The number spray painted all over Mumbai is a self taught businessman’s innovative bid to advertise, finds Rishi Majumder

Photographer: Rana Chakraborty

bean bag politics... :-)

Ithink that number’s a cover up. It’s for call girls,” whispers Tim to Tom (names changed) as they pass an asbestos sheet put up on a construction site in Bandra, spray painted in red with ‘bean bags 26407383’. “That’s rubbish!” Tom retorts and calls to confirm. “I saw this number spray painted on…” he begins asking the woman on the other end nervously. “What size do you want? Small, medium or large?” she responds. “Shucks dude!” he hangs up flustered. “It’s call girls! And they’re quoting sizes!”
That’s how difficult it is to believe that Dolphin Bean Bags proprietor Farooq Ansari who has literally ‘painted the town red’ is just trying to sell a bean bag.
“People from the media keep asking me: Farooq Bhai, is this correct?” reacts an adamant Ansari, mastermind of the spray campaign. “What about the spray paintings by political parties and big companies? What about the space those huge banners occupy? We’re just a small outfit trying to make a living.” Evidence of this noble earning
effort are simple spray painted red messages on asbestos sheets a’ la construction sites, station fences, under-repair roads, walls and even pipelines. “But most of the spray-painting is done on temporary asbestos sheets with permission. And we wipe it off if someone dissents,” Ansari continues.
So what gave Ansari the big idea? “See, I started this business in 1983,” Ansari begins. “We got the product ready, but creating awareness among people took another seven years.” So began a trial run of every marketing technique this “self taught businessman” could conjure: “We tried ads in the big news papers, selling door-to-door, car stickers, emailing a database of corporates and interior designers and a scheme whereby you’d get discounts if you got your friend to buy one too.”
But the PVC pellet filled lounge furniture remained largely unsold. Till Ansari located marketer’s Mecca, that is: “I was travelling through Mumbai and these painted political messages gave me this idea.” So out they came – from Andheri to Marine Drive. Same colour, same size and same message. “I didn’t want to put the name of my company as that would distract from the main product,” he goes on, excited by now. “The phone calls came in, including some inebriated people calling late at night to ask ‘Hey what’s this beanbag man?'” Surprisingly, even most of them went on to order one.
Maybe Tim and Tom will too, a couple of phone calls down the line.

Farooq Ansari

This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India:

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