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“Pick up early signals of the adversity and prepare for it accordingly”

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In 2001, Pantaloon Retail India Ltd. launched Big Bazaar as an early concept of a hypermarket chain in the category in India with a combination of look and feel of Indian bazaars along with the aspects of modern retail in terms of choice, convenience and hygiene. The venture was then headed by Rajan Malhotra.

Malhotra, president, Retail Strategy for Future Group has been with the organisation since the conceptualisation of Big Bazaar and has been instrumental in the growth of the hypermarket – a chain with 116 stores nationwide. 

A post graduate in Business Administration, he started his career as a management trainee with The Raymond Group in Mumbai in October, 1990. Malhotra’s association with Future Group started in February 2000 as an export manager to become the president, Retail Strategy for Future Group.

In a valuable conversation with IndiaRetailing, Malhotra shares his way of approaching entrepreneurial activities and understanding of the mindset of Indian consumers.

IndiaRetailing (IR): What is the driving philosophy of retail operations at Future Group?
Rajan Malhotra (RM): The driving philosophy for the retail operations in Future Group is to ensure overall customer satisfaction along with running stores efficiently at a minimal cost.

IR: While taking your retail operation forward in the Indian context, what is the biggest learning from the current slowdown?
RM: In any critical situation it is important to be able to pick up early signals of the adversity and prepare for it accordingly. For us in Future Group, the current situation has been taken as an opportunity and is being used to further invest in technology and streamlining the retail operations to make the experience better for our customers.

IR: Your personal vision when it coming to leading your retail team.
RM: I believe that the human potential is infinite. All other assets at your disposal have finite potential; only the human asset potential is infinite and if you excite and guide people in the right direction they can deliver the best at any point of time.

IR: Given the two schools of thought that are currently dominating the Indian retail industry — ‘aggressive expansion’ versus ‘slow but steady expansion’ — which has attracted you as your own retail strategy?
RM: The strategy adopted should be relevant to what the company wants to achieve in the given scenario of the market and competition around the same. As a division we were in an aggressive expansion strategy at times when there was opportunity as it is also important to build scale in retail. However, in the changing market dynamics it is important to conserve cash and utilise the same judiciously with slow and steady expansion as the focal point.

IR: Your comment on the expression ‘Powerful Retailer’. According to you, which are the three most ‘powerful retailers’ in the world and why.
RM: A powerful retailer is the one who has the ability to create demand as well as ensure meeting the customers’ requirements. The definition could mean different things for different markets though.

According to my knowledge, the three most powerful retailers across the world would be firstly ‘Wal-Mart’ for its scale of operations and network and its ability to impart changes in the retail industry as a whole; secondly would be the Inditex Group that runs the Zara stores. They have almost single handedly brought high fashion to the customers successfully across various geographies and cultural groups; thirdly I would name for its impact on the internet shopping concept.

By Sangita Ghosh

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