Hiring in the retail sector
has dropped sharply. It needs fewer people and is also becoming more discriminating. High inflation, which has led to a drop in consumer demand, is certainly a factor. "This industry is driven by consumer sentiment," says E. Balaji, Managing Director and CEO, Ma Foi Randstad, an HR firm. "When consumers are unsure of their salaries, they will postpone big-ticket purchases. This automatically has an effect on retail sales and through it on hiring."
But with fewer openings to fill, retail companies are also getting choosy. Industry insiders claim many aspiring to join the sector are unaware of the roles and responsibilities it entails. "Companies are now raising the bar while recruiting," says Thomas Varghese, Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry's National Council of Retail. He is also Managing Director, Retail, Aditya Birla Group.
V. Suresh, Executive Vice President and National Head, Sales, naukri.com, a job portal, maintains employer scepticism extends to recruitment at midcareer and senior levels, too.
"Around eight to 20 years of experience across different domains like merchandise, operational delivery, supply chain management, accounting and information technology will be prerequisites for any mid-career or senior level appointments," he says. Some of those already recruited are not measuring up. The Aditya Birla Group, for instance, has become cautious about promoting employees as a matter of course, simply because they have spent some years with the company.
"A store staff member may not possess the qualities required in a store manager," says Varghese. To improve skillsets, the Future Group - which runs the Big Bazaar chain - has been offering MBAs in retail services in collaboration with Indira Gandhi National Open University since 2010.
However, in the long run, the situation is bound to improve. Organised retail is still at such a nascent stage in the country that it has to grow. "I expect huge expansion in the next two to three years," says Suresh. "Companies will double or even treble the number of stores as they move into Tier-II and Tier-III cities."
Again, if the currently stalled proposal to allow 51 per cent foreign ownership in multi-brand retail is accepted at some stage, the expansion that is certain to follow will create many new jobs.