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Retail Guru S.C. Misra no more

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R S Roy
R S Roy
R S Roy is the editorial advisor at IMAGES Group

S C Misra was a seasoned veteran in modern retail and an inspiration to the likes of Damodar Mall

By R S Roy

New Delhi: Transformer of thousands of family-run shops and kiranas into profitable modern retail chains and an inspiration to many retail industry stalwarts like Damodar Mall, S.C. Misra (or Misraji as he was lovingly called) left for his heavenly abode at 11:49 AM at Heritage Hospital in Varanasi today. He was 85 years old and would have turned 86 in August.

He moved to Varanasi about seven years ago. He had been ailing for about two years and was hospitalized two days ago. He was cared for by Bhagirath Jalan of Varanasi, and many of his close associates like Chetan Sangoi of Sarvodaya Supermarket, Niren Shah, Anil Kankaria of Navjeevan Supermarket, Iffat Jahan, and Mohammad Azim of Metto Supermarket, among others, regularly visited him.

Early Years

Born on the auspicious Maha Janmashtami day in 1938 in Sambalpur, Odisha, the veteran’s educational qualifications included a Bachelor of Commerce, Masters of Arts, and Bachelor of Legislative Law (LLB) degrees. He retired as Director (Coop.), Govt. of India, in the Ministry of Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs, and Public Distribution, where he was in charge of consumer cooperatives. Starting as a cooperative store manager in Maharashtra, retailing handlooms, suiting, and shirting, his outstanding skills came to light when he rotated his stocks every 15 days, achieving 24 stock turns a year. He was soon entrusted with managing the entire chain of co-operative stores.

A man with magic formulas to crack retail

His language was mathematics, and he had a formula solution to every problem. “A few figures speak louder than pages of words,” he often used to say, recalls Bhagirath Jalan of Jalans. “On his very first visit to reformatted Sarvodaya in 2003, Misra ji pointed out that the aisles between two racks facing each other should be a minimum 5  ft. and not 3 ft. as was provided in the newly designed store and went on to explain the logic and science behind it. By and by, he came to share with me many more lessons, subtle and nuanced, that are the success sauce of modern F&G retail,” recalls Chetan Sangoi. In Sangoi, retail guru Misra found an eager understudy who was keen to put into action the progressive ideas of his mentor. And as an avid reader and observer, Sangoi made sure to bring back all the learnings from his international visits he undertook, and implemented many of those learnings at his store

Consultancy and impact

Before joining the Ministry, he worked as a consultant in the Consultancy and Promotion Cell (C&P Cell) of the National Coop Consumers’ Federation of India Ltd. (NCCF). As a consultant for consumer cooperatives, he was instrumental in setting up a number of supermarkets and department stores in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, and Assam, some of which are now top retailers. Under his consultancy, the retail network of the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation made rapid strides. He also worked as an administrator and chairman in a couple of small but successful consumer stores during his tenure as a lecturer in Cooperative Training Colleges at Bhubaneswar and Pune under the National Council for Cooperative Training, New Delhi.

Retail Guru S C Misra with Damodar Mall, CEO – Grocery Retail, Reliance Retail


Prolific author, speaker and consultant

He authored hundreds of articles covering almost all aspects of retailing, which were published in various leading journals. He was the most sought-after speaker in textile, retail and supermarket seminars and conferences. He also worked as a short-term consultant for the International Coop. Alliance, Regional Office for Asia and Pacific (ICA, ROAP), New Delhi, repeatedly visiting SAARC countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal in that capacity. His first book, “A Simple Manual on Management of Consumer Cooperatives,” was published by ICA, ROAP, and the first edition sold out quickly.

Training and further contributions

Misraji received training in retailing in Thailand, Japan, and Singapore. After his retirement from the Ministry, he worked as a consultant for Apna Bazar and Sahakari Bhandar in Mumbai, two of the three top retailers in the country at the time. He also provided consultancy to other private and coop. supermarkets, some of which are leaders in sales and profitability. He was involved with the retail management courses of Apna Bazar Asoka Mehta Institute of Management and Research and was a visiting faculty member for the management courses at VPM’s Institute of Management, Thane.

More than a consultant

To his clients, he was more than just a business consultant. After his retirement, Misraji received many lucrative offers and high positions, but his mission was to help family-run enterprises across India modernize and involve the new generation in the business professionally. He travelled second class by train, stayed in railway waiting rooms or as a family member with his clients, and lived on the bare minimum. While staying with his clients, he would not only advise on shop or business matters but first set the household in order before talking business. Such was his involvement with his clients.

A Legacy in Retail

Misraji studied the workings of private and coop. supermarkets in almost all the states of India, glimpses of which can be seen in various chapters of his book. His mixed experience as an auditor, teacher, bureaucrat, and consultant made for a valuable blend in his writing. Selective references to actual case situations in his book are immensely useful to professionals, students, and others.

Global Influence

Misraji travelled extensively, visiting, apart from Asian countries, the USA, Europe, Australia, and Russia, for his consultancy work and to observe the operations of top global retailers such as Walmart, Marks & Spencer, Target, Woolworths, and Migros.

An inspiration

Misraji also mentored more than 20 retail consultants across India, who are following in his footsteps and helping grocers, fashion retailers, and supermarkets modernize and grow. While thousands of family-run stores benefited from his expertise, Damodar Mall, chief executive officer of Grocery Retail at Reliance Retail is also believed to have worked extensively with Misraji in the early years of D-Mart. Misraji also consulted for Marico and Kewal Kiran & Co. (Killer Jeans). Among the prominent regional retail chains that flourished under his guidance are Dhirajsons, Patel R Mart, Jalans, Navjeevan, Sarvodaya, and Metto, to name a few. His clients prospered not only in India but also in the UAE and Africa.

Misraji will be remembered for his unwavering love for retail, his dedication to helping retailers thrive, and his lasting impact on the growth and modernization of the retail industry.

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