11am, Tuesday. Office.
It was around 11am on a working Tuesday and my phone rang, flashing an unfamiliar number. Considering I was in the middle of work I needed to get done as priority, this could only mean one thing. One of India’s burgeoning group of “knowledge workers” had arrived at my number on his/her list and was going to attempt to enrich my life by increasing my ability to spend beyond my means by offering me a credit card.
I was wrong. A south-east asian sounding voice asked to confirm my name and proceeded to ask whether I had heard the name “Zegna”. Took me a couple of excuse me’s to make sure I’d heard the name right but then a half page ad from the day’s newspaper popped into my head. Picture with a white dude in a brown suit, waist coat et al, shoes polished to a mirror finish, looking at the camera, with the look that said “good luck trying to look like this after a couple of cab rides and a flight in between. Oh, and without the square jaw and the makeup”.
Apparently “Ermenegildo Zegna” is an Italian suitmaker. And as we know from our movies and sitcoms, the Italians who don’t sport well-oiled bushy moustaches and bake pizzas exclaiming “mama mia!”, walk around looking dangerous in their expensive suits, ordering hits on rivals.
Anyway, this South-East Asian sounding lady was wondering if I’d be available for an appointment at the Taj with their master tailor who’d be in town for the weekend. Now, after my mind, on autopilot, had tried to estimate the price of their suits, such as to cover the costs of a business class trip from Rome to Mumbai accompanied by a 2 day stay at the Taj, I got around to wondering what marketing list had me on there as having the kind of disposable income to buy Italian suits.
8pm, Wednesday. Traffic.
Around 8pm on a working Wednesday and my phone rang. Not my regular phone, but my new work number that serves the sole purpose of giving me instant access to email updates I’d rather wait to get. Considering I haven’t handed out that number to anyone, it could only mean one thing. One of the ignored acquaintances of number’s past owner was attempting to establish contact.
A look at the screen showed one of those +532 set of digits. Curiosity piqued, I answered to hear “Robert” introducing himself as “Executive Director” at “Exe…<name drowned out by traffic at Khar subway>”. I was about to make my apologies and hang up when Robert asked for me by name. My mind tried unsuccessfully, to connect the dots.
Robert then proceeded to embark on a monologue about a valuable network of professionals with access to senior management of fortune 100 companies. Being invited to join was no mean feat; Robert assured me, and a sign of recognition as a valued professional at the helm of my profession. I got even more chuffed when he told me how accepted members receive an engraved wooden plaque and copies of a press release announcing acceptance to the elite group of professionals.
Now, bear in mind, fellow motorists of the great city of Mumbai ensured I missed every 4th or so word of Robert’s eloquent prose but it was starting to look like I’d done a lot more with my career than I gave myself credit for! That’s when I realized good ol’ Robert had paused in his paean to me and there was a question mark in the air. He repeated his question. Would I like the lifetime or the 5 year membership? Accompanying the sound of cascading pennies, I asked “what’s the difference?” to which the response came. Lifetime was $899 and a 5 year membership only cost $499 and they accepted, hold your breath, Visa AND Mastercard. Yep, W…T…F…
Bottomline, it’s really happening. Marketing teams around the world are squinting into google maps and looking up “India”. Someone’s been telling them that roughly 300 Mn now have more of the best kind of income. The disposable kind. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all these sales reps in these countries, hassled with credit card offers and customer service issues are just going “It’s payback time!”