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A hunt for an Indian saree on the streets of Delhi, economics and government procurement intersect to give us the insight we need to improve government procurement

I was rushing out the door, headed to catch a late evening flight to India. My wife would be holding down the fort at home with her job, our two active boys, and an overactive pup — so when she asked me for a special souvenir from New Delhi, it was a no-brainer I wanted to deliver on. 

Putting her hand on my shoulder to get my full attention, she asked “Can you purchase a saree for me from India?” Suddenly, I had this nervous, anxious feeling.  

What did I know about buying a saree? I had been facilitating purchases for large organizations for decades, but this purchasing requirement completely threw me for a loop. I knew as much about purchasing a saree as I do about purchasing women’s shoes, which for the record, is nothing. 

“A saree?,” I asked nervously, “Can you tell me more? Is there a particular style? Or color?” My mind rushed off thinking like a true procurement professional as she spoke about sequins and ombré — which shops are better than others? Where would I go to find them? 

There was one final question I needed an answer to: “What is the average cost? Do you have a number in mind?” Her answer to this question was surely meant as a setup: “Spend what you think is appropriate.” Talk about a setup!

It seemed to me that purchasing this saree with the very limited market information I had would be no ordinary feat. I would need to learn the market itself, identify potential saree suppliers, wrap my head around costing, and then negotiate like a pro — to finally deliver the saree my “customer” expected.

My predicament may have been for only one saree but the situation is similar to what procurement professionals and those involved in any part of the buying process face on a daily basis. We’re often given unclear, vague requirements, asked to navigate complex, chaotic, fast-changing markets and get to a great deal.  

What we often lack — the antidote or should I say the superpower — is Market Data.  

Economics, Buyer/Seller Transactions and the Power of Market Data

At GovShop, we truly believe MARKET DATA IS THE SINGLE MOST CRITICAL FACTOR in delivering good procurement outcomes. That is not just an opinion but a fact that has been researched and proven as part of economic theory. Specifically, economic theory states that all buyers and sellers have equal information about the transaction.  

From a purchaser’s standpoint, “equal information” means buyers such as government contracting officials and program officers know everything about a market including the suppliers, their capabilities, pricing models, key trends, and so on.  

That market data is in many ways a superpower that equalizes the playing field and arms every purchasing official with a weapon that leads to the best capability at the best price. 

Examples from my own experience include:

  • Knowing a manufacturer of hard disk drives had the extra capacity and using that knowledge to negotiate better pricing
  • Locating face shields for a hospital in less than 4 minutes, thereby saving lives 
  • Knowing that a change in guaranteed delivery times from 98% to 99% would lead to significant pricing increases; the 1% increase did not matter to the end-users

These examples illustrate why market data and market intelligence are so critical to effective transactions and why we believe market intelligence is a superpower that every government buyer needs to possess.

And this is why we at GovShop are singularly focused on aggregating and making accessible market data to public sector users throughout the world.

Back to My Hunt for a Saree in Delhi!

To answer all the questions I needed answered, I, unfortunately, couldn’t turn to a tool like GovShop’s supplier intelligence platform. But as I started my research, I just happened to find out that my uncle in Delhi, very mysteriously, possesses tremendous market data on Indian women’s fashion. I never asked him why! He quickly became my trusted source, my sherpa, as I navigated my way through the chaotic Delhi saree markets. 

One tip worth mentioning, that he gave me: “Offer only one-tenth the price that is quoted and never leave without paying one-quarter of the price.” Talk about a weaponized tip about a market. When I sprung that strategy out during my negotiations, the shopkeepers were completely surprised at how a non-resident Indian would know how to negotiate.

Just goes to show you, market intelligence and key tips can become the superpower you need for your purchase.

Make Market Intelligence Your Superpower and Save Government Procurement

Governments around the world spend well over $10 trillion. We all know there is a lot of room for improving the way that money is spent. We believe market intelligence is the single most important activity, or let’s say superpower, that anyone involved in government procurement can use to create better outcomes at lesser cost and faster speeds.  

Our mission at Public Spend Forum and GovShop is to create open markets so that buyers and suppliers can come together and solve problems effectively and efficiently. We are doing this, first and foremost, by providing easy to access and actionable market data and intelligence so all those involved in government markets can become superheroes the world needs so much.   

Share your superhero story with us — perhaps you’re already using GovShop’s wealth of market data to be a procurement superhero. And if you aren’t already, join the platform and don your cape. Market intelligence superheroes — assemble here.