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Rewards of the retail boom.

Byline: Namrata Dadwal

Summary: The growth in the retail industry is not only creating massive job opportunities at all levels, but has also launched a wave of entrepreneurs.

When I asked my father to lend me Rs 25,000 to start a business, he was perplexed and insisted I don't leave my job for some harebrained scheme, says Sarita Sarvria, founder, Express Housekeepers. It was 1990 and the scheme involved providing housekeeping services. Her first client was a shop at Khan Market, Delhi. Fortunately, Sarvria's father indulged her, though he never imagined that the endeavour would result in a Rs 55-crore company. But then, like most Indians, he could not have foreseen the boom in the Indian economy and the subsequent explosion in the retail sector.

It isn't as if retail is a new field, but in India it has been rather amorphous. The retail industry employs nearly 25 million people, of whom almost 95% are in the unorganised sector. However, the recent emergence of malls and a network of brands has helped organised retail come into its own.

The opportunities A study conducted by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations says that the country's retail industry will grow at 10% a year to $496 billion in 2011-12 and that the organised retail segment will grow at a much faster pace of 45-50%. Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia said in a written statement to the Lok Sabha that the "retail trade is estimated to grow at 13% a year from $322 billion in 2006-7 to $590 billion in 2011-12 . There may be discrepancies in the projected figures, but there is no doubt that the retail sector is set to expand and most of it is going to be in organised retail as more supermarkets come up.

According to another study, Reinventing India's Retail Sector, by KPMG and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Indian cities have the potential to accommodate over 300 hypermarkets (a combination of supermarket and department store that usually covers an area of more than 50,000 sq ft). The retail bonanza is bringing with it the need for trained and skilled professionals who can perform mundane services as well as niche ones. If even a fraction of the projected figures is correct, this could translate into 50 million jobs in the next three years.

An advantage in the sector is that opportunities are open at all levels and the choices are varied. You can work in the field that interests you, be it automobiles, food or luxury products, and you don't need a long list of degrees.

"Many freshers apply with us after they pass out of school. In fact, working at McDonald's is the first job for a lot of them, says Sandip Maithal, director, people resources and organisations, McDonald's. The retail industry entices several young people as it allows them to pursue their education while working in shifts, and pays a decent salary. For instance, at McDonald's, a part-time employee earns Rs 5,200 a month, along with free meals.

Skills and qualifications Currently, there is a dearth of trained professionals in the sector. This has prompted many institutes to design specific courses aimed at training students in retail management. The courses range from a three-month certificate to a twoyear, full-time MBA (see The Right Professional Qualification). Short-term courses concentrate on providing training for front-end operations, which include sales executives and team leaders. The longer courses offer tutelage in back-end operations such as logistics, visual merchandising, supply chain management, etc.

Some corporates have also tied up with institutes to design programmes and take in students after the completion of the course. The Retailers Association of India (RAI), which includes industry heavyweights, has tied up with 80 institutes across the country. It has also tied up with IGNOU to offer BBA in retailing to employees at a concessional fee of Rs 5,000. Meanwhile, Pantaloons Retail has an arrangement with the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research as well as with the Welingkar Institute of Management to offer an MBA in retail management.

Apart from degrees, what you need to develop is people and communication skills. Says Virendra Rawat, general manager, Pacific Mall, Delhi: "Mall management requires you to know something about everything, ranging from technical knowledge and security to event management. You also need to learn how to remain calm during a crisis. Your problemsolving skills aren't limited to customers but also cover the retailers who have leased shops in your mall, he says.


One of the biggest responsibilities is to ensure that footfalls do not decrease, so he has to make sure that a customer always finds something fresh and exciting in the mall.

Being a jack of all trades can be a boon. The industry allows you the freedom to move between departments and hone your skills in all areas, which enhances your employability. "The biggest advantage of being in the retail sector is that most people grow by accepting cross-functional roles. For instance, a salesperson could grow to be a good merchandiser, buyer or an HR professional, says Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, RAI.

Cradle for entrepreneurs The sector is not just an employment generator, but has also helped many entrepreneurs find wings. Take N. Sathyanarayanan. He worked for Honeywell on intelligent building technology before deciding in 1997 to set up his own company, Controlled Solutions, a distributorship for products such as lighting, fire prevention and security systems.

Along the way he included a car parking management system because it added more meat to his portfolio. In 2001, after the first mall project, the Forum in Bengaluru, he realised that the niche service offered a lot of scope. His other businesses faded into the background as he focused on parking management, going so far as to change the name of his company to Central Parking Services. Today, he employs 30,000 people across 16 cities and his portfolio has an enviable list of 40 shopping malls, airports in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, as well as major hospitals. On an average, his company handles 1 lakh cars and 70,000 two-wheelers in a day.

Has the downturn put a damper on the entrepreneurial spirit? Not for Susil Dungerwala, who started his venture last year in August, when the crisis was spreading across the globe. Dungerwala resigned as head of the mall business of Emaar MGF to set up Square Feet Management, a mall advisory company. Wasn't he taking a high risk? "No, because that's when most malls were floundering and looking for expert guidance to help them out, he says.

Obviously, Dungerwala knew what he was getting into and his 23 years' experience in the retail industry came in handy. In just a year, he's sitting on a multi-crore business. His company handles everything from preparing a feasibility report to conceptualisation and building a mall to marketing and space selling.

The future Entrepreneurs still have a lot of avenues to explore. Rajeev Karwal, founder and director, Milagrow Business and Knowledge Solutions, mentors start-ups in the retail sector. He says, "Web retail, telephone retail and organic food are some of the areas that have a lot of potential. In fact, specialty areas haven't been hit as badly by the slowdown as most others.

So, the demand for people with specialised skills, such as visual merchandisers and store designers, is high. They are responsible for the decor of the store and window display to lure the customers. Then there are replenishment managers, whose job is to ensure that a product is always stacked on the shelf. A conceptualiser helps design a mall and decides on its looks, including the positioning of escalators or elevators and the accessibility of parking area.

"We now have a Pilferage & amp; Damage Control Department, which ensures that customers do not try to shoplift or that the products are not damaged while being handled by them, says Lalit Agarwal, managing director, V Mart Retail. For most of these jobs, the starting salary is about Rs 10,000-20,000 a month, but after three years, you can hope to get about Rs 50,000-80,000 a month.

The retail sector can also be a demanding mistress. "Sometimes, I've put in as many as 20 hours in a day, says Sarvria. It's not surprising because the work starts at 5 in the morning and continues well after midnight. "You have to be on call 24 hours a day because you never know when a problem might crop up, says Rawat.

If you want to have your fingers in a lot of pies and keep one on the pulse of a fast-evolving sector, then retail is the perfect place for you.

- With Kamya Jaiswal

Reproduced From Money Today. Copyright 2009. LMIL. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Money Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Sep 1, 2009
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