sold is correct or not. This isn’t foolproof but it gives us some assessment, some idea as a brand. It is important to sell the correct policy because if I sell the wrong one, the customer won’t renew it for a second year, which is when I will actually start making money. The company makes money only in the 3rd and 4th years, for the first 3 years we actually lose money.
H: Thank you for the insights! To conclude, would you like to give a message to marketing and advertising aspirants?
A: Just focus on understanding your consumer and the results will follow!
This article is part of our Colloquium’16 series (Marketing – Strategy, Science or Sorcery)