Published by Ayele Gelan on

It has been a while since I started contemplating to write a book whose title may run something like “Structure and Performances of Waliso Tela Bets”. One way or another, you all may have heard about oligopolistic market. This is an economics jargon, a complicated way of saying a very simple: market power, which is exercised through tacit agreement between a handful of suppliers to set prices and control markets. Such agreements often happen without necessarily calling a meeting, akka Oromoon jedhu asuma achitii walii galuu, garaan wal arguu.

I got my economics 101 lecture on Waliso Tela bets from a close friend, Desta.  He was my flat mate during my high school days at kebele 01, house number 402.  Desta kindly lived with us simply because his brother, Bikole, was one of us. Otherwise, Desta belonged to a social class much higher above us.  We were poor and penniless students, he was teaching at Gobana elementary school, which meant he had salary.

Desta had a colleague, Gashe Abera, who lived in our neighborhood. Gashe Abera was an avid Tela drinker.  “Desta!” Gashe Abera would say on his way to or back from Tela bet. He did not only call to say hallo, but he always had a habit of mentioning which specific Tela bet he was returning from. ከሰኞ ጠላ ቤት ነው ምመለሰው፣ ሀሙስ ጠላ ቤት እየሄድኩ ነው etc.

By the way, there was a strict code of conduct among different social stratum of teachers in Waliso.  High school teachers used to drink beer in Buna bets; elementary school teachers used to drink Tela at Tela bets. No one crossed that redline; although there was no police on duty to enforce the rule.

As an elementary school teacher, Gashe Abera, frequented Tela bets whose names he kept mentioning every time he called his colleague.  I was intrigued why Gashe Abera kept changing Tela houses, why he did not go to the same house.  So, one day I asked Desta, who kindly gave me my first lecture on economics of Tela production and consumption in Waliso.

As it happened, there were ladies who made names by establishing their own brands in the production of good quality Tela.  There were a few of them. If each of them made Tela and supplied to the market simultaneously on the same days, then each would lose money.

So, they decided to share the market among themselves. The market sharing exercise was a mindboggling decision-making. They did not share or curve out customers. They settled for sharing the dates!

Monday was reserved for Giiftii A (say she lives in Kebele 01), Tuesday for Giiftii B (in Kebele 03), and so on until all the seven days of the week were taken by a particular Tela lady in a specific location.

Elementary school teachers were highly likely to be behind working out this complex deals with intriguing economics of marketing deals. Their prize was that they do not keep returning to the same place each day. For them, each day came with new surprise: new fresh tela, new environment to drink in, etc.  They kept rotating during the week and then return to the one they visited the previous week and so on.

The economics of tela bets in Waliso is a bit analogous to the power of supermarkets in the western world, but I must admit it is a lot more complicated!  Pretty much like the supermarkets, there are a few operators in the town, only seven to be exact. The power of supermarkets lies in QUANTITY, supplying large quantities of goods and enjoying economies of scale to cut costs, and hence they can afford to charge lower prices than grocery stores in every neighborhood.

On the other hand, the power of Waliso tela bets lied in QUALITY, supplying the most tasteful tela in town and attracting customers. But they charging a premium, higher prices than charged by ordinary tela bets.

This means their pricing rules sharply contrasts with the logic of western supermarkets. Supermarkets charged less than corner grocery stores, while Waliso Tela oligopolies charged more than the other hundreds or ordinary Tela bets which had never entered the league of powerful tela bets.

The powerful Waliso tela bets were in some kind of leagues, perhaps some joining their ranks by being promoted from ordinary houses and others demoted, season by season, pretty much like European Football Premier Leagues. Here again it must be elementary school teachers who seem to be pulling the strings to cause the promotions and the demotions.

So far I discussed only the marketing and pricing aspect of Waliso Tela bets.  Their production economics is even more fascinating.  This will be discussed in a separate piece that will be published shortly.

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