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Showing posts from 2021

The day to say “Thank you”

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This year, I am fortunate to celebrate RED – Retail Employees Day with over 500 front end staff in my team at Specsmakers. What started on 12/12 a decade back in a few retail chains who were part of Retailers Association of India (RAI) has become an annual event now with hundreds of Retailers across the country saluting and celebrating the spirit of lakhs of frontend workforce across thousands of retail stores. The day is an important one in the annual HR-led celebration of every retail company today and in the current times, with the risky environment in which the employees brave to work is stupendous. May their attitudes soar higher and may they achieve greater name and fame in times to come.  Looking back at myself, I started as a frontend retail staff in an ice-cream parlour as a part time employee way back in 1997 in Chennai. It was the city’s first and the country’s second parlour for US fast food chain “Baskin Robbins” and was located on the way to the Marina Beach, at Mylapore.

The race to go Omnichannel

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  Earlier this week, I had been to Kanchipuram, around 90kms west of Chennai on store visits to review the team’s performance. While I have been doing these visits for over 15 years now, what I love most about the trips is the local cuisine I love to enjoy. However, being a long and hard working day, I chose to have a quick bite and not the usual fare from the quaint town which is famous for its numerous temples. My colleague and I decided to eat a pizza thinking it would be quick and the restaurant, less crowded. I was wrong on both counts. Most of the 10 tables were crowded. Barring two which had business-attired guests, all others were a family crowd, including kids. On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, I hardly expected such an outing in a Tier 3 town like this one. We profiled the customers and were raving about the economic transformation happening in smaller towns. All this while we were waiting for over 20 mins for our beloved pizzas. When I first went to the cashier to order and enqu

Opening New Stores - a Rewind...

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When I first joined the retail Industry in 1997, scooping ice-cream as a part-time job for Baskin Robbins in Chennai, little did I imagine I would be bestowed the privilege and opportunity to open hundreds of stores in the future. Not that I aspired to do just this in my formative years, but I was quite clear and sure that the “Great Indian Retail Store” was in the making. And that it would last for decades to come. Looking behind 24 years, I am happy that my views and predictions have remained on course. This blog was started a decade back, as a way to respond to queries from my B-School students as I may not find enough time to share my thoughts during the classes. Over time, this blog has remained an edifice of many of my predictions, which have come true. Even as I inaugurated yet another retail store for the company I work for, I couldn’t gloat my feelings about how positive and committed I remain to the Retail Industry in which I play a minuscule role. Statistics and numbers abou

Happy Birthday Madras - the Retail capital of India

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I have always argued that one of the reasons why the British traded with our country for a long time was our ethical business practices coupled with abundant natural resources which have been bestowed on our land for centuries. Tracing India's roots to King Ashoka's reign or to the fledgling empires of the Chola Dynasty, trade was a very important aspect of the way India has been governed. While the fabric of the Indian ecosystem, spread across the length and breadth of the sub-continent cannot be taken away, there is a strong link to the very first organised retail establishment which was set-up by the British towards the end of the 19th Century in the erstwhile Madras.  The Spencer’s Store and Higginbothams Bookstore, which are still edifices on the city’s famed Mount Road are over a century old. The current structure of the book store, once eponymous with everything books and which boasted customers such as Clement Atlee, former British PM, Shri C. Rajagopalachari, the forme

20 years in Retailing

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We were 42 of us who arrived at Spencers Plaza at Chennai, one of the only few malls in India in 2001.  Most of them had come outside of Chennai. We all had one common reason to come together, through all the diverse backgrounds that we had. We were the Retail Management Trainees to join RPG Group for a 3-week induction at the HQ located on the fourth floor of the same building. Imagine a career, where you have to work amongst shops selling grocery, beauty products, food and beverage and all within a full air-conditioned environment. Only that this luxury would be short lived until we moved back to our “regions” – our destinations to write our own destinies, all by ourselves. The day was 4 th   June 2001. One of the most memorable days in my professional career.  I had unofficially joined the retail industry way back in 1997 when I would scoop ice-cream part time at a Baskin Robbins parlour, the first one in Chennai and second in India. Though I was pursuing software languages in the m

The E-commerce conundrum in Food Delivery

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I was present at the India Retail Forum in 2012 at Mumbai’s Renaissance Hotel. The annual event was a carnival of sorts for Retailers across the country. Images Retail, the magazine publisher’s flagship event attracted thousands of retail enthusiasts every year and the year 2012 was a landmark one. This was when there was a cooling down in the Indian Retail story which scaled peak heights at the time. An estimated 350+ Malls were operational all over India and another 300 were in the making. India was touted to have 1,000 operational Malls by the year 2020 (which didn’t happen, obviously). Each mall would have atleast 250+ vanilla stores, 5-6 Anchor tenants and High Street rents had doubled in less than a decade.   During an interactive session, Mr. Kishore Biyani, Founder and CEO of the Future Group was asked what went wrong with the group – this was the period the Group saw one of its toughest times in their history ever since they started operations in 1987 with their first ever com

