The Retail Rush

retail.pngAn industry that has caught the eye of the common man at almost every turning on the road is the Retail Industry. A young thriving population and booming consumer confidence has triggered the expansion of this sector and brought about the ‘Retail Rush’. The Indian economy is booming and the boom has triggered a boom of opportunities for the students as well.

Post-economic reforms, India has become the hub of foreign direct investments. International rating agency Standard and Poors (S & P) recently raised India’s sovereign rating from speculative to investment grade. The crucial sectors of the economy are on a self propelling growth trajectory. The IT industry, telecommunication industry and many other industries have seen unprecedented growth during the last couple of years, and on the road is the booming Retail Industry. A young thriving population and zooming consumer confidence has contributed significantly to this extraordinary growth in the retail sector. Till a few years back, the Indian retail market was either dominated by the apparel brand stores or the regional retail chains. But, with the entry of large corporate houses, the landscape of the organised retailing in the country has changed completely.

Despite the protests of the local ‘Bania’, the mighty ‘W’ is finally here. Wal-Mart will be setting malls in India in association with Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Group. Other international big players like Carrefour, Tesco and Auchan have also shown interest in this industry. Indian retail industry is expected to grow at a compounded growth rate of 11% and will be a $450 billion industry by 2010. Real estate biggies have all announced huge plans to unroll malls and other retail formats across the country. The figures are mind-boggling, to say the least. DLF will be spending Rs. 1600 crore on developing malls over the next four years.

Reliance Retail is planning to splurge Rs 2500 crore for opening different formats in the next three years, and the Kishore Biyani-owned Future Group, India’s largest retailer group, will be investing Rs 3600 crore in 100 stores in 30 cities, increasing its retail space from 3.5 million square feet to 30 million sq feet by 2010. Future Group also plans to have 100 Big Bazaars up and running even before Wal-mart arrives in India. Nice welcome that will be for the American giant !

The reasons for this growth are many. A booming economy coupled with a growing affluent middle class has significantly increased the purchasing power of people. Lifestyle habits have shifted from austerity to complete self-indulgence. There is greater emphasis on personal care items and luxury goods. Urbanisation has lead to densely packed cities and towns which has led to the retail giants rolling out stores after stores in almost all A and B class cities in the country. Additionally, saturation of retail business in the European and other Asian markets has prompted foreign retailers to set shop in India. The dream run of the Retail Industry has thus opened vast employment opportunities for the youngsters in India.

Management graduates are in demand for Inventory Management, Brand Management and Supply Chain Management. Finance professionals are needed for accounting, cost control and analytical functions. The Retail industry is a customer oriented industry and thus the skills of HR Managers are required for training, motivation and man power management. A large number of professionals are also needed in the marketing and sales department. Facilities management and project management require the expertise of technical professionals. Visual Merchandising is another important aspect of retailing and creates opportunities for designers, decorators and people with an artistic background. Skilled manpower is also required for security and safety management. Moreover, from an ecological point of view, waste and energy management professionals are also in demand.

Thus, the retail industry has opened various avenues for graduates all across the country. B-Schools in India too are offering tailor made courses for Retailing. The K.J. Somaiya institute of Management and the Welingkar Institute from Mumbai, MICA Ahmedabad and the Chennai School of Business are a few of the B-Schools which are offering retail friendly courses.

The organized retail industry has a work force of 1.2 million people. The retailers association of India estimates that two million people will be required in the next two years. That’s almost twice the number of people that the industry currently employs. Even in its current size, the industry is facing a man power shortage or rather a woman power shortage. The retail industry is one of the few industries where the women are recruited in almost the same proportion as the men. Women form only 6% of the India’s organized workplace. The retail industry hopes to better that. It has opened a floodgate of opportunities for females as they are required in large numbers for front office functions as well as sales promotion jobs including the BP0s. In fact the industry is offering jobs to women ranging from one hour to five hours a day as per their convenience. Maternity leaves and other benefits are also being offered to the women.

The transformation that has taken place here is quite phenomenal. The evolution of retail in India is much faster than that in the US. Growth of organised retail is likely to have a positive impact not only on end consumers, but also on employment generation, supply chain efficiency, agricultural practices, sourcing from India, etc. The retail boom has brought about a revolution. India cannot skip it, it must accelerate through it. Of course, there are challenges ahead, like rentals, manpower, supply-chain and back-end organization. The current state of the Indian retail sector is still in infancy as compared to the rest of the world. Modernisation of this sector represents a significant opportunity for us. Indian retailing is clearly at a tipping point. Organised retail, besides benefiting the consumers by way of competitive product pricing and quality service, is introducing the Indian consumer to a shopping experience like never before.

There is everything for everyone, Shopping, food, entertainment and all of it under one roof. The Indian retail scenario is poised for a quantum leap. The retail industry is being looked upon as not just a harbinger of limitless opportunities for the youngsters but also as a potent catalyst in the growth of the Indian economy.

Shishir Srivastava

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