The man smirks. Just a little. His lips part, exposing small, stained teeth. His eyes light up, and in his deep-seated, big, brown eyes, offset by sweeping eyebrows, I sense mirth. Mixed with a bit of mischief. The mischief of a man who has knowingly indulged in it and has perhaps, enjoyed himself.

“It is a funding company,” he says. Every word is in Hindi, except the word funding.

What does that mean? That’s me, pulling my chair closer to the glass table. Closer to him.

It is noisy inside. The wall fan is growling its mechanical, windy growl. Swinging, left and right. Right and left. There’s a television on in one corner of the room. It’s switching from one advertisement to another, with a smattering of shrill Hindi news in between. At a round, glass table nearby, two men sit chatting about a new automobile classifieds website. Their enthusiastic discussion is almost drowned out by the noise of traffic from the busy, dusty highway outside. It is late in the morning. The sun is beating down, and the temperature is 30 degrees but it feels like 35 or more. We are in a large, crowded town in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

The man gets up and switches off the fan. “Huh, what did you say?” he asks.

“What does that mean?” I repeated. “What do you mean by a funding company?”

“Okay. Let me explain this from the very beginning. We are a used car dealership. So, we sell cars offline. So, when customers come in and test drive and if they like a car, we sell them the car. We also sell cars online. On websites like Carwale and CarDekho and Olx and many others. We have our listings, and if someone likes them, we sell. Now, the Droom salesperson came to us last year with a proposal. He said, ‘Why don’t you sell your cars on Droom?’ I was like, sir, why should I sell cars on your website?”

Hmm…

“So, he said, all you have to do is list all the cars you have on Droom. So, create a login, password and list the cars. Then, whenever a car is sold, I will put a deal on the car, and for every car sold, Droom will give you money.”

I’m sorry. I still don’t get it.

He smiles benignly back at me.

“Let’s say I have listed all the cars that are there in my compound right now. And you come into this dealership to buy a car from me. Now, technically you are a walk-in customer. And I have sold the car to you. Now, I log into Droom. The company is basically saying, show it as if the transaction has happened through Droom.

AUTHOR

Ashish K. Mishra

Ashish edits and writes stories at The Ken. Across subjects. In his last assignment, he was a Deputy Editor at Mint, a financial daily published by HT Media. At the paper, he wrote long, deeply reported feature stories. His earlier assignments: Forbes India magazine and The Economic Times. Born in Kolkata. Studied in New Delhi – B.Com from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University. Works out of anywhere, where there is a good story to be told.

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