Moving on... #Miles2Go

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The past 12 months have been the most unfortunate and unhappy for millions of people worldwide. The Covid-19 pandemic was beyond comprehension in its new form since Mar. 2020 onwards and took epic proportions over the next few months.   As they say, there is always calm before storm and in my case, it worked exactly this way on the professional front. Just that the lockdown period was the calm and what followed was storm, quite literally. I consider myself a lot luckier than the unlucky millions because I not only had a job to feed my family – my parents, wife and both kids tested Covid-19 positive (and I was the sole negative member in the home!) in May ’20 but each of them fought bravely and bounced back in full form in less than 45 days; I managed to ensure my team – starting from 100 around June ’20 growing all the way to 175+ around Mar. ’21 remained cautious of the dreaded infection and less than 10% of my workforce & their immediate family tested positive for the virus; incr

Buying Cars Online is Passe

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After coming back home from the Voting Booth, I was sipping my 3 rd  cup of coffee watching breakfast news on Tv. I showed my kids and wife, meanwhile two AVs of Tata Safari, the one which was produced in the late 1990s and the one produced this year. They were pretty impressed than I thought, honesty. Then I showed a Youtube Review of the vehicle. Though the reviewer spoke in Hindi, which kids do not understand exactly, he showed the features of the vehicle one after the other and having spent all their life in a single 4-W model, that is our beloved XUV500, they were mighty impressed with the newness that the Safari bought to experience. And mind you, all this even as we were watching a review of the model on a SmartTv.  One day in 2012, my wife and I went around looking for an upgrade to our Hyundai Verna. Having shifted to Chennai from Bangalore and with both our parents around here, we thought a slightly larger vehicle (read: 7 seater) would be useful for long drives. We saw a few

Upwards & Northwards! Finally

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On Thursday, Fitch Solutions, one of the world’s top rating agency estimated that India’s HHS – Household spending would grow 7.9% y-o-y in 2021 after 14% contraction in the year 2020 due to the Corona pandemic. In nominal terms, the HHS is estimated to be Rs. 125 lakh crores (whatever number of Zeroes, that is!), a 3.3% growth over 2019. Not bad at all, huh. Food & non-alcoholic drinks is expected to grow the highest among all other consumption categories and this, in my humble opinion is perhaps the biggest good news of the year!  Here’s why I feel that this will propel the economy to a large extent. India has an estimated 14 million kiranas and retail touch points – who sell anything from cigarettes, biscuits, tea, coffee, grocery all the way to other household items including consumer durables, fashion, footwear among others. This segment drives India’s consumption opportunity, a key reason why the Amazons, the Walmarts, the Wall street Investors all the way to the Chinese &

Mall revival - Real or Imaginary?

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I have been visiting Malls in Chennai and Bangalore ever since they were open for public after continued lockdowns since Mar. ’20 due to the ongoing Corona pandemic. Mall owners, Multiplexes, Retailers, Restaurants and perhaps every consumer-serving business has been quite badly hit all these months and globally, we have seen many of them go bankrupt or shut down their businesses, while a few are somehow staying afloat amidst all the chaos. In the early years of my career with India’s first seamless mall chain way back in 2005, Bangalore Central I realised how Indians shop and consume – food, clothing and entertainment go together. We are a country that meticulously plans for a movie outing with a date, family members or friends and eventually dress up to visit a Cinema Hall. Therefore, Multiplexes, ranging from 3 screens to 7 or even 8 have been a regular feature at most of the Malls across India and is credited for one of the key reasons for a Centre’s success. With the first lockdow

Uttarayan and my Professional Life

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On 13 Jan. 2021, I was driving back yet again to Chennai from Bangalore on my XUV500. Even as my playlist kept jumping from 90s Tamil film songs to the latest tunes, spiritual discourses to FM Radio, my thoughts kept wandering from one to another to another. I was driving back in a spacious SUV, all alone and reasonably well placed in life than what I had imagined for myself 24 years back when I first joined the Retail Industry scooping Ice-Cream at Baskin Robbins as a part time salesman during the day, learning computer languages in the morning at NIIT and studying B. Com in the Evening College. I am ever thankful for my Stars, the Creator’s benevolence, blessings of Elders and good wishes of my close friends for where I am today in life. Professionally, Socially, personally and of course, most recently on the spiritual lane.  It was a Makara Sankrathi / Pongal day that I landed up at Bangalore in 2004 to be part of a revolution in the making, little which I knew when I was interviewe