29 April, 2023

Brand Tags and why they matter

When I wore a new T-shirt during a weekend holiday earlier this month, my teenage daughter pondered why I chose this one with a loud-brand name on it, as usually I go mellow on displaying brand love. Even my walking shoes would hardly display the swoosh or the cat or the three stripes. It has been years since I bought formal shirts which bore the “iconic crown” on the cuffs. But even those would be gelled in to the fabric colour. 

So much for a person like me who is brand-conscious but not displaying it in public.

On the contrary, many brands, especially fashion apparel make sure their company / brand names are loudly displayed on their products. Even on PCs, HP, Dell, Lenovo and Acer – the top 4 companies with a collective market share of 95% in the personal computing space display their names while Apple shows just the logo.

From Bata shoes to Adidas, Levis T-shirts to Hidesign wallets, one can see the brand names liberally displayed on the products. Though it is easy to identify, premium bikes such as Royal Enfield or Harley Davidson by its looks, have still large, loud brand forms. When the car ignition is turned on, there is a dramatic appearance (with music) of the brand logos, from Honda to Volkswagen and everyone in between. 

While people buy products for their functionality, consumers “pay the price” for brands.

It is psychological, after all. Essentially, display of brands one uses is one way of display of wealth too. Most people in the world, who earn several lakhs per year (in India) and perhaps over USD 100,000 pa globally are not putting in their efforts for just 3 square meals a day. It is much beyond. 

From the locality and the apartment complex one resides in (especially in India) to the vehicle they drive; filling premium fuel at Shell vs value fuel from HPCL; the brand of eyeliner to the grooming essentials one uses; from the school the kids attend to brands they consume at home from the dining table to the rest rooms, there is an intrinsic tie with the psychological needs, based on the theory of hierarchy proposed by Maslow. 

As people start moving up the value chain, their desire to consume “brands’ over products increases. I have seen this first hand at hypermarkets such as the erstwhile Big Bazaar. While there would be heaps of dal, sugar and rice piled up in large steel utensils, it would be common for women to interact with the staff to enquire the prices and make mental calculations comparing with the local shopkeeper. 

And then, there would be a small set of customers, who would prefer packaged sugar, salt and grocery. There is, in fact premiumization even in these categories such as pink salt, low-iodine sugar and so on.

A friend once told me, whether you travel in an Audi or a (Maruti) Alto, the destination is the same, and that both vehicles have just 4 wheels, a steering wheel and an engine. So, why pay a premium? True.

Between a Jockey and a Lux inner wear or Sudarmani how does it matter what one wears, as this is not even to be seen by anyone! Quite true, minus the quality of the fabric, inner comfort, etc. 

Well, these are the “outlier customers” for brands who do not wish to pay a premium for utility. 

However, as is always said, it takes years to build a brand name while basic products (and services) are offered for their purpose of gratifying a simple need. 2-3 decades back, Indian customers were buying goods and services. In the past 15 years, we have seen branded showrooms for various products mushrooming all over the country. A simple business such as grooming – hair saloon / beuaty parlour – as it was called, is now one of the largest branded business with over 2,500 “salons” across the country. 

There are an estimated 300 malls in India which have the best-in class Indian and international brands. The top 50 apparel, accessories and jewellery brands have in excess of 10,000 exclusive stores, each around 800 sq ft. across the country. Branded coffee shops, from CCD to Starbucks and the much acclaimed neighbourhood favourites, are over 4,000 in India now.

Consumers today are chasing brands and not just the other way around. 

Two new Apple stores were inaugurated in April 2023 at Mumbai and Delhi. Seeing the crowds waiting to be among the early birds for store inauguration in the past for Ikea, Starbucks, H&M, Uniqlo among others, I can confidently say these two stores would have done tremendous business this month. 

While many companies continue to offer higher importance for the “brand” in the communication – on the product, inside the retail store and other communication material, many small as well as large companies ignore it. Unless there is a deeper focus on brand building, with a long term outlook, existing and new consumer stickiness is going to be minimal or worse, nil. 

Indian consumers will buy more branded products in the next few decades. Loud display of affection, from dresses to kitchen knives to drinking glasses to shoes, it is a kind of self-gratification after all.

01 April, 2023

Goodbye Retail | Adios, amigos…

After spending the last 26 years in retail, I have decided to hang up my boots for good. I have been preparing for this day for the past few months, as I set my feet in a new direction, adjusting the sails and the compass towards another exciting destination.

