As business leaders, we believe we know it all and therefore never prepare for a downturn. When the slowdown actually hits, most reactions are knee-jerk, and we start seeking advice from everyone other than our truly loyal customers.
However, in 2008 I got advice when I met many wellwishers, including customers, and I along with Govind (Shrikhande), then CEO and now the Managing Director, made quite a few decisions which then looked risky, contrarian and ground-defying. In hindsight, all the decisions have proved right.
A slowdown is the best time to put your might behind the brand. When the slowdown hit, Shoppers Stop changed its logo and byline, and launched a campaign under a new brand identity and logo called "Start Something New".
Customers show their loyalty by coming to your stores, but retailers do not respond by delivering the required level of service. Loyalty programmes are a result of organisational loyalty to customers and customers' loyalty to organisations. Shoppers Stop promoted heavily and gave maximum benefits to its First Citizen Members during that period. This helped increase the programme contribution and the company also came out with a better performance during the downturn.
Further, employees are as concerned about a company's health as the promoters and the top management. The management team of Shoppers Stop took a voluntary pay cut to tide over the situation. These three lessons are engraved in my mind and I believe these are universal truths.