Much has been said and written about retail in India. We know of Kishore Biyani having seen him splattered on the cover of business magazines and various CNBC shows. We’ve also experienced DMart, Shoppers Stop and their counterparts in the glitzy malls that dot our cities.
But what you most certainly did not know of are the more devilish details. What keeps the engine running? What parts make up the whole? Who are the people running the show? What social impact is it having given the number of people its absorbing?
Supermarketwalla by veteran retailer Damodar Mall is a brilliant read. It goes well beyond the shelves and the lanes. In many places, it is an excellent deep dive into the thought and activities in the context.
And then there are some back to the basics lessons on customer retention, deep dive analysis of consumer spending (and saving) habits. The book is regularly dotted with umpteen ‘aha’ moments for the book to be a highly recommended read. Frankly, its a privilege to get ringside access to this kind of information.
To give you some background, the author Damodar Mall is the man behind Big Bazaar, DMart and is now with Reliance Retail. What really made me sit up and take note was his whole ‘watch the consumers shopping cart’, ‘follow the consumer around and see what they’re talking’ etc. etc.
To digress, isn’t this how us techies refine user experience in the products we build? Watch someone use what you’ve built. Take notes. Go back to the drawing board. Refine. Loop.
Which makes me think about the service based industry in general. Can we apply ethnographic research and good old customer empathy in more areas that are fundamentally service driven? We keep saying that the customer is the king, but India is still a while away from truly and completely treating the customer as such. But rest assured, we’ve made good progress. We’ll get there soon enough.
P.S. – Mr. Mall, if you’re reading this, would you mind meeting up for a quick cup of chai/coffee? I’m in Mumbai.