As much as the destination is important, I have always believed that the journey is as important. So, I will continue to enjoy every moment in whatever I would be doing.

My most recent stint with Indian Terrain Fashions went awry for reasons beyond my control. Not only did it leave a sour taste for me professionally but also things took an unfortunate turn, sadly. This, despite me putting in my best efforts for the 8 months that I was actively involved in the company, having visited over 96 stores across India (of the 210) and making a huge difference in several aspects of the business including sales, marketing, merchandising, etc. 

Nevertheless, life moves on.

My career in retail began in 1997, when I joined Baskin Robbins in Chennai as a part-time employee, working 11am – 3pm scooping ice-cream. I would attend NIIT to learn computer languages from 7am – 9am and study B. Com at Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College from 4pm – 8pm. Between consumers, computers and commerce, I decided to choose “consumers” and pursued MBA. Armed with a campus placement with the RPG Group, I worked with formats like Foodworld and Musicworld, where I learned the basics of retail management. Two extreme concepts, yet the fundamentals were laid well. 

I moved to Bangalore with just four bags, three with clothes and one with music cassettes to join India’s first seamless mall, Central in 2004. I landed at the most prized possession of my professional work in 2006, to join India’s first private, greenfield airport at Bangalore. Over the next 4 years, I would travel across the top 10 airports worldwide, learn about Travel Retail and speak at global conferences about the opportunity that is Indian aviation (circa 2008).I was responsible for conceptualising, designing and setting up India’s first ever Travel Retail areas at Bangalore International Airport. The Indian Travel Retail industry, including domestic retail, F&B and duty free is now estimated to be around Rs. 4,000 cr in annual revenues. 

Then came the next illustrious phase of my life – setting up 140 cafes all India for CafĂ© Coffee Day; within department stores, book stores, colleges and university campuses; hospitals and medical centres; inside the MA Chidambaram cricket stadium and Eden Garden as partner with Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders, respectively. People still say they have saved my number as “CCD Shriram”. Such a humbling feeling to hear that.

In 2012, I came back to my hometown which was now Chennai; joined Royal Enfield during its growth phase and set-up 160 dealerships all India. I also worked closely with the leadership team on the new retail identity of dealerships, morphing them from looking like an automobile store to a lifestyle concept. Bowed out of professional life in 2014 to experiment entrepreneurship – the accidental entrepreneur! Ran a flourishing Management Consulting business as well, working closely with Founders and businesspersons of eminence.

Worked on creating a chain of baby care retail stores; set-up perhaps one of India’s earliest quick commerce concept – Oyethere, delivering grocery and household items within 30-300 mins of ordering. Baba Ramdev was our unofficial brand ambassador. We rode on the popularity of Patanjali back then, whose products were elusive to find. Expert Investors laughed at my idea and said why would anyone pay Rs. 30 for home delivery. I gave up after 117 pitches probably, accepting the fact that the timing was not the best one. 

When I joined Levista coffee in 2020, little would I know that Covid-19 led pandemic would strike India and rest of the world. Despite Covid, or due to it, my team and I doubled Levista’s business in 350 days from 16 Apr. ’20 to 31 Mar. 21. India faced a nation-wide lockdown for the first fortnight that April. 

Partnered with Chennai Super Kings as the Official Coffee Partner for 2020 - the first ever coffee brand for CSK as well as with any other team in the illustrious history of Indian Premier League Cricket tournament. Also, signed up with Star Vijay’s Bigg Boss franchise feat. Actor Kamal Hassan only to see the brand stand tall and proud next to the actor on Tv, every weekend. Was a life worth having survived the pandemic, in many ways so I could accomplish all this. 

My life store as a book - “My Retail Journey - Part 1” will be released in 2023. Fingers crossed.

Now, that you have finished reading my mini life-bio above, sorry that the news of me quitting retail was a prank for April Fools Day. I am what I am because of Retail. I have nowhere else to go other than this industry which has nurtured me for more than half my life.

Thank you my retail fraternity, friends and former colleagues for all the support give to me all along. With four national level awards from the Retail and F&B Industry, 17 years as Visiting Faculty at preeminent B-Schools on Retail, as author of over 1,000+ articles, I still have a few years ahead of me and I remain obligated to many of you to make me who I am today.

Have a great day ahead.

24 March, 2023

Three years after the first Lockdown!

