Rewards of the retail boom

The growth in the retail industry is not only creating massive job opportunities at all levels, but has also launched a wave of entrepreneurs.

Namrata Dadwal        Print Edition: September 2009

When I asked my father to lend me Rs 25,000 to start a business, he was perplexed and insisted I don’t leave my job for some harebrained scheme,” says Sarita Sarvria, founder, Express Housekeepers. It was 1990 and the scheme involved providing housekeeping services. Her first client was a shop at Khan Market, Delhi. Fortunately, Sarvria’s father indulged her, though he never imagined that the endeavour would result in a Rs 55-crore company. But then, like most Indians, he could not have foreseen the boom in the Indian economy and the subsequent explosion in the retail sector.

It isn’t as if retail is a new field, but in India it has been rather amorphous. The retail industry employs nearly 25 million people, of whom almost 95% are in the unorganised sector. However, the recent emergence of malls and a network of brands has helped organised retail come into its own.

The opportunities
A study conducted by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations says that the country’s retail industry will grow at 10% a year to $496 billion in 2011-12 and that the organised retail segment will grow at a much faster pace of 45-50%. Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia said in a written statement to the Lok Sabha that the “retail trade is estimated to grow at 13% a year from $322 billion in 2006-7 to $590 billion in 2011-12”. There may be discrepancies in the projected figures, but there is no doubt that the retail sector is set to expand and most of it is going to be in organised retail as more supermarkets come up.

According to another study, Reinventing India’s Retail Sector, by KPMG and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Indian cities have the potential to accommodate over 300 hypermarkets (a combination of supermarket and department store that usually covers an area of more than 50,000 sq ft). The retail bonanza is bringing with it the need for trained and skilled professionals who can perform mundane services as well as niche ones. If even a fraction of the projected figures is correct, this could translate into 50 million jobs in the next three years.

An advantage in the sector is that opportunities are open at all levels and the choices are varied. You can work in the field that interests you, be it automobiles, food or luxury products, and you don’t need a long list of degrees.

“Many freshers apply with us after they pass out of school. In fact, working at McDonald’s is the first job for a lot of them,” says Sandip Maithal, director, people resources and organisations, McDonald’s. The retail industry entices several young people as it allows them to pursue their education while working in shifts, and pays a decent salary. For instance, at McDonald’s, a part-time employee earns Rs 5,200 a month, along with free meals.

Skills and qualifications
Currently, there is a dearth of trained professionals in the sector. This has prompted many institutes to design specific courses aimed at training students in retail management. The courses range from a three-month certificate to a twoyear, full-time MBA (see The Right Professional Qualification). Short-term courses concentrate on providing training for front-end operations, which include sales executives and team leaders. The longer courses offer tutelage in back-end operations such as logistics, visual merchandising, supply chain management, etc.

Some corporates have also tied up with institutes to design programmes and take in students after the completion of the course. The Retailers Association of India (RAI), which includes industry heavyweights, has tied up with 80 institutes across the country. It has also tied up with IGNOU to offer BBA in retailing to employees at a concessional fee of Rs 5,000. Meanwhile, Pantaloons Retail has an arrangement with the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research as well as with the Welingkar Institute of Management to offer an MBA in retail management.

Apart from degrees, what you need to develop is people and communication skills. Says Virendra Rawat, general manager, Pacific Mall, Delhi: “Mall management requires you to know something about everything, ranging from technical knowledge and security to event management. You also need to learn how to remain calm during a crisis. Your problemsolving skills aren’t limited to customers but also cover the retailers who have leased shops in your mall,” he says.

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