Showing posts with label Retail Plus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retail Plus. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Ten years and counting!

March 2009, when I decided to start my blog “An Indian and A Retailer”, has definitely become a defining moment in my life journey. Ten years and 1,00,000 plus views later, the blog still continues to attract regular readers who often use its contents as a reference with regard to Indian Retail.

The blog started off as a simple repository of my experiences and learning in the Indian Retail space. It went on to become the foundation stone of my journey as an author. This blog led to my first book “The INDIAN reTALEs”. That was followed by “Out Of Syllabus”, “BREAK FREE” and the latest one, “The Ultimate Guide to SMART SHOPPING”. This has been in addition to the various articles I have written for leading business publications. 

All these must total up to approximately four lakh plus words over the years.

A BIG THANK YOU to all my readers who found my writing to be of interest and use. Many of them have given private feedback as also written public reviews. 

Two anecdotes are worth sharing as part of this milestone.

The first is about the actual start of my journey in writing. In 2000 after I had returned from the UK after completing the Chevening Scholarship, Business Line invited me to write an article. This was to be about my stint at ASDA and was titled “Making an elephant dance”. The article detailed the interesting practices that were followed at ASDA to keep their large number of employees engaged and nimble footed to remain customer centric. The blog, in a manner of speaking continued from where this article had led me in the journey of being an author.

The second one is about the name for my blog. It was a challenge as I was conflicted by various ideas and options. The final decision was influenced by using the two identities that I am most proud of and has defined me as a person. 

An Indian; growing up in the pre-liberalization period and witnessing the contribution that an individual can make as an ordinary citizen of India has always been motivating to me. Post liberalization, this has only been reinforced. In spite of several options to pursue a career abroad, the appeal of being an Indian contributing to the country’s growth in whatever small way possible has held greater appeal for me.

A Retailer; is how I think and operate. The experiences from this sector have defined my outlook and continue to do so. I am immensely grateful that God led me into this sector and am thankful to all my mentors who have taught me about the various facets about retail.

One of the topics I have written extensively about is that the retail sector in India should be granted industry status. This would not only spur this sector to faster and better growth but also contribute significantly to the Indian economy. My fond wish and hope as “An Indian and A Retailer”, is that this happens soon. I hope that the industry status is granted and a comprehensive policy for this sector, including both offline and online retailers gets rolled out at the earliest. 

That would be fantastic and something to look forward to.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How taxing can a tax be?

Most of us are quite happy and content when we hear that the exemption limit for Income Tax has been raised or that there have been some marginal changes in the rate of tax in the budget. However, the fact is that we save on one hand and end up paying much more in most cases on the other hand. A recent article of mine details this and hopes to create awareness regarding indirect taxes on consumers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Articles about Consumer Behavior

Two more articles of mine about being a Smart Shopper in The Hindu Retail Plus and the links are as follows.

- What is impulse shopping
- Perception Vs Reality

Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them for all of you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Using social networking sites

When one speaks of the internet in the context of Retail the immediate association is with online shopping. However, there is a very powerful use of the internet that shoppers can leverage to become smart shoppers and getting more value for their value.

I had written about this for The Hindu Retail Plus and the link to that article is as follows -

Using social networking and the internet

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An unexplored idea – Mobile Retail

As mentioned in my book and a few earlier articles, the vast majority of street hawkers is a massive and undiscovered Retail opportunity. Their network and relationships are strong foundations upon which corporate Retailers as also manufacturers can build sustainable distribution networks. I wonder why no one wants to do this.

Have written about this wonderful potential yet again for The Hindu Retail Plus and the URL for that is as follows –

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why transactions are at the heart of all our living

The Retail Plus team wanted me to write on an interesting theme. All about transactions and how they are at the heart of all our living. The more I thought about the topic, the more fascinating it was. At the end, I was constrained by the word count and could only capture the essence of what I thought.

Transactions start at the moment we neogiate with our parents for something we desire and promise all kinds of goodness and saintly behavior in return. It goes on to the more common and recognizable retail transactions we indulge quite often.

The fact of the matter is that transactions can happen only when both parties have something perceived to be of value by the other. Is it any wonder that Retail in India has taken wings only as recently as two decades ago. After all if someone had to book a scooter and wait for a year or so, how many people will be able to have such transactions.

Please click on the link below to read why transactions are at the heart of everything.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What is weights and measures?

We are a nation of savvy shoppers who bargain hard to get good deals. However, are we smart shoppers? I don't think so.

We do not arm our self with information and knowledge that would help us assert our rights as a consumer and that's why I feel that we are a savvy bunch alright, but not smart shoppers.