On this day, 24th March 2020, India experienced its first ever full lockdown for 21 days. The entire country came to a halt; abrupt standstill of commercial and economic activities. The State & Central Governments imposed an extremely strict gag order that citizens were not allowed to even step out of home, save for buying medicines along with a proof of the most recent prescription from a certified Doctor. Each one of us in the country had a different story to narrate – some faced extreme medical challenges while many had other stories, such as loss of livelihood and uncertainty of the next meal, especially for the poor, the marginalised and physically challenged at that.

All forms of transportation came to a halt; flights, trains, buses and local transportation such as taxis and auto rickshaws. The retail segment was among the most impacted. It was a double whammy of sorts – those who worked in all other industries eventually spent their monies on Food, Clothing & Shelter. On the one side, shutting down the shops meant loss of business for the day; on the other hand, those who would spend at retail stores were themselves staring at a bleak present and immediate future, for many employers were not sure / clear how to pay for unproductive employees when there was no business at all. 

From the smallest kirana to large retail companies, it was VUCA in full flow – Vulnerability, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. None of us knew what would happen next. 

Slowly but surely, things started opening up from June onwards only to once again relapse shortly thereafter. This roller-coaster ride continued until May 2021, when a partial and a complete lockdown was brought back in several states. The festive season in 2020 and 2021 were muted, for, the majority of the retail sector and thousands of retailers were staring at several crores of rupees worth of stocks; unable to liquidate them to pay suppliers, in effect unable to buy new and more relevant stocks as required. Hard times, those were.

By October 2021, there was some semblance of orderliness that was back. People started to step out of their homes risking the dreaded spread of the infection. By then, most of the countrymen and women had taken atleast 1 dose of the vaccine and were now armed with the strength to face any eventualities. Whether the vaccine worked to its full or not – many had tested positive despite taking the shot – people had gained the strength to fight it. 

Three years later, as I write this note, I carry immense gratitude to the Almighty, my family, friends, former employers and colleagues, all of whom stood shoulder to shoulder with each other and overcame several obstacles. Though I too, like millions faced setbacks in the workplace, I am glad that it was this bleak period during which I could shine professionally with a few big ticket accolades to my credit. Signing up with Chennai Super Kings as beverage partner for Levista Coffee will be one of my most cherished moments along with placing the brand alongside Kamal Hassan in Big Boss Tamil. Working closely with Ad-film Directors, I co-scripted and oversaw a dozen films for Levista & Specsmakers during this time.

Joining Indian Terrain was a calculated move, but went awry due to various reasons. Some wrong calculations, despite various measures taken before and during my stint; so be it. Life moves on and keeps teaching us every other day! When we succeed, we learn; but when we fail, we learn a lot more. Wisdom is not repeating mistakes and I hope to gain from some of the key learnings I have taken during this three year period. 

Over the past 15 months, the Indian economy has shown much resilience. Retail Industry is back to its charm pre-pandemic, though there are a number of challenges ahead of us; inflation is pinching the middle class; over all cost of household has drastically increased, including fuel, power, road tolls, etc.; loan books by banks are seeing a huge surge, a sign of good times but fraught with higher risks as well. Nevertheless, I believe Indians are more hopeful now than ever before. And that matters.

PS: By the way, I am glad, that this happens to be my 300th blog article. No, it wasn't planned at all... 

20 February, 2023

The hype around Air India’s big buy

Much is being spoken, written and debated about the recent purchase of 470 aircrafts by Air India from Airbus and Boeing. So much so, that the US President made an official statement that this could create a million jobs for his countrymen. Many politicians thanked the Indian Prime Minister while so many questioned his role in this private affair between a buyer and a seller – why and how would the Governments on both sides have any role. Leaving all the controversies (if one exists!) aside, let us see the opportunity that we are sitting on. 

In the past 8 years or so, the present Government has reactivated over 70 airports. These are not new ones really, for they already existed. Barely. These were airstrips with an ATC Tower at best built before WW 2 by the British. The Union Government through its ambitious project to make the common man fly – Ude Desh ka Aam Nagarik (UDAN) was activated and many unused airports were operationalised. It is another thing altogether that our railway networks are choked and a small section of travellers do not mind paying a premium for air travel.

A view of the Udaipur Airport developed under UDAN

Altogether, the number of air passengers have grown from 37 mn pa in 2010 to 167 mn in 2019 (sans 4 days of the first lockdown!). The number halved for FY 2021, grew to 123 mn in 2022 and would be around 130 mn in the current FY. By 2027, we expect over 200 mn passengers to hit the sky in a year. To give it a perspective, over 2.2 mn (2 Crores) people took train journeys daily in 2019 of which an estimated 8% of them travel in airconditioned classes.

