You come into a shop that specializes in electronics to make inquiry of where you can buy groceries or industrial chemicals, to your amazement, the boy in the shop tells you he has them. You look around his shop but can’t find any goods relating to what you asked for.
The Igbo apprentice sits in the market like a sympathetic doctor who will do everything possible to cure his patients even if they “suffer” from maladies which are not in his scope of practice or study. Depending on his experience, connection and zeal, he will more often than not always provide solution. He does it for two basic reasons which will be expanded later;
- he wants to help you
- he wants to make profit
“Running market” – It is a term used by the apprentice, coined from the direct translation of the Igbo word ‘Oso Ahia’. Oso means run, while Ahia is Market. The term became an open secret as it even has a Hausa version ‘Gudu Kasuwa’ where most people in the north became accustomed to the practice among these traders. Gudu stands for run and kasuwa stands for market.
The term derived from the practice described above, where the apprentice runs to a friend or brother’s shop to get what a customer is in need of which the running/hustling apprentice does not have. Ask him what he has, he will ask you what you want. By the reason of staying in business (marketplace) for a while, he knows where to get almost anything, all he cares to know is if you can be patient and also afford the price. And some see it as consultation, so the customer is more or less paying for consultation fee.
The funny thing is that sometimes what a customer is looking for is just maybe 50 steps away, but without the aid of the Oso Ahia person he will never find it even if he were to spend extra hours in the market.
The customers too are not averse to being helped, they only fear a situation where they pay almost double for the actual price. Remember we said that the apprentice says yes to every transactional demand because he wants to help and also make money.
He is bored by a silent market as he has nothing to do at the moment of inquiry.
He wants his brother who has what the customer is looking for to know that he has goodwill towards him.
He hopes to bolster his social capital among other traders like him and they too will return the favor someday.
*He doesn’t have a shop or financial capital, so running market is his means of building up something or at least escaping hunger for a time being. This set are not usually under any master, he is his own boss, mostly hanging around the market hoping that maybe crumbs from the total stock exchange of the day will fall to him – sometimes these crumbs are bigger than what the shop owners get.
Those of them who have gotten credibility overtime are usually permitted to by some shop owners to stay in their shops but with stringent conditions.
Normally, you wouldn’t go to a boutique and come out with a car spare part, not the apprentice, he works magic and changes protocol. This does not come easily though, or turn out sweet always, there are challenges at times.
Some customers out of experience or sheer intuition will refuse any such assistance in the market, at best they will ask for direction of where they can find what they are looking for because they fear the apprentice will overcharge them by putting his own profit on the goods. This sometimes is true and sometimes not.
Also there are shop owners who do not subscribe to running market, they believe any customer that comes into their shop is an opportunity from heaven, if they decide to be lenient, they may just give the apprentice a little cash as a token of appreciation.
Again the E Commerce Factor
Last week we talked about how the expansion and simplified accessibility of ecommerce has had an impact on the demand for boi-boi (Igbo apprentice). It is important to point out that this impact is not total nor fatal, for a market like Nigeria and other African markets, there are minute and complex demands for goods and services that ecommerce may never touch (at least for now), so the apprentice still has opportunities for running market in these special cases.
For example someone is in need of a spare part for his car, he types every possible listing of the part on ecommerce channels but is not able to find it, he has an option of contacting the manufacturer, but the logistics before the arrival is cumbersome and so he has no option but to come to the market in person.
After coming to the market area where such things are sold, he spends an hour or more looking into shops without finding what he is looking for; now again the running market must take place if he is to go home fulfilled.
The apprentice has left his hometown, crossed rivers to other cities in search of a better life, he will be both a Good Samaritan and a general contractor to find success.