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The man who saw tomorrow

He has a head start in retail, but Kishore Biyani may have already begun to gravitate towards his next big squeeze: Financial services.

Brian Carvalho | Print Edition: June 15, 2008

Till six months ago, in his own words, Kishore Biyani was an “eternal optimist”. Today, he’s transformed into a “realist”. “It’s my next phase in life,” shrugs the Chairman of the Rs 8,600 crore Future Group, which has today moved away from retail into financial services (consumer finance and insurance), logistics & supply chain, retail media and brand development. “But I will never be a pessimist,” he adds for good measure.

Kishore Biyani: Future Perfect
Kishore Biyani
Serendipitiously, Biyani’s phase of eternal optimism coincided swimmingly with a dizzying bout of assetcreation by Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd. Consider: The man who put up the first Pantaloons retail store in 1997 has been on overdrive ever since.

Result? A clutch of retail formats that cover some 9 million square feet of retail space in 55 cities (and 65 villages, courtesy the acquisition of a 70 per cent stake in Aadhar from Godrej).

These include five mature formats: Central (seven of such lifestyle malls), Pantaloons (40), Big Bazaar hypermarkets (90), six discount stores called Brand Factory, and 135 Food Bazaars.

“We’ve built a good momentum over the past two-three years. As a result, we are the largest in every category we operate in, in terms of size and scale,” he says.

Fashion and foods co-exist nicely at Future Group, with the former set to become a $1-billion business in the current year, accounting for 40 per cent of sales at the group level.

Foods (which will also include home & personal care items) will bring in 34-35 per cent of revenues. What worries Biyani is the higher cost of doing business, and the uncertainty over more consumers joining the retail revolution.

That may well be the reason for Biyani gravitating towards financial services. After all, if you can’t get consumers to spend, you could attempt to tap their savings!

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