What excites me, as a (Travel) Retail Professional are the possibilities for retail at airports. To accommodate these new 470 aircrafts plus another equal number from all other incumbent airlines at the moment in India, we are expecting a blast in the skies. Don’t worry, it wouldn’t be so choked like our railway networks where one express train has to stop at times to let the other one travel. But the congestion at airports (runways) would be inevitable. 

IGI Airport, New Delhi

The new Terminal 3 built at New Delhi Airport a decade back is already choking during peak hours. Mumbai is building another new airport and the same is the case at Noida. Bangalore has commenced a new parallel runway last year and a brand new terminal T2 which will be fully activated by Q3 FY 2024. Goa has a brand new airport in the north while there is no confirmation of shutting down the existing one in the south of Panjim. 

Keeping aside the top 20 airports – 2 super metros, 4 metros and the top 16 cities in India – there would be 175+ operational Airports across the country by 2025. The bare minimum would be a daily passenger count of 1,000 pax/day while the maximum would be 30,000. The top 6 airports, by then would be handline 30,000 – 60,000 passengers per day! 

At the moment, the spend per passenger in Indian airports is abysmally low. Singapore’s Changi Airport recently announced their CY 2022 revenues from Travel Retail – USD 870 mn. That would be 38% of 2019 revenues, which means in 2019, it would have been USD 2.2 Bn pa. Dubai’s retail and F&B revenues pre-pandemic were a little over USD 2 Bn pa; Hong Kong, Paris CDG, Frankfurt and Zurich Airport, each had Travel Retail Revenues between USD 600 mn to USD 1 Bn pa. All this crashed due to Covid-19 but is slowly bouncing back.

New Integrated Terminal Building coming up at Chennai Airport

In India, Travel Retail has been a non-starter except at the top airports, especially those which were privatised. AAI continues to operate quite differently, in a manner that is neither exciting nor enticing for retailers to embrace the opportunity. However, change is inevitable and we see a huge improvement coming our way. By 2025, over 5 lakh people would be travelling through our Airports every day. Imagine the  potential retail opportunity that we are eyeing. And these are reasonably affluent passengers with disposable incomes. From a humble cup of tea or coffee to a beer / gourmet meal, F&B seems to be a larger pie than product retail at airports. I had written the reason for this in my previous post

Nevertheless, Air India’s purchase of 470 aircrafts is a boon for Indian Travel Retail. Happy to be back here in my new avatar in Travel Retail supporting the Trinity - Airports, Retail / F&B companies and the Consumers.

29 January, 2023

The Popcorn Conundrum

Just realised that I have seen 3 movies over the last 3 weeks at theatres. Two were in top class cinema halls in a Tier 2 town and another was a Tier 2 theatre in Chennai. Meanwhile, I have also seen twice as many movies on OTT platforms during the same period. The reason to watch movies at theatres, for most of us Indians, is that it is a cherished family outing as well as to see our favourite matinee idols on the big screen on the opening week / weekend. 

As the movies that I watched were all of top heroes, the theatres had a full audience. Except that during the interval break, not even a third of them came to the F&B area to buy anything. 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India passed an judgement on 3 Jan. ’23 that Multiplexes & Cinema Theatre Owners had the right to not allow outside food (and beverages) inside the screening areas and that the cinema goers had a choice whether to go or not, and cannot therefore demand to take their own food inside the theatres like how it was 2 decades back. From biryanis to biscuits, fruits to homemade snacks like channa dal & groundnuts, ardent cinema goers carried their own food inside the theatres. Once the show was over, it was a nightmare for the theatre owner to get the auditorium cleaned up before the next show began. 

Enter mid-2000s – the onset of posh Multiplexes across India led by PVR Cinemas and INOX as well as modernisation of screens by standalone theatre owners across India. Around the year 2,000, there were 18,000 screens in India when the country produced over 1,000+ movies pa across 15 languages including foreign-language dubbed movies. By 2019, there were a mere 11,000 screens in India, of which the Multiplex chains had a share of over 2,500. 

Cut to Dec. 2022, there are a mere 8,500 screens of which almost 3,000 are in Multiplexes. 

In 2019, India produced 2,000 movies, running an annual business of over Rs. 30,000 Cr. Hindi  language films accounted for almost 45% while Tamil and Telugu languages made about 300 movies each annually. Post-pandemic, film watching trends have changed tremendously across the world and India is no different. Acc to Q3 FY 22-23 Financials of PVR Cinemas, the occupancy rate has diminished to 29% compared to 36% in the same period in 2019. Tickets prices  have gone up 18% - perhaps keeping inflation in mind. But that’s not the real reason why admissions dropped by a whopping 20% during the said Quarter. 

