Promoter & Director
Qmart Retail Ltd
BVK Raju, widely regarded as being among the first-movers of modern retail in India, is a marketing professional and entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in handling diverse products such as office automation equipment, satellite reception and distribution systems, stationery and paper products and FMCG. Having headed the marketing initiatives of several companies, he has particularly extensive knowledge of the tenets of retailing and distribution.
Besides handling customer relations, imports and product category management at Q-Mart, Raju’s business interests also include retailing, construction and IT services.
“Retail has been my passion,’ he says referring to Q-Mart, the lifestyle destination supermarket located in the upscale area of Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. Spread over 18,000 sq.ft, the store carries an extensive range of groceries, personal care products, snacks & ice creams, vegetables, meats, dairy products, stationery, chocolates & confectionery, juices & beverages, cosmetics, plastic ware & home needs, toys & games, crockery & glassware, pet care products, cleaning products, imported, speciality and gourmet foods.
Q-Mart has an upper-income customer profile that comes from all over the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Many of the products sold are available exclusively at Q-Mart, which logged an annual turnover of over Rs 250 million and an average footfall of over 1500 per day last year.
[“Retailers will have to continue enriching the in-store experience and create value, which will wean the consumer away from the computer.”]
In the 15 years since Raju’s stewardship of the Q-Mart brand began, he has seen the Indian retail character transform from traditional to modern, not only in terms of formats but also consumer preferences. “The phenomenal range of products and the reach of modern retail, combined with the ever discerning consumers, has not only pushed up consumption substantially, but also opened up new categories and opportunities,” he notes.
“Our understanding and timely reactions to these market dynamics have been our biggest learnings and reason for successfully running the business all these years,” he adds.
Staying with the theme of learning, Raju picks out Future Group founder Kishore Biyani as his most admired business icon in retailing. “His (Biyani’s) understanding of the Indian retail market and his timely investments and dis-investments are phenomenal. He walks the talk in retail,” he says.
In the modern digital world, what does he believe brick-n-mortar retailers should do to successfully navigate the changes in consumer behaviour?
“Whenever new business formats emerge, they initially draw very high attention and tend to get hyped. We’ve seen this with the advent of modern retail also a few years ago,” Raju points out. “Yes, there is bound to be some amount of churn, but eventually all this will consolidate and stabilise. What will grow exponentially will be consumption, which will drive overall growth. Western markets have already seen this phenomenon and have matured to a large extent where all formats survive and grow.”
While he admits that e-commerce has definitely influenced consumer behaviour, the experience of ‘touch and feel’, talking to a salesman and in-store ambience will continue to drive brick and mortar retail, he believes. “While the latter may not have an advantage in terms of price, it is unbeatable in terms of personalised customer service and touch & feel.”
“But, retailers will have to continue enriching the in-store experience and create value which will wean away the consumer from the computer. An integrated approach with knowledgeable and courteous employees providing exceptional customer service, understanding the changing consumer preferences and reacting quickly to it, impressive visual merchandising combined with an attractive e-commerce online portal, will be needed to adapt to the changes in the marketplace,” he adds.
And does this apply to Q-Mart as well? “We’ve been slow in expanding — both on the brick and mortar as well as online formats,’ he acknowledges, adding that the company intends to correct this soon. “In the near future, it is our intent to evolve Q-mart into an integrated brick and mortar chain and e-commerce portal catering to the niche markets in speciality food and home retail,” he concludes.
By Nupur Chakraborty