Intro: The Retail Industry in India has come forth as one of the most dynamic and fast paced industries with several players entering the market. Every retailers’ greatest asset — their own employee base — can make a powerful difference when engaged in these efforts. Suresh Sadhwani, CEO, Brand Factory shares his journey in retail and the ‘people focus’ aspect of building his organisation…
BYLINE: Suresh Sadhwani, CEO Brand Factory – CCA to CEO
Q. Give us a brief introduction of your background and your journey in retail.
I am a B. Com graduate, born and brought up in a middle-class business family. As luck would have it, I was the first one to move out of family business and get into the service. Retail was a far cry back then and was known more as a tailor and nothing much was known about it. I got a job of sales assistant at a ‘The Wearhouse’, one of the retail outlets in Kolkata in 1995. Though it was not a professional set up, it gave a solid base which helped me in getting a job of Team Leader at the Pantaloons in the same year.
At the Pantaloons Gariahat Store in Kolkata, I actually began my professional career. Slowly and steadily, I climbed up the ladder to become ADM / DM / ASM and eventually became the Store Manager of Pantaloons Camac in 2001. Later, I was promoted to head the eastern zone. We opened many successful Pantaloons stores in Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, Siliguri etc.
In 2010, I moved to the Corporate Office in Mumbai and was asked to head operations for Pantaloons. In 2013, I was leading ‘Brand Factory’, the only discount chain in the country. The last few years have been a journey where both Pantaloons and the customers discovered the immense proposition the format brings.
Q. What have been the key learnings from the first few years of your career?
Retailing is trading, and it is as simple as that. It gets complex as the scale increases. For me, a combination of ‘handling inventory’, ‘customers’ and most importantly ‘a good team’ was the core of it then and even now.
Q. How has that helped you in leading your current organisation?
I believe that the ground level knowledge, that comes only by experience helps in understanding and solving the problem at the stores, both from a customer and staff point of view. If one can relate to the problem, he can definitely solve it.
Q. What would you say are the key factors in building a retail organisation as a great place to work?
If we are the ear of our teams and just listen to them with our heart, there is no issue that the problem cannot be resolved. If the communication medium is good and problems are taken care off, the team is happy and is on your side. It is a win-win situation completely, we get a great team that leads to a great feedback and service mechanism. Retail is not a rocket science, as people are at the core of it. It should start and end with them and rest works around it.
Q. Would you recommend retail as a career option to the young aspirants of India?
The good part about retail is that anyone and everyone can scale the heights. All you need is the dedication and common sense. Once you get that going and start loving what you do, it gets simpler and successful. Retail gave me the opportunity, despite me neither having any experience nor specialised skills of it.