A Messiah Is Coming To a PCO Near You

To Help You Change All That You Have Been Complaining About For Long

The idea of messiahs is a religious one with many communities believing in the impending arrival of a savior to elevate people from their current state.  In the modern world and more so in business, every industry and company awaits its messiah though not with miraculous powers, but with the ability to turn around things and lead people to progress and prosperity.  From my conversations and interactions with industry colleagues over a long time, it seems that we in the Indian Pest Control industry are awaiting a messiah.  And I am writing this piece to let you know that one is coming and to a PCO near you!

I joined our industry nearly a quarter-century ago though as a food safety manager and as a customer of pest control services.  Thereafter, I spent two decades working in pest control companies during which I had the opportunity to be at India’s largest PCO and also start a pest control business at a Warehouse Service Provider (WSP).  I have been a behind the scenes person (now you can say behind the screen) for most of my career but do know many PCO colleagues across companies and regions.  When I recently decided to branch out on my own, I started conversations with fellow PCO’s on the state of the industry and found, in our sector, the more things change, the more they seem to remain the same.  We seem to be in a morass as ever and await something or somebody to come and help us move forward.

I had the good fortune of working with one of our industry’s stalwarts and he seems to be the last of the great leaders we were blessed to have in pest control.  Unfortunately, over the past decade, it seems we as an industry seem to have lost our way and are lurking from insignificance in present to oblivion (worst case).  Likely that we have one lakh or more PCO’s in India and we may be employing many lakhs if not a million.  Both are no small numbers in terms of industry size or employment generated, but in India, neither is pest control an industry nor does it have top of the mind recall among our customers, barring during pest emergencies.  Of course, like each of you readers, we all in pest control business want to change our industry’s practices and image, but who is to do it?  Who will bell the cat, as is rhetorically said?

From my limited experience, I can say boldly that change does happen if not radically but incrementally, even in our industry.  When I joined the pest control industry in 2000, I came from the food industry and from an MNC company where they used pheromone traps in the ’90s to monitor stored-product insect pests.  My company used Ketch-all multi-catch rodent traps and Bell Protecta bait stations and complied with AIB Consolidated Standards of Food Safety and other global food safety standards.  When I broached subject of bait stations in our industry, I was laughed off by some “old bandicoots” who said people like me had come and saddled the industry with expenses and thereafter made their way out.  The Roda-box that we see today and which is the generic name of bait stations came from debates early this century on how to contain bait to make it inaccessible to people and safe to apply inside a locked device.  The station coincidentally is the size of a conventional Trubble-Gum glue board as we also had to innovate to trap rodents indoors and stop using bait, as was extant practice till late last century in India.

Our industry though unprotected by legislation (to prevent foreign investments) had not seen any MNC’s till about a decade and a half ago.  Foreign companies have come and set shop and as we all agree have not really raised the quality or service standards of pest control in India.  Same with expatriate pest control professionals some of who have been in India but results they have generated have definitely not spectacular.  So, the question of ‘foreign’ messiahs rescuing Indian pest control seems to have answered itself!  It did not happen given enough time and unlikely to happen anytime in the future.

So, who is the messiah I am talking about in this first issue of my weekly industry newsletter – PCO Mentor?  I am talking about “YOU” the reader!  When I say a messiah is coming to a PCO near you, I was wrong.  I meant a messiah resides in your company and that is “YOU!”  For far too long, you have waited for the other PCO’s to quote higher.  To stop services if the customer did not pay in time.  To black-list customers who cheat PCO’s.  And more.  That, of course, did not happen.  So, we all continue sailing in the same boat, meeting annually, venting our spleens in conferences and getting back to business and continuing as usual.  This attitude of ‘let others change first’ has to change to ‘regardless of what others do, I shall change my business practices.’

Last week, I shared with some PCO friends screenshots of the Star ratings of a PCO at Bangalore, which I took from the web.  That PCO had hundreds of customers rating them and had a near 5* rating.  Same industry.  Similar people.  Similar customers.  Same pest control products used.  And at the end of the day – hundreds of customers rating a PCO 5*.  It is a proud moment not just for that PCO but our industry as a whole.  We know the owner of the PCO, a simple person not given to talking much.  He has done what we all should be doing – let our work speak for itself through the commendation of customers.

This then is the first issue of my lifelong FREE weekly newsletter for the Indian pest control industry.  I seek to share what little I know of the business with PCO’s across India and the globe.  We learned at my school a very motivating slogan – We Can, We Will!  It seems the most useful one when it comes to CHANGE in Indian Pest Control.  Adios for now and I will return again next week with more on how we can be better.