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Training the trainers

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Addressing a seminar on retail recently, Ashwani Kumar, minister of state for industry, had said that skills upgrade of professionals will remain a major challenge for the retail sector in India. What he probably missed to address are the measures needed to upgrade the skills of those who are going to train these professionals.

Most retail schools in India depend either on occasional visitors from the corporate retail world or on short-term internship tie-ups with retail companies to get their students trained practically.

Suggesting measures to make the retail training profession glamorous and more experienced, Sudip Mallik, CEO, Retail Training Solutions, said, “Seminars and programs to train the retail faculty can help the industry in narrowing the crunch of experienced trainers. These workshops can be planned and executed in such a way that people interested in academics will be drawn to the retail education bandwagon.”

Mallik further added that professionals from other backgrounds, who are looking for a change in their career preferences, but have a considerable amount of practical experience, can also come in and choose to be a retail trainer. “There are many people who do not want to continue their corporate career and want to get into academics. We can invite non-retail experts in various fields including HR, marketing and corporate communications to gather a basic idea about the retail sector and then become trainers,” he added.

Besides, according to Mallik, the industry might work in sync with various institutes to generate more experienced and professional trainers. “Retailers can try and explore the option of sending their employees to retail schools where they can share their ‘on-the-floor’ experiences with students. This can add a corporate flavour to the profession of retail education and hence can attract more talented and experienced individuals,” Mallik added.

NP Sinha, dean, Institute of Management Excellence (IME), said: “With the retail boom in the country, various management institutes have introduced numerous courses on retail, but these courses are being taught by general management teachers. These teachers have never gained any practical experience and thus deliver a theoretical overview to the students.”

Calling the present structure ‘biased academics’, Sinha held that the country’s retail education is being driven by textbook knowledge. “This course specifically requires trained industry professionals with experience in retailing at the front end. Textbook knowledge can never guide a student to be a future retailer,” he said.

Citing solutions, Sinha said that the institutes must also revive their pay structures to draw in trained retail professionals; teaching should be made to appear as lucrative a job as a corporate/ management position. “Corporates, obviously, pay more than the schools; hence, an experienced professional will always prefer working for a retailer than teach retailing.”

Retail Training Solutions is a company that works in sync with the industry and academics and provides solutions to the problems that both sides are facing. The company will be hosting a seminar on August 30 in Noida, UP, wherein it will bring in professionals from various fields to imbibe knowledge about the retail sector.

This will be the company’s first seminar and will be held every Saturday subsequently. Each week, industry stalwarts will disseminate information and knowledge about the practical operations of the country’s retail sector.

Commenting on the response to the seminar, Mallik said, “We have been getting overwhelming responses, especially from people who are not at all related to the retail industry. People from backgrounds as diverse as hotel management, HR, public relations and other corporate professions have enrolled for the seminar.”

Describing their role as a training solutions provider, Mallik said, “We are like a bridge between the industry and the academia. We work for the betterment for both and hence deal with issues and problems that need to be addressed very seriously.”

— Satrajit Sen

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