The mobile market

Um.. I got scolded by my friend for deleting this blog and ended up not talking to me for a week! So I’ll be republishing it again hoping that this is not as dumb as I think it is. Fingers crossed. :/

There are many types of markets in Sri Lanka. “Supermarkets, weekly stalls most common in villages where people are allowed to bargain, and posh markets or shopping malls where luxury goods” for “me” are sold. But did it ever occur to you that a market can take place (even though trading part is not relevant), in places you never thought of?

Let’s put our thinking caps on! (or don’t ūüėõ cause I already thought of it) and create a thought bubble where the factors of demand and supply comes to play and leave them aside for a minute. Buses! That’s right. I see a bus as a mobile market place where almost all the market structures are live in action! Cool huh?

In economics we are being taught about two perfect market competitions, Perfect competition and Monopoly and two imperfect competitions which are oligopoly and monopolistic competition which I see inside a bus…. well at least in the bus I take to university.

Nothing is harder than getting inside a 154 route bus at 5pm from the BMICH. The packed bus you see passing by is a result of rational decisions made by daily commuters. There’s a hierarchy of decisions made at certain stages in the process of developing a packed bus.

The passenger who gets on to the bus “first” has all the freedom to pick the seat they like. This preference is affected by a number of ¬†reasons. Like the side which sun is setting, the distance you’ll be travelling in the specific bus, passenger’s preference to shutters or maybe preference to not consistently being bombarded by bags of the standing commuters and so much more. However the intensity affecting the selection of seats is rather subjective. Suppose the passenger is travelling a short distance and prefers the breeze near a window, would probably select a seat 3 rows away from the door (that’s what I would do) which makes the person easier to get down as well as gets the minimum contact with other passengers. It all depends on the time and the bus halt the person has to get down.¬†rosa_park_bus

The passenger who gets on to the bus controls the seat like the supplier who is in a monopoly market controls the price whom is known as a price taker. In ¬†the monopoly market the since there’s only one firm in the market, the consumers accept the price given by them since they have no other option but to buy from him.

Suppose the bus consists only one passenger, and the bus moves to the next halt where the driver finds 10-15 passengers waiting to get in. Remember we are only “assuming”,¬†and the numbers could change as you like.

Since, there’s a bit more crowd, the passengers are competing each other for a seat, where usually more sporty people and men have the privilege of getting on board¬†before¬†the bus stops eliminating their competition, but there’s a possibility that two people can be seated according to their preference as there are two doors in the bus. You see these two commuters have the upper hand over others because of their resourcefulness…. In a market too, if you bring up the concept of “bubble tea” the market is restricted by the secret recipes and secret ingredients where you have an edge on a competitive market because you got their first! These people who can come up with new concepts and can catch bus before other people could are similar to sellers in an oligopoly market where there are a few sellers and they have a significant power when controlling the market prices.

Then comes the passengers who are at the bus halt and this where things get real crazy! These commuters can be categorized according to certain characteristics.

  1. Their urgency to get in, differs according to their need of a seat. If the passenger wants a seat he/she might not consider other people’s needs and compete for a seat even if it means hurting and stamping others.
  2. There are some passengers who do have the need of a seat but is lesser than their compassion towards elderly due to cultural backgrounds so give them the priority.
  3. Strategic partners or couples or friends who travel together. This is where one of the passengers tries to get in before the other to get a seat for both of them. Even these passengers can be categorized further due to their need to sit beside the other.

These passengers are so eager to get a seat and the competition is comparatively more and might not get a seat they prefer but still might get a seat according to the variations of the crowd and the hour. Since the commuter’s position to get a seat is low, these passengers are quite similar to the sellers in a monopolistic competition where there influence to price is low.

The bus is loaded but the way conductor sees and we see doesn’t always sum

So assuming there’s quite a few seats left, the bus moves towards the next significant bus halt. The getting seat is a challenge, and the ability to get a seat majorly depends on your ability to read the body language, smartness and experience other than the other factors discussed above. The competition is intense!! Based on these factors the commuter can take a decision of one of these.

  1. Assuming the passenger is in a hurry, he or she will try their best to squeeze in… yeah I got that right…. you literally have to squeeze in!
  2. If the passenger has other options or routes to take he might do that or
  3. If the passenger is not in a hurry the person will wait for the next bus to get in or will walk towards a halt where the crowd is minimum.

For the moment, we’ll be focusing on the first point where the passenger is in a hurry!

As I mentioned, getting a seat is based on experience, and of luck if you are an amateur. The passenger who creeps to get in first will sit wherever the person see a vacant seats, even when in terms of cursed seats. (Cursed seats are the seats placed in the first two rows near the seat where you have to offer them if a pregnant lady, an old person, lady carrying a child or a priest gets on board). These commuters doesn’t have the power to obtain a seat and is similar to sellers in a market where perfect competition is seen. Of course there’s an edge towards experience sellers as well as in this case for these commuters where you can follow strategies like strategy¬†glue stick. This where a person targets a certain passenger seated and never moves away from that place. Or the other strategy of pre-book with bags where you give your bag to a seated person and your bag is kept when he gets down among other strategies.

In today’s blog I focused on the effect the sellers of different markets can make towards the market price and my observed relationship with passengers and bus seats. As the name of the blog itself says, this is just a thought that popped into my mind and doesn’t fit¬†perfectly to market models.

Hope to see you again and please do drop in a comment which would encourage me to improve! Thanks for your time and take care!!


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