The first day of India Retail Forum at Renaissance Powai Mumbai on the 10th of Oct 2012 was a day replete with enthusiasm, fresh ideas, promises and co-operation amongst the various stakeholders. In the Next-Gen Series we met the future leaders of retail from various family-businesses confessing the great lessons they learnt from their parents and candidly sharing the various conflict of ideas that these differences create while in the process of decision making.
Sonica Malhotra, Director, MBD Group expressed that as a future leader she felt moral compulsion while carrying out her duties and even though there’s no threat of losing the job she remains answerable for everybody in her organization at all times. Such energy was replicated in yet another session where corporate leaders spoke open-heartedly of the various social change drivers that retail has created over the years. Shriti Malhotra, COO, The Body Shop spoke of her pricing policy which helps them create a value chain through which they not just deliver organic products but also are able to give fair prices to the farmers. Similar socially responsible behavior is displayed by Marks and Spencer the first retail outlet in the United Kingdom to charge for the use of plastic bags as stated by Venu Nair, MD, Marks and Spencer.
This thought provoking session was conducted while in other theatre major retailers from the nation discussed the perplexity of consumer behavior and its unpredictability that often eludes them while formulating strategies. The next hour saw some healthy debates and discussions as retailers and their stakeholders shared valuable insight. ‘The view from the middle’ was a discussion amongst middle level management where they animatedly spoke about their relation with their respective superiors mostly the CEOs of the companies and how they manage to leverage maximum knowledge from their experiences while sharing valuable inputs. In ‘Fundamentals of Funding investors and retailers sat across from each other and discussed various options for investments while highlighting what an investor seeks. Even though all ventures might not succeed it is important that significant efforts are made by both investors and retailers. Brand Building and creation of a power laden brand has helped companies like Walmart succeed worldwide with their customer insight and tradition of value deliverance. In this session major apparel brands discussed at length the power of branding and how it is a crowd puller for their stores respectively.
The next hour was dedicated to innovation in retail the importance of which was discussed at length through various case studies. While Ram Iyer, EVP-Retail, Vodafone India shared the success story of the zoozoos; Roshini Bakshi, Managing Director, Consumer Products, Publishing, Retail, Walt Disney spoke of her 6 year old Indian journey creating stories and connecting with the customer. Retail Real Estate partnership is the step ahead that can create an environment conducive for business in the industry and retailers and real estate company owners shared a podium where they could relate to each other’s problems and challenges. While they speculated about the future they confessed that the repertoire amongst the retailers and real estate owners has matured and improved phenomenally.
They say all’s well that ends well and the end of this inspiring first day was with a tale of retail dreams that the country witnessed in the form of two legends, Mr. R. Subramanian and B.S. Nagesh. The two stalwarts sat down in a discussion that unveiled the nuances of the business and the commitment of Mr. Subramanian to deliver a vision that provides value to the Indian consumer through his Subhiksha stores. The lesson in his own words for future retailers is, “One must display courage of conviction when taking risks and driving it through till the end.” The first day was one that has escalated the hopes of the industry and has created much expectation from tomorrow.