Raghu Pillai – who died of a massive heart attack in Chennai on April 10, 2011 – was a firm believer in the Indian growth story. He often said customers were ready for new experiments – a belief that was translated into action, given the manner in which Future Group and Reliance Retail have expanded their horizon.
Pillai was among the industry stalwarts who pioneered the concept of modern retail in India in the 1990s. Almost every retail industry veteran would have worked with him or interacted with him and gained from his long experience, deep knowledge and leadership in the industry.
A big fan of music, he spent many years with Gramophone Company of India (popularly known as HMV, a company that RPG Group bought over many years ago).
At RPG Retail, he was responsible for introduction of various formats such as Foodworld, Musicworld, Health & Glow and Giant Hypermarkets and later on moved to Reliance Retail, where he was Group CEO for Strategy, Operations and Business Development. In October 2010, Pillai rejoined Future Group as CEO of Future Value Retail and Executive Member of the Board.
As a member of the Group Executive Board, he had dreamt of and developed the 20-20 vision for the group to achieve a $20-bn turnover.
His keen sense of understanding of markets and consumers came from his hands-on extensive experience – he used to spend a lot of time at retail stores.
Pillai was one person whom the entire retail industry looked up to – the first retail professional in this country to pave way for thousands of those who followed this unchartered territory.
Deeply respected among his colleagues in retailing as well as the Indian corporate sector as a whole, Pillai was unparalleled in the industry in his role as the leader who set up many leading retail chains in India across different business houses. However, what is lesser known is his involvement with and mentoring of a number of young entrepreneurs in the country.
Pillai enjoyed a long-term relationship with IMAGES Group and was a frequent speaker at several of IMAGES’ industry events.
At the 2008 edition of India Retail Forum, Pillai had spoken about the challenges being faced by the modern retail sector. “The major challenges today in the retail sector are the availability of retail space, infrastructure, technology, skilled manpower, legislative policies, licensing and supply chain management,” he had said.
Pillai was 53 years old and is survived by his wife, son and daughter.
– IndiaRetailing Bureau