A decade ago a walk through Marol in Mumbai would have left one wondering if at all the place would ever see an iota of development, forget the entry of modern retail. Dead as it was with undone roads and community clusters occupying majority of the residential premises! It was somewhere in 2002 that Vershi Chheda decided to do something no one had thought of till then when it came to opening an airconditioned Supermarket in that area by the name Tanvi Super Market.
Just when Vershi Chheda turned 15, he decided it was time to leave his hometown and come to the city of dreams to plan his life ahead. With absolutely zero vocational education and next to zero fl uency in English, he set out to do menial jobs at various kirana and stationary stores. Having spent close to fi ve years doing odd jobs, he decided it was time for him to do something on his own. “I bought a cycle with a carrier and during those days “farsaan” (light Indian dry snacks) used to do very well. I decided to enter this line of profession, and from 8.00 a.m. to about 9.00 p.m. I would be on the roads taking orders and delivering the “farsaan” to shops across Mumbai. Within two years, I purchased my own tempo for delivery as business grew as physically it wasn’t possible for me to cycle all the time,” recounts Chheda.
Sowing the Seed
It was somewhere in the late 1990s when Chheda suddenly realised that this is not what he had come to Mumbai for. In his own words, “One fi ne day I just thought that this certainly wasn’t what I was here for. How long would I continue to spend my days just taking orders and delivering. I had to set up a business that was enterprising and would be sustainable in the long run. I always wanted to have a shop from where I could serve the customers.” This one thought paved way for him to rent a shop and begin the business of laundry services. Why laundry? “Simply because it involves zero investment. You have to simply outsource all the work. Your shop just becomes a collection point,” he shares. The business of “farsaan” was still running but now he had someone else to look after it and he devoted all his time to further tap the market gaps and launch something of his own.
His search brought him to Marol which back then wasn’t at all on the radar of any development activities –either in retail or real estate. It is a different story now that Marol has some of the most posh buildings in Mumbai. Narrowing down on a shop, he decided to make it a general store. And not just any other general store but a mini air-conditioned supermarket naming it after one of his three daughters Tanvi. Talking about the launch, he says: “I took a risk, but it has eventually paid off extremely well.”
Beating the Odds and Overcoming the Roadblocks
Elaborating on his journey, he shares: “Back then it was niche to have a modern self-service store in a residential area but today it has become a norm. Yes, I did have people telling me I was doing a very foolish thing and for the first six months we weren’t even making Rs 8,000 a day, though things quickly changed and today we have more than a 1,000 footfalls in a day. I expanded my offering to include fresh fruits and vegetables and in the evening we would offer chaat and other fast food items to allow easy walk-ins.” He further adds: “Be it an order of `
Vershi Chheda, Owner, Tanvi Super Market 10 or `10,000, I accept home delivery orders from each of my customers. I don’t believe in refusing anything to what a customer wants. Each of my staff is a family member to me. From providing boarding and lodging, I take care of all their medical needs as well. And this is what I think we all need to do as the people who are working for us are doing it with an expectation that their needs shall be taken care of.”
Look and Learn
Quick to adopt things around and adapt to the same if need be, Chheda would spend a lot of his time visiting various modern retail stores in the city. Chheda informs: “There are lots of things I have learnt from big names that entered post the revolution of modern retail in India, though the most important would be visual merchandising. But here I would like to state that majority of my learning has happened because of listening to what my customer wants. From stocking chopped vegetables to offering packaged pulses and grains, it is the customer who has guided me throughout.”
Talking about his experience over the years with regards to retail in India, he says: “It is only slated to grow. Consumers today want everything at lightning speed. Earlier they would rely on us to help them choose something, but today they exactly know what they want. The power of media and advertising has influenced retail in India like never before and we need to keep pace with the changing trends and innovations.”
What Makes Him an Entrepreneur?
Chheda went ahead to use his skills and introduce concepts and range that he hadn’t experienced for himself. He was quick to understand that the best way to offer exceptional customer service is to empathise with a customer and step in her shoes to gage the demand and acceptance of goods and services. He really doesn’t know how a retailer can refuse a customer of anything that she wants. For example, even if it is about delivering a packet of Maggi, he does it! As he beautifully puts it: “Where there is a will, there is a way! I don’t know how to read, write or converse in English. I haven’t even completed my schooling. But people who shop at my store consider it a one-stop shop solution for all their needs.”
*This article was originally published in the Feb 2014 issue of IMAGES Retail.