Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Store Openings of a different kind

It’s been around a hundred days that I wrote a column on this blog, by far the longest gap I have ever taken since I started writing since 2008. As I grew in my professional life over the years, the number of posts have certainly come down, hopefully a clear indication that I am busier than before! And the last five months have been one of the fastest and most exciting, although I believe 2013 is when the action would lay. As mentioned earlier in one of my posts, I now work for Royal Enfield, the oldest surviving automobile brand in the world. With a fantastic British legacy, having participated in both the World Wars and some stunning innovations in the motor cycling arena, the Brand was bought out by an Indian company in the middle of the last century. After being almost shut down due to poor product innovation and therefore Sales, the Brand has survived a tumultuous past with an imminent takeover that didn’t go through (probably for good) at the last minute. The company is now ably managed as a unit of Eicher Motors which has a commendable past in the Indian Automobile history.

So what do I do – I am responsible for expansion of the retail foot print of Royal Enfield across the country and also to establish Royal Enfield stores in international markets. I look after Dealer Development (most of the Royal Enfield outlets are operated by Dealers), identification of suitable sites for the business, designing the store including layouts, fixtures, branding etc. and finally up to handing over the store to commence operations to the respective Dealer / Regional Teams. I am also responsible for converting the visual identity of existing stores with that of our new brand identity – a mammoth effort that covers over 200 outlets and is expected to span over 24 months starting early 2013.

To be honest, I have been pleasantly surprised with the outcome of what I am doing. My job compels me to travel 3-4 days a week, across the country and soon to a couple of international destinations. Just a few days ago, I was at a town called Motihari, about 140 kms from Patna which is the capital city of the state of Bihar, the most talked about state in terms of CAGR over the past decade. And met half a dozen prospective dealers – and all of them seem to be gung-ho about the impending opportunity to sell our bikes along with various other things that consumers are grabbing in. I was shown acres of land available for putting up a Royal Enfield store, spread over 4,000 sq ft. in what is now seemingly good agricultural land – a move that is happening across rural India.

Store Openings have never been like this for me – most exciting to say the least. The sheer opportunity to establish over 60 new outlets over the next year is appalling yet an adrenalin run for the Retailer in me. I have the chance to make a difference to the Retail experience of Brand Royal Enfield, a task that has been awarded to me by the Management & Board. I hope I will be able to atleast live up to their expectations, if not exceed… And also hope I would sincerely be able to find time to keep writing…