Please Promote Me, Mama

“please promote me, mama” … Those were the first words which greeted me on a cold and rainy morning of the month of December. This month is special indeed, but apart from being my birthday month it is also a month when I came to Kenya, my new home. People who are born in December are the best, so is my new home country Kenya is … an awesome child! Why Kenya, December and my birthday? Because I and my new home, Kenya share the same birthday, 12th December!!!!! It was in 1963 when Kenya was reborn again as a “Republic”. I know many of you are envious of this divine connection, maybe I was born to be living in Kenya. Recently, I have come across a wonderful friend who shares his birthday with me and Kenya, so now we are a TRIO.

The morning was fresh and so green looking after the rains have washed away dust from the trees, the earth looked deep brown because of been soaked with incessant rains. The smell of wet earth made me happy and I was so curious to find what the middle aged lady dressed in a purple and white checked apron means when she says, “please promote me, mama”…. I could make out the weighty bag hung from her head going down her back was quite unbearable for her, still she was so patient and cheerful to wait for my affirmative nod so that she can put the bag on the floor. She looked fresh as the trees around, maybe because she was back from a long Christmas leave and looked full of energy to explore what I want as my vegetable supplies. It didn’t take much time for me to understand that she was selling vegetables after she put the bag in front of my iron door through which I got the first glance of, Beatrice, my mama mboga from almost 6 years now. In India you find selling vegetables from door to door is predominant by male vegetable vendors, who would move with a handcart, locally known as “thela” on which he displays the vegetables he has for the day. The differentiation between each vegetable vendor is the style they shout to tell you he is here with vegetables; each vendor has a fixed time slots when they cover different localities so that all don’t go in the same locality at the same time. So as strong supporter of women empowerment, I was over joyed by the industrious lady selling vegetables. Later that day, my house help who also deemed to be my “guardian” in Kenya told me they are popularly known as, “mama mboga”. Mama is used to refer to a “woman” (not a girl) in Kenya and Mboga is the Swahili word for vegetables … so mama mboga.

It became a routine to meet Beatrice every alternate morning for my vegetable supplies, since I was now a house wife and one of cooking enthusiastic ones I always had large quantities to be bought from her. As the days passed I could she became quite friendly and understanding, she picked up what I usually buy on a regular basis. In a sophisticated MBA class which will taught as “studying consumer behaviour”. I was amazed to see how she could get me vegetables which were commonly cooked in Indian households. Within three odd months she was more like a person who knows what menu I was planning for lunch and dinner. She was particular about her attendance because she knew what is meant by “competition”, another MBA lesson which she knew of well of. I was so impressed when she gave a glimpse that she was no less than a trained MBA green grocer running a shop in one of the posh localities of any part of the world. One fine morning she told me she will get another lady who sells fruits and smiled while saying, don’t call her mama mboga she is mama machungwa. Did you notice how wonderfully she studied how she can extend my convenience while getting her fellow a new customer, for a MBA student that will be a class on “customer acquisition”.

My interaction were becoming more and more diverse with her, trying to understand what is her educational background, family dynamics, does she save money, does she know about insurance etc. I was tried to instill knowledge about savings, health, eating right and some knowledge on hygiene as well. One of the most outstanding qualities of Beatrice was I always found her smiling, till today she smiles as counts the kshs notes, though what I spent 5 years back on my daily vegetables have grown with leaps and bounds what I spend today.

One fine morning I got a call from Beatrice informing me that she can’t come today but she can’t miss coming the following day. Since it was more like a sisterly relationship with her, I got a bit inquisitive to know the reason for her absence, but I told myself to wait till the next day. The next morning she was even much before she usual time of arrival, upon asking her she politely said, “I missed coming yesterday, so it is my duty to come early so that you can cook lunch for your family” did I hear it right? I was overwhelmed by this gesture but I told myself, this is “customer relationship and service”. Beatrice can teach students of management and Entrepreneurs about Business Model Canvas. Alas!

On inquiring about the reason why she was absent yesterday, she told me she was supposed to attend a meeting of her group which is called, “Blessed Women Group”. It has 10 members who contribute 1200 KShs every month, so the total collection is of 12000 KShs which is given to one of the member of the group. So each month it goes in rotation. Now the monthly contribution has gone up to 2000 KShs per member and now they even have a feast on the day they meet after I told Beatrice about “high fashioned kitty culture” in India. It gives me so much of joy when I see how beautifully these women make their living by doing business exactly according to the nine pillars of Business Model Canvas without even knowing what BMC stands for in MBA books. As a student of MBA in Social Entrepreneurship I feel Beatrice falls no short of being a “Social Entrepreneur”, along with supplying me with fresh vegetables she makes a very conscious decision to procure her supplies from women whole sellers as much as possible. What a simple way to teach you the basics of starting and running a business. Beatrice was too shy when I told her for a picture which I would use in my story, so I had to use an image from the internet. Let me keep trying to convince her to allow me to click a picture of hers while I keep buying vegetables.