Friday, May 8, 2015

An Indian & A Retailer’s 20 year old journey

May 9th holds a special place in my heart as it is the day when the first store branded as Foodworld was opened by RPG Retail (now known as Spencer’s Retail). Retail as a sector has been a great teacher and also given a lot to me personally. So this is a day to remember all that and give thanks as also reminisce about the remarkable journey over the past 20 years. The one thing that stands out when I recall the milestones of this journey is that change has always been a constant as also resistance to change has also been a constant.

Success has come to those who embrace change and in some ways anticipate change.

One example of such resistance to change is the back story to my decision to join Foodworld. At the time, all my friends and relatives were shocked and aghast by this and felt that this was a completely stupid and suicidal career move. After all who is going to switch over from the trusted, convenient neighborhood store and shop at supermarkets? For me, this was the challenge; making shoppers switch their buying behavior. Challenges were aplenty and managing this change and many more led to a fundamental shift and today modern trade/ chain stores are approximately 10% of the overall Retail in India. It is still early years and the journey is not over and “Abhi toh picture baki hain” as the dialogue goes in a popular Hindi film.

The journey till date and a snapshot of the changes and challenges that have been milestones have been detailed in an article for ET Retail titled “Disruptions & Consolidations of Indian Retail Sector”. Click Here to read this account of the twenty year Indian Retail journey.

One key thing that stands out as a reason and enabled those in the Indian Retail journey in managing these sweeping changes has been the ability to “Learn, Unlearn and Relearn”. This is a quote by Alvin Toffler and is very pertinent to the context of rapid change. Although this does seem simple enough, it is quite difficult to internalize.

This video about a cycle which had the handle bar turning the opposite way helps drive home the point as also the challenges in “Learning, Unlearning and relearning”. 

The key barrier to this remains our thinking process, conditioning and the bias that we build up over time. Going forward Indian Retail is bound to become more challenging with varied stake holders, demanding customers and changing operating paradigms. Only those who can “Learn, Unlearn and Relearn” will survive and succeed.