User experience and Indian cowboys

A few weeks ago I was driving to work and heard a story on NPR about an initiative to use cowboys to clear out the stray yet sacred cattle that roam the streets and marketplaces of New Dehli.

I thought the story was fascinating and wanted to post something about it, but I wasn’t sure which program or even which of several local NPR stations I’d been listening to.

When I did a quick search for the story, I couldn’t find it anywhere. What I did find was one of the best user experiences I’ve had on the Web.

Having trouble finding something? NPR can help you find a story or music you heard on an NPR program.

This was the promise on NPR’s Search page, but all I knew was the general topic of the story I was interested in, and the approximate time and location where I was driving when I heard it. I wasn’t too hopeful, but I filled out the search form anyway.


Three days later, I received this email (excerpted slightly):

Dear Dan,

Thank you for contacting NPR.

The piece you are referring to was aired on the public radio program Marketplace. Although heard on public radio, Marketplace is neither produced nor distributed by NPR.

Here is the link to the story you have requested:

For contact information, or to learn general information about the program, please visit

Hats off to NPR for understanding that many of their customers need to engage in the kind of follow-up activity I was, and for creating a straightforward tool to help us get what we want from the experience.

It seems simple, but in so many cases, companies miss these opportunities completely, or offer solutions that don’t work so easily and elegantly.

Some cows I often pass on my way to work

As far as the Indian Cowboy story itself, I find the tradition-meets-attempt-at-purposeful-change aspect intriguing, as well as the way a whole business model has formed around these cows and the way they’re positioned in the culture.

They belong to thousands of unlicensed dairies around the city that make an estimated $120 million a year selling milk and yogurt. The owners of those dairies let the cattle forage for themselves, taking advantage of a Hindu custom of feeding cattle as a spiritual good deed.

It will be interesting to see how New Dehli’s attempts to alter this complex set of relationships plays out.


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