Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The FUTURE of Indian Retail industry-as it unfolds!!

It was about two years ago that I first got an insight into how the retail industry in India was going to change –it was a chance meeting set up by a common pal-and I was lucky to have spent some time with Mr John Idiculla Head HR of the German giant –METRO Cash n Carry. Strictly speaking, METRO in India is not into retail, as we know it-but in the ‘’wholesale’ business! And while my firm had in the past decade, worked on some occasional positions for Shoppers stop, Zodiac, and the kind, I quickly realized-that the future of retail in India-was to be different..and so the people required to run it- the roles, job descriptions ..everything had to be looked at –by first unlearning the way we learnt!

Also recall an advice by a very senior retail player- who gave me a tip –‘to understand retail, you must first read all the books on Sam Waltons as bible”!

I didn’t get past the second book..and by then, I had been grappling with a whole new jargon- and designations, roles, temparaments, …with the hiring plans being aggressive in India. Today, thanks to the internet,and media, one is privy to a lot of inputs-and so, it was indeed a pleasure to see an INDIAN book on retail. INDIAN case studies as they happened in the last decade..a book about the legend Mr Kishore Biyani-“IT HAPPENED IN INDIA”.

It is a fast reading –anecdotal in nature-lots of real life situations most of us in India can relate to!! The ethos, the brands, the tactics-all too familiar. It is simply inspiring to read- and dares one to dream-that we can change and create things. We can know how it is all unfolding..

So, in his words-whats the Future of Indian retail going to be ?

The Past

The Future

Stability & consolidation

Speed & imagination



TQM six sigma

Design management



Mass production


Technology supports change

Technology drives change

Enforce order

Thrive in chaos



The more I read about it..the more I am convinced. We in India, need solutions tailormade to our conditions. In a country, where culture and values play a very huge role in our habits- we have to have Indianised solutions! Ours is perhaps the only country in the world, where cigarettes are sold in singles and two’s and not as packets-forcing the companies to have a robust distribution system –that includes servicing a pan dabba owner three times with a cycle driven salesman- and offer a few hours credit!!

Ironically for all the hype that high 'crorepathi' salaries the Reliance crack team was paid- and the media reports of large numbers of expatriates, and people of Indian origin with international retail experience being wooed to 'return to India'- the glamour ends there! 90% of the all those lakhs of jobs that are on offer- are for the floorstaff- for those who work most-when the rest of us are relaxing! It is increasingly becoming different for the retail companies to hire the juniormost operational level people..and its likely most of them would be school drop outs!

Yes, we can use technology and know how from the advanced countries, sourcing methodologies may be professionalized..Mr Biyanis philosophy is gospel- “Rewrite rules, retain values”.

As we await the BIG battle for retail space, it is anybodys guess who will be ultimate winner…the Indian customer, You and Me!

PS-Any prizes for guessing where I bought the book..at a princely 99Rupees..at the local BIG BAZAAR in Palakkad (Kerala!!).

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