Saturday, December 20, 2008

It happened in India - Kishore Biyani

I think it was towards the end of 2006. I was on my way to Office and an unexpected traffic jam on the Hosur Road, at the Madiwala Checkpost junction caused all my days plan in a spin. The nerve-centre of the jam was the BIG BAZAAR store situated next to the Forum Mall, which I understood later, have launched another innovative campaign of theirs called 'subse sasta din' or so. The crowd was uncontrollable and spilling over to already heavily trafficked Hosur Road. The visual and print media covered this with lot of enthusiasm and I heard the scenes were as bad if not worse in other centres across the country.

As I was reading again of these incidents in Kishore Biyani's book, it revealed a whole lot of new concepts successfully deployed by his team over the years, which I have seen and dismissed as any other campaigns.

Retail is the catchword these days. With the increase in the income and the all too powerful middle class consumer rise, the avenues to spent have to grow in a similar manner. The growth of organised retail in India has to be discussed along with these lines. Though there are many early entrants in this field, supported and funded by big industrial houses in country, the result , barring in the textile sector (to an extend) hasn't been all that great. Many traditional so called 'departmental store' chains have struggled in scaling up their operations and/or in measuring up to the new bourgeoisie communities demand and aspirations. Many of them have had an early death and few remained, to my understanding, are still struggling for existence. The history of the global players too haven't been all that lucrative.

There are few who remain competitive and prosperous in this environment. Future group is definitely one of them with their 'Pantaloon', 'Big Bazaar' and 'Central' stores. This books is the story of this empire from its early days of conception to the behemoth it is today. Kishore Biyani takes us through his experience of building one of the largest retail empire in India, from near bankruptcy and rejection to be one of the role models of the industry. Being a trader and an in born talent, there is no doubt about his penchant towards business. I was particularly interested in his words on the concept of Big Bazaar, which he attributes to the 'Saravana Stores' in Chennai. The created chaos of the stores, the various campaigns being run by the organisation, the early identification of the demographic split of the customers he planned to target and attract , the meticulous planning of location and the goods to be carried in each stores - all of which are quite impressive. Two things stand out in the whole affair; one his knack in getting the pulse of the buying behaviour of his customers, and the speed and accuracy of execution.

Well, this is not a business study ; we are discussing the book here ! Written and announced as an autobiography, it is more of the story of Future Group and the retail business in general, less on the person by himself. It also carries the testimonials and remarks by his associates, employees, contractors and investors, in the expected lines (!). While not commenting on the business side and the personal side of the book, it is an interesting insight to the changing retail scene and the buying behaviour of the people during one of the most eventful period of India growth story.

It happened in India
Kishore Biyani ( with Dipayan Baishya)
Rupa PublicationsRs 99

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