Indian consumerism has seen a rapid change in the last few years and will continue to evolve at a similar or a faster rate, says Manan Gada, Owner, Society Stores, Mumbai. Gada opines that a progressive grocer must have a vision of what the retail industry would look like three to five years down the line.
When was Society Stores set up?
Society Stores was started by my grandfather Ratanshi Gada in 1969. It was a corner shop on Juhu Road, Santacruz West. Six months later he bought the one right next, despite objections from the family members. But all that my grandfather said was: “Our future generation will thank us for this.” My father Laxmichand Gada jjoined the business in 1975. Today, our store measuring 1200 sqft is positioned as an ideal convenience store.
How did the store evolve over the years?
There wasn’t much development in the area 45 years back. Looking at the sky-high real estate prices today, my father and I feel that it was my grandfather’s long-term vision of the market place that drove him to set up a food and grocery business. Today, ours is a prime spot in a premium locality. In 1998, my father decided to change the format of the shop, and Society Stores, which used to be a general kirana store, transformed into a convenience mart; in fact, we were amongst the first to embrace the modern format. The second transformation happened in 2006. With the changing lifestyles of Indian consumers, my father realized that dairy products would become a significant part of the store’s total sale, so he installed a 12 ft long chiller; it changed the look-and-feel of the store. With an extra chilling area, we started selling fresh fruits and vegetables as well, and thus brought more convenience to our customers. The third transformation came about in 2010, when we purchased an adjoining shop and further expanded the store. We have been seeing a consistent growth of 18-20 percent.
What would be your key learnings over the years?
In the retail industry, be it apparel, FMCG, or food and grocery, the customer is always the king. Everything in our store is designed keeping customer convenience in mind. Our approach is quality-centric and we believe in service with a smile. We also believe that there has to be some value additions, be it in some extra service offered or a wide product mix, that you should be able to give to your customers. This separates you from the rest and establishes customer loyalty.
Who, according to you, is a progressive grocer?
Indian consumerism has seen a rapid change in the last few years and will continue to evolve at a similar or a faster rate. A progressive retailer is one who keeps up with the latest trends and changing consumer lifestyle, consumer behaviour and their expectations from a grocer. Moreover, a progressive grocer has a vision of what the retail industry would look like 3 to 5 years down the line; he would not only predict the change in consumerism, but also gear up to serve his customers accordingly.
Grocer(s) who you admire the most.
My personal favourite is an American supermarket chain called Safeway. The quality of the products offered are far superior than most supermarket chains. Also, the warmth you feel when you enter Safeway adds on to the look-and-feel of the store. The innovative virtual supermarket that Tesco has come up with in Korea is equally appreciable. Such innovations bring additional convenience to consumers.
If not a grocer, you would like to be….?
The retail industry looks quite simple on paper but is just as complicated and challenging when you actually become a part of it. I joined the business part time when I was in my first year of engineering in 2006. In August 2010, I went to the United States for studies. I joined my family business full time early this year. However, despite having a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering, I do not see myself as anything else other than a retailer of food and grocery. This industry has tremendous scope for growth in India, and moreover, the satisfaction I get when I see a smile on our customer’s face at the end of the day is something that not many industries can offer.
Any plans for the future?
Consumerism in India is evolving rapidly and the retail industry is booming. We continuously emphasize on customer service and their convenience. We are working on a couple of projects. However, our present model is a successful one, we are planning to replicate it. Moreover, with the consumers getting tech savvy day-by-day, an online store is also in the pipeline.