Monday, 9 December 2013

Spice Run

-Brian Mendonça

When we visited Sahakari Spice Farm, Curti, Ponda we little knew what a beautiful experience it would turn out to be. Driving from Vasco on a bright and pleasant morning, I knew we were on the road to something big as we turned downhill at Verna towards Loutoulim and Borim towards Raia. In fact, the previous night we were at Nostalgia, Raia for dinner. Since we had come home at around 1 a.m., I joked that we should have spent the night there and proceeded to Ponda in the morning!

As I spent a while with dad (84) in one of the many well-laid out eating areas on the farm -- as the others strode off for the spice walk around the farm -- I was thinking what it was that made this farm a winner. I remember Daniel de Souza had even written a poem about the farm. As a business enterprise, I felt that the Sahakari Farm retained its brand image for the following reasons:

1.       They delivered more than they promised:  A food guide only listed ‘fish curry, fried prawns, chicken xacuti  and vegetables.’* Nothing was mentioned about the aloo pakoras, the prawn curry, the papad, the wedges of juicy red watermelon, and pineapple, and vanilla ice cream as dessert. The welcome tot of spice-spiked caju feni, revived our spirits after the ride from Vasco which took us around an hour.

2.       The guest was treated like the divine:  When the guests arrived, they were garlanded and kum kum was applied on the forehead as a traditional Indian welcome. Each guest was made to feel special. Throughout our sojourn on the farm we were given the best of attention. Rajeev Sahakari himself came to speak to dad and myself when he saw we had not gone for the walk. Great PR.

3.       Multitasking: I noticed that the ladies (dressed in traditional Goan saris) who served us food, doubled up as dancers, and welcomed the guests too. At any given time they could be deployed in any of 3 proximate locations in the farm. They performed all their duties cheerfully sometimes yelling out to each other when guests were arriving and a vantage point was un(wo)manned.

4.       Supervision: When Rajeev stepped into our enclosure for a tete a tete, I noticed he cast an eagle eye around to see if all was well. He called for and received feedback on the status quo.

5.       USP: Rajeev is a scion of the 7th generation of Sahakaris. Over the years they have nurtured their dream of a spice plantation in Goa.  This is their unique selling proposition (USP), something only they could offer the world.

6.       Adaptability: Since a bulk of international tourists are Russian, spice tour guides at Sahakari are specially trained to speak Russian. They interact with charter tourists and with their Russian tour escorts.

This model could perhaps be applied to other enterprises too as a recipe and guideline for success.

*Times Food Guide 2012; Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender,  St. Inez.  Goa on Sunday, 24 November 2013; All pix in situ.

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