Showing posts with label first job. Show all posts
Showing posts with label first job. Show all posts

Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Annual Tribute post

Even as the country celebrates Pongal, Makara Sankranthi, Lohri and so on, I cannot but reminisce and thank my stars for where I am, what I am today professionally. For it was on this day, I flew off my comfort zone to build a career, a name in the Industry, and most importantly paved an opportunity for myself to pursue endless learning. Incidentally, I celebrate my Silver Jubilee year in Retail this year - A Retailer by Profession and Choice since 1997.


I grew for the most of my life in the erstwhile Madras until my Post Graduation. My first posting was at Kolkata to manage Musicworld. Honestly, this was the farthest maiden travel I had taken in my entire life of 21 years and also travelled for the first time ever in a 2nd class air-conditioner sleeper coach by Coromandel Express. A year later, I returned to Chennai (the name had changed by then!) and started at Foodworld, India’s first organised Grocery retail chain. After 3 years with the company, I sensed I was not going to grow much – internal challenges, business model clarity and so on. Based on a newspaper Ad in The Hindu, I applied for a job which was based in Bangalore. My interview happened inside the retail store of the company at the Spencers Plaza Mall and in a week’s time, I received a post from the employer informing about my recruitment.


I left my hometown on Pongal / Sankranthi day by a KSRTC bus from Chennai to Bangalore with 4 bags and a heart full of dreams. Honestly, at the bottom of my heart, I was shooting in the dark but somewhere my gut feel was I would certainly not waste my life, as I was doing in Chennai, living in a comfortable cocoon under the aegis of my beloved parents. Much to their chagrin and admonishment, I stepped off the home towards a vast world which was filled with VUCA even back then. I joined Pantaloons Retail which was setting up the country’s first seamless mall by the name “Central” at Bangalore followed by aggressive expansion at Hyderabad, Pune and so on – clear focus on upcoming Tier 2 cities. Though I had my own tons of challenges in a new city, to which I had travelled just thrice before that in my lifetime, I was fortunate to be filled with fantastic colleagues, a small but worthy bunch of well wishers and an extended social ecosystem. 5 years later, I was popularly known as the guy who set-up the entire Travel Retail business at India’s first private airport – BIAL. A few years later, I was fortunate to work with India’s largest café chain – CCD and set up 100s of cafés across the country while traversing the length and breadth of the geography. 



Made some money, loads of friends and a large, extended camaraderie with the who’s who of the city – from the State Bureaucracy to Retail, friends of friends and with a very large set of colleagues and strangers. Bought my first car, a Hyundai Santro on which I travelled 75,000 kms over 3 years – mostly between TN, Tirupati & KA and a single non-stop drive to Goa. Loads and loads of memories that I can cherish all my life. Regrets, yes many many too. But that shall remain buried within me, always. Best to leave it that way!


I returned to Chennai in 2012 and ever since “settled” in the city which has given me everything though I haven’t settled with my dreams, or rather settled my dreams, professionally, personally and as a publicly obligated person as well. Lots of unfinished things yet. Though in whatever small way possible, I continue to give back what I have – knowledge, guidance, money and of course in my physical capacity as well. Over the past decade, I have taught at at least a dozen B-Schools, run Retail Management as an Elective course for 2ndyear students and travelled extensively across the State and also pan-India on work and leisure. There’s still a lot more to see, explore and share and I am at it.

I wonder what if I had stayed back to please my parent’s wishes in 2004. Wonder how things would have been – something that we can only imagine but can never say with certainty how it would have spanned. But the courage I took on myself, guess I was right.  

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The day to say “Thank you”


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. I studied B.Com (UG) at Vivekananda College, Ramakrishna Mission in the evening from 4pm – 8pm and learnt computer languages at NIIT in the morning from 7am – 9am. During the day from 11am – 3pm, I would scoop ice-cream and desserts and learn the ropes of retailing and customer service. At the end of my computer course which coincided with my third year UG, I decided to continue my focus in the same field that I had been groomed for over 2 years, ending up in a PG in Marketing. Thereafter, my first job was as a Store Manager with RPG Retail’s formats including Musicworld and Foodworld as a Management Trainee. As days and years pass by, I thank everyday my stars, my peers, my former & current bosses and of course, the customers of various businesses that I have been associated with – due to which I remain an eternal student of retail forever. 

 

Early in my career, I chose the tagline “Retailer by Profession & Choice”. Over time, this appeared on my resume, my LinkedIn profile and as my introduction at 100s of seminars on Retail that I have been privileged to address to students at B-Schools, employees and entrepreneurs over the past twenty years. And there are two strong reasons for choosing this tagline: One, I wanted to have something similar to how global iconic brands have (or had) – “Yeh Dil Maange More”, for example. Something, that can be related to me and only me when someone refers about me. Second, back in the new Millennium, Retail was not a preferred job, forget it being considered an Industry. It was widely said that UGs and PGs who didn’t get a proper job in Manufacturing, Banking or IT/ITES industries ended up as an FMCG Salesman or even worse, as a manager or a deputy in a “retail showroom”. Even managerial jobs in Retailing were considered lowly from a socio-economic point of view until around 2010 when the Industry started looking up – thanks to the emergence of Malls, huge network of retail chain stores and the growth of Indian business houses such as The Future Group, Tata Westside and eventually, Reliance Retail in 2008 as well as entry and scaling up of International Retailers and Brands such as Marks & Spencer, Zara, etc. taking wings and soaring high in India across Tier 1/2/3 towns. 


Today, a job in retailing is not just a coveted one but fiercely competitive too. For mid-level and senior level roles, the competition is quite high with as many as 4-5 candidates making it all the way to the final, meeting the CEO / Top management to clear the last round. I was quite excited and privileged to be a part of the celebrations at a few stores at Specsmakers today, my current organisation, cheering the staff and being with them. This is a day to thank my compatriots for their service, dedication and hard work, rain or shine. Kudos!