The reason is the price of Popcorn at theatres! Yes.

For most Indians, watching a movie is a family outing. People plan in advance, get dressed to look their best and travel with glee to watch a movie. Assuming the avg. ticket price pan-India (except Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore) is around Rs. 200 for a decent theatre, the cost per family of 4 is Rs. 800. Add parking charges for 2W/4W and a meal before or after. That would work out to Rs. 1,500- Rs. 2,000 already. Now, if the popcorn at the theatre is going to cost Rs. 100/- per person (usually these are family packs & combos of Rs. 250 and above!), add a beverage or 2 and some more snacks, the food bill is already as much as the movie ticket cost if not more. Most Indians, who were avoiding this madness before the pandemic have completely moved off watching movies in the big screens since 2022 onwards. The numbers speak. 

So why do theatres charge so much for Popcorn and food? Coz, they can never make money & be profitable with such ticket prices, especially if the occupancy rates are so low! 

Ok, Shah Rukh’s Pathaan (2023) has already crossed Rs. 200 Cr in BO collections (in 5 days)  worldwide as I write this; So have 1 or 2 movies each across regional languages, but these are exceptions. Most films of 2022 bombed at the BO. The ones that made headlines were non-Hindi language movies and were (dubbed) releases. 

A theatre needs sustained footfall through the year. 30-40% occupancy during the weekdays and 70% or above over weekends is a theatre owner’s delight. It used to happen until 2015-16. Until Popcorn prices went up! 

Fizzy Coke and Pepsi (with 90% gas & water) and 10% essence have also gone rogue with their sizing & pricing. No one in India wants to drink so much of sugary liquids anyway and in such short duration. To get back audiences to the plexes, we need decent content (of movies). And cheaper F&B, perhaps. One way is to subsidise the food offering; another way is to use them as a bait to get more audience. Afterall, subsidising is a national mantra in India. Sigh. 

31 December, 2022

Good Bye 2022, Hello ‘23


Here’s wishing you all a Happy Calendar Year 2023. May this new year bring a lot of happiness and cheer to everyone. On this day last year, I was working for Specsmakers, leading Sales & Marketing for the 10 year-old brand, the largest optical retail network in South India and the third largest in the country with 250+ stores back then. Around the same time, the scare for a third wave of the dreaded Covid-19 infection was all over the place. It had a new code-name: Omicron! Government of India as well as various State Governments advised several measures, including shutting down of retail stores, malls and commercial establishments over the weekends. Andhra Pradesh took no measure and maintained status quo; Tamil Nadu advised shutting down only on Sundays; Karnataka, however advised a closure for the entire weekend. Most Indians remained in a huge sense of anxiety over their careers, professions, businesses, kids’ education and so on. However, all these worries were put in the backburner as Omicron had limited or very marginal impact on most of us.

This is when the government pushed us to take the second vaccine, which ensured a quick and safe turnaround for the ailing Retail sector, which had taken the worst beating for the previous 18 months, ever since the first lockdown began in Mar. ’20. 

My career too, zoomed along with the fledgling economy. I managed to get back to the apparel industry, jumping ship to Indian Terrain, a 2-decade old brand, most famous for its shirts, especially the Madras Checks. The company operates over 210+ stores across India and I was responsible for the entire retail business, managing a turnover upwards of Rs. 250 Cr pa. Sales, Marketing & Branding, Merchandising, New stores expansion, Project Management, Visual Merchandising and Staff training, all rolled into me. In a span of less than 6 months, I managed to visit 96 stores across India, from Guwahati to Ahmedabad, Chandigarh to Nagercoil and many in between. The month of September was among the busiest in my career, according to Google Trips, which maintains a record of where I went, what I did and so on. 

Onam was the first big campaign that I undertook, visiting the state of Kerala 45 days before the festival and screening the markets. We sensed a huge opportunity with the return of NRI Malayalees to their home towns after a gap of 2 years, due to Covid-19 led travel restrictions. Interestingly and unfortunately, the sales uptick that was envisaged didn’t happen. One, there was a severe rain around the festival week; second and most importantly, sales (for most other brands as well) remained flat before and during the peak shopping weak. This was a learning of sorts. It is not necessary that Sales would surge only before the peak season, for the graph has been on the upward trend since Feb-Mar. ’22. We witnessed somewhat the same across North & West India, just around Diwali as well. No surprises here. 

