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Corporate leaders and students engage at Retail Renaissance

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SVKM’s NMIMS University in association with Saville Row recently co-hosted a seminar titled “Retail Renaissance”, at Taj Lands End, Bandra, Mumbai.

The corporate retail symposium was conceptualised by students of MBA-Retail Management as an event wherein industry experts and leaders could engage the student community to better understand the critical issues faced by the retail sector. “Internationalisation in retail has led to a lot of speculation on retailing strategies; global best practices vis-à-vis the art of Indian retailing; global formats vis-à-vis local retailing points; organisational design; and other issues. Retail Renaissance is an endeavour by the students of retail management to create a knowledge interface with experts and leaders to better understand these issues,” stated Kondap, vice chancellor, SVKM’s NMIMS University.

Delivering the inaugural address, Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor consultants, held forth on the potential of retail and the new concept of retail branding. He emphasised, “Retail branding is not about branding competence; it is about shopkeeping competence. Experience at the shop floor is retail branding. Retail branding is one-is-to-one and not one-to-many. It is front-face branding and is everything that mass branding is not.” Bijoor reminded that service in retail will be a critical differentiator. “Retail is about service loyalty and not brand loyalty. Retail competence and brand competence will remain two different circles.”

Gibson Vedamani, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI), chaired the second session, “Devising Retail Strategies for the Indian Market.” He was joined by Vishal Mirchandani, CEO, Piramyd Retail, who offered new perspectives on consumer behaviour; and Andrew Levermore, CEO, HyperCity, who articulated his views on the location strategies of innovative formats – a difficult topic in the Indian context. Levermore touched upon the issues that affect location planning and the sustainability of destination formats, stating, “Going forward, destination shopping will be the biggest and strongest survivor.” Talking about the issues in town planning, he warned that high density of malls within a small area is not good for the industry in the long run and some sort of regulation is required. “Tenant mix is the crucial ‘make or break’ in the shopping centre. The anchor determines the ‘make or break’ of the mall in the long term. Retailing is all about how many reasons do I have to visit a shopping centre. Hypercity has the highest sales/square feet in the country because of the multiple reasons to visit the store.” Addressing the talent issues in the industry, he said, “It is more important that the parent generation accepts retailing as a career choice. The youth today has a connect with modern retail, they hang out at cafés, they play Microsoft x-box at the stores, but it’s the parent generation who will have to change their mindset.”

Other speakers included Rajan Saxena, senior advisor to chancellor, NMIMS University; Bijou Kurien, CEO, Luxury and Lifestyle, Reliance Retail; Ajay Mehra, COO, Times Retail; Sudarshan, managing partner, EMA Consultants; Sanjay Jog, chief people officer, Future Group; Tanaya Mishra, head, HR, Shoppers’ Stop; Harshvendra Soin, chief learning officer, Aditya Birla Retail; Ritu Yadav, head, Learning Development Function, Essar Group; and Trevor Rodrigues, senior vice president, HR, Pyramid Retail Ltd.

While Bijou Kurien talked about sourcing in the context of the current retailing environment, Harshvendra Soin brought up another topical issue – people in retail. “Our main issues are lack of domain knowledge, balancing functional expertise and operational challenges, scale vs cost, integration and goal setting.”

Students of MBA-Retail Management presented a study on consumer behaviour from a research perspective; this was part of the study that the retail batch conducted on an all-India basis over two time periods – April-May and August-September. This is an ongoing activity by MBA-Retail Management to add to the understanding of consumer behaviour in India.

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