By Tahaab Rais, Regional Head of Strategy & Truth Central, FP7 McCann Worldgroup MENAT

Tahaab Rais, Regional Head of Strategy & Truth Central (MENAT) at FP7 McCann MENA

I’m not a marketing guru and I’m wary of predictions. I can only wish. Now, my wishes are super simple and basic, because we often forget that which is simple and basic. And the one thing that I absolutely wish for all brands to do more of, it is to give. Because if there’s anything this challenging phase has taught us, it is to give.

Give more of our time to the ones who matter. Give more of our attention to our children. Give more of our understanding to our fellow colleagues, especially moms who work for their home and work with us from home. Give more of our patience to delivery staff who might be late for deliveries by a few hours or a few days. Give more respect to those who are unsung and unrecognized until this crisis hit us. 

So, as we hopefully don’t go back to normal, recognizing that reducing customer hassles and solving customer problems is going to be necessity, not a differentiator, is key. You don’t get delighted when a brand gives you products that work or just answers your queries or issues. You will expect that today – more so than ever before. You get delighted by a brand when you get more than what others in the category give you or are capable of giving you. Delivering that rewarding experience across segments, lifetime values and individual preferences requires a reinvention across many elements in a brand’s business model, with the (right) belief that a superior experience, based on giving, will lead to success. 

And a really good example comes from an unexpected place. Meet Mr. Anna (pronounced Unna) Durai.

Anna Durai owns an Auto Rickshaw (similar to a Taxi or a TukTuk) in Chennai city, in the state of Tamil Nadu, in India. All auto rickshaws take people from one place to another; a category that offers no real differentiator between its ‘brands’. What makes his auto rickshaw distinctive from others is that he provides a lot of ‘brand’ experiences inside the vehicle for his passengers. 

He delivers those moments of ‘wow’ based on people’s emotional needs and anxieties but adds a very individualized experience.

Travellers in his auto rickshaw watch TV free of cost. The vehicle is also WI-Fi enabled and if you’re not carrying a laptop or smartphone to connect to the internet, Anna Durai will slip you a tablet. He carries an internet dongle attached to a Wi-Fi router and offers free access to the internet. He offers a free mobile battery charger too. He also offers mobile and landline recharges for those in need of urgent top-ups in the rat race of everyday life.

His main goal is to make his customers feel happy and he feels customer satisfaction is highly important.

“Most people who take my auto to work at IT companies and I know that access to the internet is important for them”, Anna Durai says. “It takes about half an hour to cover the distance between Thiruvanmiyur and Sholinganallur. Why waste that time?”, he adds.

The auto rickshaw also has slots for magazines and newspapers that contain the latest editions. There are dailies for the customers who need to keep up on the news, weekly magazines for passengers who are taking a long ride, and glossy fortnightlies for those interested in lighter reading.

Anna Durai has been spending 4,000 Indian Rupees a month on subscriptions to 35 various news publications. And gives them to his customers for free. 

He also conducts a bumper prize contest for customers for them to win surprise prizes.

He has an ongoing program for referring a child in need for education, so that the child can be helped out. Discounted fares are available for teachers, and for all travellers on special days such as national holidays and festivals.

And there are a whole bunch of other privileges.

Despite his investment (considerable for his category), he takes home a profit of between 1,500 to 2,500 Indian Rupees a day. 

“That is more than enough for me.” he says and continues, “I drive from 8 am to 1 pm and from 5 pm to 11 pm”. He charges 15 Indian Rupees for the 11 km route he covers, while other auto drivers demand 20 for the same distance. 

“Money really isn’t too important to me”, he says and continues, “What gives me pleasure is that people remember me and are grateful for the service I offer”. Yet, he makes a profit and a healthy one at that.

When COVID-19 broke out in India, he gave free masks to all customers who rode with him; something that not a lot of a brands bothered doing. 

“Giving more than you take”, Anna Durai’s philosophy, can help us do the same across all facets in our lives – our families, our friends, our co-workers, our social media circles, our business partners and our customers. And in doing that, it can help forge strong relationships for brands with the people who make those brands valuable. It helps us earn a meaningful role for ourselves in people’s lives. And this makes more people want us in their lives and enhances our value in our world i.e. the return on our giving

So, as we try and not get back to normal, and brace ourselves for a tough time ahead across industries, we could all learn a lesson or two about thriving in an era of giving – from Mr. Anna Durai. 

P.S. You can check out more about Anna Durai on Facebook at and follow him on Twitter @Amazingauto5758.