However, sales for the entire retail industry surrounding fashion, apparel, accessories and lifestyle had reached pre-2019 levels or at par. On the contrary, many brands saw a volume decline (in Sales), but these were due to the making of the brands themselves. Wrong choice of (new) locations, unavailability of merchandise at the right moment and most importantly, staff demotivation due to reasons such as salaries remaining flat, lower than expected & delayed disbursement of incentives for the previous FY and overall lack of interest in the working environment are some of the key reasons why many brands faltered. 

I moved out from the company in November due to differences with the Management. No regrets though, every tenure and every day is a learning after all. Over the past 2 months, I have been introspecting on some of the measures I had taken (or rather not) which led to two quick exists in less than 2 financial years. I am hoping (and working towards) that 2023 and beyond is going to be a more stable period ahead. Everything is in my hands, of course! Happy New Year 2023 once again to everyone and may this year be joyful to all of us! Cheers. 

12 December, 2022

RED letter day

As the calendar year 2022 ends, I complete the distinction of my “silver Jubilee” year in Retail. I started my career scooping ice-cream in 1997 at India’s second and Chennai’s first outlet of 

Baskin Robbins. Last weekend when I walked passed by that location, I took a photo of that store where another respectable global brand exists now. But it may soon be gone as Chennai Metro Rail works are on nearby. The impact of such civil infrastructure on retailers is immense but that’s for another article, another day. 

Just last week, I had shared a note on World Civil Aviation Day and the image I used for that tweet was that of Air India. Little did I realise that the first aero-trip I took was exactly 20 years ago and it was on an Air India flight too. And the best part was, that the trip was for an interview to Mumbai, with Shoppers Stop. I convinced the HR manager then to get me an air ticket instead of the standard rail fare, a rarity those days. I didn’t choose that position and life moved on. But then, when I look back, there has been so much that has been showered on my by this retail ecosystem for the past 2.5 decades. I cannot thank everyone who have been involved in “My Retail Journey” all these years to make me who I am today.

12.12 is a very important day of the year in the Indian Retail ecosystem even as most large retailers as well as small retail businesses including regional retail chains celebrate the day with much fanfare. Retail Employees Day was first celebrated a decade back and has since  garnered momentum with most CXOs of large retail organisations pitching in with their support. On this day, employees are celebrated for their unstinted efforts, thanked with small and large goodies and gifts and most of all, made to feel special for the sometime-thankless efforts they offer to their customers and their masters. In many cases, employees are recognised for their non-work related  From back then when I stared my retail career to now, so much has changed in the way consumers shop. And the staff members of retail establishments across the pyramid have always kept themselves in tune with their customers.

Let me share an anecdote of how my first employer made me and my colleagues “feel good” everyday – at Baskin Robbins. 

Though it was a neighbourhood ice-cream parlour, it was an American brand and certainly carried an “international tag” when compared to the domestic ones around. Therefore, the clientele was also more discerning and demanding. We were a team of 5 – 2 in the morning shift and 3 for the second shift. All of us were college students or had just finished. Given our age, our modest familial backgrounds and our tendency (perhaps) to have a bite of the beloved ice-creams, I guess he came up with an interesting idea. The Franchisee said that every day, each of us were allowed to sample one scoop of ice-cream on the house after making a note in the register. It was a learning exercise for us, so we know the taste of each of the flavours as well as to ensure we were not sampling it ourselves “off the book”. After a fortnight, we had tasted almost all the flavours amongst ourselves and requested if we could instead take the scoops home. He agreed but after a fortnight, even the folks at home were bored of eating them. 

The franchisee had successfully accomplished two things – ensured the staff wouldn’t steal the ice-cream and instead, take it officially whenever they wished to. More than a view to police us, I saw it as a great way to keep the flock engaged. It was his way to thank us everyday for our wor k, especially since it was the first self-service outlet where the customer was expected to remove their leftover cups and drop them off in the bin – much to their chagrin. So, when some of them sulked, we had to go the extra mile, but the Boss was already rewarding us. It was always a quid pro-quo, after all. There is an age old saying in retailing – take care of your employees and they will take care of the customers (and the business). Very few business owners are walking the talk. And it shows in the business outcomes, after all.

Brand Tags and why they matter

When I wore a new T-shirt during a weekend holiday earlier this month, my teenage daughter pondered why I chose this one with a loud-brand n...