Hence the next in the series of smart shoppers is an overview about the law pertaining to weights and measures, as also some inputs on how it helps us become smart shoppers. Click the link below to read on -

What is weights and measures?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Smart Shopper Series

One of the key feedbacks about “The INDIAN reTALEs” was that it was so informative to the shopper/ consumer. The inside workings and what Retail was all about seemed to help people become better shoppers. As mentioned in the book, we are all not equipped/ educated or taught to shop or make purchases. So, inputs that teach us how Retail works also help us become better shoppers and indirectly make Retailers improve as expectations go up.

In that context I have started a series of articles titled as Smart Shopper Series for The Hindu Retail Plus. These articles would help educate people about becoming smarter shoppers.

The first two articles came out over the past few weeks and the links are as follows –

I was held up in many things including addressing a Youth Leadership Camp and could not share these links before. Shall share the future links promptly.

Please do forward these links to all your contacts and help them become Smarter Shoppers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Understanding the customer. A true life experience

Organisations spend huge sums of money in market research to understand the customers. There is a whole industry involved in what is called customer analytics and profiling where customer behaviour is dissected in every possible way. The ultimate objective being, a more competitive offering which the customer wants. A friend of mine who used to manage a store once told me a story in this context and said how all these reports cannot substitute an hour of standing in the store.

In that context retail is the most interactive and customer insightful industry. One can get instant feedback and make corrections if they choose to.

This is during the early days of mobiles and one mobile company had tied up with a chain to give a hand set free as part of a contest. Needless to say the interest was high and I remember filling in the various forms I was eligible for hoping to get the phone. One such elderly lady like me was also hopeful of winning the phone, excepting that she expected or rather was waiting for the phone to be given to her. The store manager would be asked every time if the contest was over and when can she collect the phone! She claimed that God has told her that she was going to get the phone.

It was a Saturday and I was shopping at the store when the store manager informed me that someone else had won and the message had just come from the office and he was to display the winners name. He was hoping that he would not be around when the elderly customer came to the store and found she was not the winner. Just as he was telling me this, an elderly lady walked up to him and asked when she can get the phone!

As diplomatically as possible, the manager explained that someone else had won and better luck next time. The customer suddenly became abusive and hurled the choicest of abuses and not content with that made a gesture of spitting to indicate her disgust. I watching this and almost expected the security to lead the customer out.

To my surprise and appreciation the manager walked up to the lady and calmly apologized for disappointing her and gently asked why she was so upset. It was after all only a contest. The lady calmed down, broke down and told her story; Her husband was very critically ill and they had applied for a landline phone which was getting delayed. When she heard of this contest, it was like a sign from God and she had started believing that if she won the phone, her husband would get well as they could summon medical help whenever they wanted.

I was very touched by the story and wondered how often we react to anger with anger, when it actually hides sorrow and fear. Kudos to the manager for understanding customers with more insight than any report can provide.

Retail trivia – Almost every contest works on a probability theory and the prizes are planned for assuming only a certain number of people participating. Also, they are usually a method for data collection, to be used for future marketing efforts. Next time you fill in a coupon remember that apart from the prize you could also get a lot of calls and mails!!

-- This article is part of a series, I wrote for "The Hindu, Retail Plus".

The lure of a Freebie!

FREE! What a powerful word. Among the most used, recognized and acted upon words in the world. The power of free!

One really does not know when the practice of freebies started. But suffice to say that this has become one of the more powerful promotion tools for any brand owner as also retailers. Many a times the consumer makes a final choice on what is being given Free. Many brands have created fads and cults with their freebies and a good example is the craze for Tazzos which was triggered by a potato wafer brand.

I have seen many situations where the power of free is on display. Children insisting that their parents buy something because a toy is free with it, ladies purchasing a personal product because an utility item is free and so on. However, the power of free was best demonstrated when I witnessed the following incident.

It was yet another opening of a swank, new modern supermarket. Offers and more offers made customers queue up and wait in the sun. Once the store was ‘inaugurated’ the mad rush began. I was a part of this crowd and suffice to say that I was carried into the store with minimal effort, thanks to my co-shoppers excitement. Soon my trolley was full and I rushed to pay and get out before getting caught behind a long line.

I emerged victoriously clutching my bill which said that there were so many interesting Freebies I had to collect. As I waited in the counter where they were handing over these free products I noticed a very upset middle aged lady. She was smartly dressed and was addressing the counter staff in excellent English and not sparing them. After observing the scene for some time I could surmise that she had purchased for a particular value which was almost twice the limit for a promotion and was demanding an additional freebie. Given the intensity of the debate, I got interested in case I had missed out on this offer. The staff were explaining that the free was not only based on the value of purchase but should also include some specific product.

I guess after some time the staff thought that it is better to give one more freebie and avoid the scene as also the ire of customers who were waiting for their turn. I was curiously waiting to see the freebie, which was the triumphant result of the lady’s efforts. To be frank, I was a bit disappointed when the staff handed over a medium sized ordinary looking plastic bucket, to the lady.

