Friday, May 30, 2014

A Retailer's wish list to Mr. Modi

In the din created by the argument and debate about FDI in multi brand Retail, several key issues about Indian Retail is falling between the tables. The fact is that the largest constituent of this sector; the 12 to 14 million stand alone stores cannot be ignored in any policy decision.

However, these hardy, smart and extremely resourceful businessmen do not need pseudo protectionism but a whole series of policy initiatives which will empower them to grow and succeed.

Having been a part of the Indian retail story I have put down a list of things which would benefit the various constituents of the Indian Retail sector. The first in this wish list is granting of industry status for Retail and a whole set of policy directives built around the industry status.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ingenuity of the small shop keeper

Sometime ago I had written about the app developed by Neiman Marcus and how they had rolled it out under the umbrella of NM Service which offers a personalized shopping experience. They then discarded that by giving their store staff iPhones to be able to connect with the customers. It must have cost them quite a bit to go through that learning curve.

My admiration for the small, stand alone shop keepers in India went up another notch when I read this article about how one of them has started to leverage WhatsApp for better customer connect and service. Although several Retailers and shop owners have populated facebook and some are even active on Twitter, the use of WhatsApp to be able to connect in real time and provide immediate service is a great idea.

I am sure that many more such store owners will soon adopt this idea. This flexibility and nimble footed response to customers is just one of the things that chain Retailers need to learn. The other interesting lesson is the ability to adopt low cost or even zero cost resources to improve their businesses.

Such a cost sensitive thinking towards effective solutions will go a long way in ensuring success, especially in retail which is a low margin business.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Learn to let GO...

In the late 80’s and through the 90’s when the Indian economy was growing, a common issue cropped up with many business houses which had been family run and managed. Most management experts gave almost similar kind of advice to all these family business. Let go of control, bring in professionals, hold them accountable but give them the freedom to operate and actually deliver results.

Many business families acted on this advice and reaped big benefits. There are also examples of families who did not want to let go and they have suffered for this.

This piece of input; Letting go, is most visible in Retail across every function and level. A store manager who breathes down the neck of the store staff will never have a great store. Similarly a merchandising head who tries to micro manage every decision being taken about the purchase or placement of every SKU will end up with chaos.

This aspect of letting go is very well described in the book “Gung Ho” by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. The book talks about “The way of the beaver” using that animal as an example for the fact that the player needs to be in charge of achieving a goal while having the broad boundaries and the rules being clearly defined.

I would share the same thought to the players in the Indian political landscape on this day of a historic mandate.

For the incumbent party who has been swept in with a massive mandate:  Let go of control, and Mr. Modi who is the professional in this context should be held accountable but be given complete freedom to deliver results. The massive mandate itself is proof that letting go works   and would have been difficult or even impossible if the person in charge had not been given the freedom to be in charge of achieving this goal.

For the party which has suffered a most depressing defeat:  Wake up and let go. The organization is more important than the family. Get professionals involved instead of old timers and loyalists. Most importantly hold the professionals accountable but give them complete freedom.

Interestingly there are still many family-run organizations in India and also in various other countries who will do well to heed these inputs and learn to let go. Not only that, everyone needs to learn how to let go in order to be successful.