Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some views about Corporate Retail

I have been and will continue to be a passionate advocate of corporate retail which enables a chain of stores. Simply because this would enable too many good things if done well; Like supply chain, development of food processing industry, employment opportunities (Most Important), better tax realisation for the government, so on and so forth.

But then I can’t be blind to the handicaps and shortcomings of this segment too.

Although I have written about the cost disparity between corporate and conventional retail, the fact remains that most conventional shop keepers have learnt fast and got their act together; whether it is in terms of self service or packed groceries! Or even adopting technology in terms of billing systems, etc as reported in Times of India recently.

While corporate retail seems to be floundering! Why?

By now countless seminars, training sessions and perhaps even blogs like mine have created a humongous information base. Media, as always, has capitalised on this craze and one gets to see a large array of magazines about retailing.

Plus there are a handful of experienced retail professionals in India who have not only pioneered Corporate Retail, but have extensive experience spanning across formats and life cycle stages.
So, why is corporate retail struggling against all the conventional ones - be it the ubiquitous kaka ka dukaan or naadar kadai or some of the larger ones.

I believe it is because of the fact that a basic principle of retail has been forgotten. This is called as “Leadership by dirtying one’s hands”. This is my terminology and this translates into leading from the front.

I recall a very poignant memory. During one of my earlier employment stints, I was with Pepsi Foods. I happened to go route riding and was faced with an irate store owner who demanded immediate resolution of an outstanding issue. After polite counter points (Please read as Bull Shit, in CAPS) failed, I had no other choice but to call the office and take inputs/ seek help from the sales head. The secretary (Obviously well trained) promptly said that the head of sales was in a meeting. While I was relaying this message to the shop owner, he grabbed the phone and said in basic Tamil – Amma, naangalla veyillae vitthathaan, aangae AC le meeting nadakum. This means – Only if we sell in this sweltering heat, can you guys afford to conduct meetings in AC rooms. Needless to say, the concerned person came on line and the issue was resolved.

There is an old Tamil folk lore of a King who had a bell which could be rung by any aggrieved citizen and once, even a cow rang it and got justice.

In a country so rich with consumer rights, why is no corporate retail chain displaying any consumer orientation?

Apart from other things like cost structure, is this crucial consumer orientation the core/ key factor which tilts the scale in favour of conventional stores?

Reaching out and creating a connect with customers is a simple thing and there are enough and more simple, cost effective ways of creating this connect. However, at a macro level the organisation needs to be aligned and honest to delivering this customer delight. That by itself would diminish the usual corporate games and enable people to work towards consumer delight.

Is Corporate Retail listening? Or rather, are they interested?


Venkatesan said...

Rajesh- The blog was interesting.I am trying to make the connection between your example on Pepsi Foods and Corporate retail.Are you saying that retail chains such as More, Spencers, etc dont display consumer orientation as much as the Nadar Kadai? I find it easier to return a defective product to a Retail chain than convincing a kirana store to take it back. That is my expereince. But i am interested to hear your response.

VR said...

The point is that any organisation, especially a service organisation needs to empower the front line. Delivering customer delight should be the single minded agenda of everyone and there can be no deviations/ distractions. This is best explained by this quote - Giving someone the freedom to take responsibility releases resources that would otherwise remain concealed - Jan Carlzon.

Balakrishna said...

I agree with Mr.Rajesh, Indian retailers need to be proactive in terms of customer service and practice customer gratification. I have shared some of my experiences in my blog

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