The lady picked up the bucket, thanked the person and turned to imperiously hand over the bucket to a smart uniformed person, who I noticed was standing in the side, saying ‘Keep it in the car’. This particular incident intrigued me more than the reality of someone insisting and getting a bucket as free. With growing amazement I watched the lady march towards a gleaming black, imported luxury sedan and get into the car. The driver dutifully placed the bucket in the boot and off they went!

Retail trivia – Many a times we would have asked that the price of the freebie adjusted as a discount and we are told that the discount offered would be a fraction of the price of such a freebie. Its might be puzzling as to why we don’t get the full value as a discount. The reason is very simple. These freebies are sourced in bulk and purchased at a fraction of their stated price. Hence, only that amount can be given as a discount if any customer insists on it. Its better to take the freebie and gift it to someone than lose out on the value by insisting on a discount!

-- This article is part of a series, I wrote for "The Hindu, Retail Plus".

Getting better service

We all as customers expect very good customer service. The question is, how many of us deserve good customer service?

Internationally we are known to be rude, aggressive, tip poorly, treat staff like personal servants and then complain about poor service.

I had a friend who was an air hostess with Air India and once we had a debate about why Indian fliers were treated poorly while foreigners would be helped, smiled at and so on. She stumped with a single line. She said “Without fail most foreigners would say please and thank you, while most Indian fliers would demand whatever they wanted”. That set me thinking and I started observing if we as a consumer class are really so bad.

Retail chains were a good place to observe this phenomenon, especially since they talk so much about customer service and customer delight. I noticed that most chains have instructed and trained their staff to smile, wish ask if any help is required. Most staff did smile and wish, while most customers would either look past them or be mildly irritated.

One day I commented to one such staff member that this must be one of the easier parts of their job. Smile and wish. She said “No sir, this is actually not so easy. A few customers smile back at us. Most just ignore us. I feel very bad when that happens.” The staff became comfortable enough to share a few thoughts and it gave me a very different perspective.

These people come from poor economical backgrounds. Most of them use the bus or cycle to get to work. Their homes are not exactly the epitome of comfort and luxury. On top of all that they also have their personal problems and issues. In that context being cheerful, smiling and wishing is an effort. Doing it again and again when being ignored by many is an even bigger effort. Adding insult to injury are some misguided youngsters who use this as an excuse to make funny comments or remarks.

I resolved to remember this and make it a point to wish and smile back at staff, say please and thank you every time someone does a service. I am just being selfish. I am ensuring that this service staffs do not get so demoralized that they stop giving good service because no one acknowledges it and one day I stop getting good service.

A retail trivia – There is a customer service guideline called the 5 Feet rule. This was propounded by Sam Walton of Walmart and most retailers follow some variation of this. Every customer facing staff is required to smile and wish customers who come within 5 feet. How do they measure 5 feet? Simple, the floor tiles have a defined size and one needs to wish everyone within a particular number of tiles.

-- This article is part of a series, I wrote for "The Hindu, Retail Plus".

Power of change

Most of us would have definitely had a situation where we could not complete a purchase because we had no change or had to take some meaningless toffees instead of the change. Having or getting change has not been an issue as wide spread in the fast few years. However in the late 90’s this was a major issue and has given lots of headaches to retailers, especially the new organized chain stores.

During that period a regular customer who used to frequent one such chain store used to expect change as a given. Most cases she would get the change and a few times the staff would ask if she had change and she would grumble and search and try to find change. One day when the staff asked if she had change, customer suddenly lost her temper and started shouting. The others in the line were getting quite restive and it looked like there would soon be a major scene.

Just then another staff who seemed like the store manager came up to the lady and said that she would help. After patiently listening to the lady she had a long talk to this lady explaining about why there is a problem with change and what all they are doing to address this. I was watching to see if the manager’s talk would resolve the problem. Obviously she was quite persuasive and the customer calmed down, found some change, billed her purchases and left.

I congratulated the manager on her customer service and went away. A few weeks later the manager spotted me at the store and walked up to share an astonishing end to this story. The customer had returned the next day with lots of change bundled in her kerchief and gave it to the manager and said “I never realized how much of change I end up having in my house, till you explained how difficult it was to get change. So I thought let me give it to you and help”. I left the store impressed with the manager and with the customer who helped herself and other customers with her small effort.

I am sure that many of us would discover lots of change at our homes if we had a look around. Maybe we should also do what that customer did and give it to our regular store. Or at least carry it with us. Imagine how much money would be lying unused as change!!

A retail trivia – These chains as part of their efforts to get adequate change would approach several innovative sources apart from their banks, the Tirupati temple being one of them. Based on what the manager was telling I gathered that staff would go every week to Tirupati and return with bags of coin. Another interesting source was the various beggar groups. Yes, were amongst the main suppliers of change and made money giving change. They would give change worth Rs. 97 or 98 and get Rs. 100 in return.

-- This article is a part of a series, I wrote for "The Hindu, Retail Plus".