When I was a kid around the age of 9 or 10 my mother sent me to a preparatory school. I suspect she wanted to get back at my father after their divorce. Whist I liked my friends and the school, I really liked my freedom and to be able to walk and dream about various things. My sister and I loved eating sugar and at the scolding of my mother… we had to constantly go down to the super market to get some more. This constant presence of sugar in my life, lead me to think about distribution.
Thanks to duncan c for the above image (take a look at his other great photos)
I hated waiting for the bus (still do) and preferred to walk. Somehow during this time from the ages of 7 to 10 I managed to sell my bus tickets at school to buy snacks along the way. It was a wonderful time and I got to think and imagine all sorts of things while walking.
One one such occasion I thought about sugar. Where did it come from? How did it get to the super market? It made me think of the man behind the counter at the super market. He seemed to always be sitting there, no matter what time we came in. At the time most boys think about what they want to become when they grow up. This question too was also on my mind. I knew by looking at the shop keeper, behind that big counter – that would not be for me, too dull and boring to be sitting about all day and night.
From school we learned about various commodities and knew cane sugar was grown in fields in countries with warm/humid weather. One can easily imagine the back breaking work of having to cut down the huge sugar cane. Also heard stories of sugar cane rates that were the size of small dogs. That’s not what put me off, I just thought its too strenuous work for a small boy. So decided that too, would not be for me.
How does sugar get from plantation to store?
This question of how sugar is able to get from the fields to the super market, really intrigued me. I was so engrossed with this question, that I remember thinking about it for some time.
The internet had not come along for me as a kid. Questions were handed out to everyone I met, I wanted to know and in the end I remember flipping through an encyclopedia to find some answers. I remember like it was just yesterday that I stumbled up the word “distributor” and reading more about it was amazed this was possible. Asking my parents (both my father and mother separately) they confirmed my amazement in this topic.
All the trucks, trains and various persons in-between. All working together loading and unloading, packing and unpacking, sometimes over vast distances between countries by ships. I decided then and there – I was to become a “distributor”!
Fast forward a few years
I joined the ranks of society performing work mainly as software developer. As a programmer its amazing to see how things are distributed using the internet. Be that goods or services and even money in the form of cryptocurrency. I feel my desire to honour my 9 year old self and get back onto my life path of becoming a “distributor”.
Why is distribution important
There are many reasons, but in a nutshell distribution can help get a product to market. There are quite a few people (companies) that add value to the product. For example in the case of sugar, there are people who perform the simplest of tasks like transportation of sugar, ensuring reliable delivery to different facilities throughout the world.
Storage, just think about that. All along the way, sugar needs to be clean and dry. If its wet or bugs and vermin eat it, it can cause serious health issues. So people responsible for the packaging of sugar are necessary.
Then there is the awareness. Imagine living in Victorian times and not knowing about sugar when drinking tea or coffee. There are marketers, branding and sales efforts to help make people aware of the product.
Each and every player in the distribution system plays a key and important role and all these people are between the raw source of the product (the sugar cane fields) and supply (the supermarket).
What has really changed the world
Any product or service and all the people involved, have come together to organise themselves in a mutual cooperation fashion. Humanity has invented this way to coordinate with each other and get any good or service to anyone around the world. This is such a fascinating phenomenon because we as humans have invented institutions, like markets and valuation systems. You could argue that this has shaped even our politics and social ideologies. Take capitalism vs communism and how goods are produced and valued – these are in fact, two different ways and clash head on.
You can see why, when you look deeper at this topic, that it is truly fascinating. It still astounds me till this day. I want to take a more active role and become a “distributor”. I’ve even started an experiment called 150 in 365 to understand more about it empirically. This takes form of making money online – but its true origins are to understand distribution in more detail. You can find more about the reasons in my make money online experiment post.
What interests me is also how a distributor should behave in this eco-system. I imagine you would need to be a person of trust and integrity. Not withstanding, you should also be a person who want to do more for others. In the end, its not just about money, rather about how to help people get the things they need.