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How retail companies are trying to minimise job losses

As the retail sector is gradually opening up in the Unlock 1.0 phase, one is hearing about lay-offs, but the retail community is also trying to redeploy unutilised staff in businesses which are short of employees

twitter-logoAjita Shashidhar | June 23, 2020 | Updated 18:51 IST
How retail companies are trying to minimise job losses

Kolkata-headquartered restaurant chain, WoW! Momo, has recently redeployed 400 of its employees to lifestyle brand, Wildcraft. The lifestyle brand which has forayed into making masks has been setting up mask kiosks across cities for which it needs manpower. "We didn't do job cuts, but we had to suitably employ our people as our business came to a standstill. Therefore, we gave 400 of our employees who were not being utilised, to Wildcraft," explains Sagar Daryani, CEO and Co-founder, WoW! Momo.

The retail sector employs close to 46 million people, whose livelihood has been at stake due to the coronavirus lockdown. As the retail sector is gradually opening up in the Unlock 1.0 phase, one is hearing about lay-offs, but the retail community is also doing its bit by trying to redeploy unutilised staff in those businesses which are short of employees. Many retailers are facing a staff crisis as lot of their employees, especially those in junior levels, have gone back to their villages because of the pandemic scare. Food delivery company, BOX8, has hired 200 people from other retailers as bulk of its delivery staff have gone back to their respective homes. "The larger understanding is that they are temporary hires; they would go back to their respective employers when their businesses bounce back. At the same time, we are also hoping that our own employees would also be back in action," says Anshul Gupta, Co-founder, BOX8.

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Similarly, a Bangalore-based e-commerce company, hired 3,000 people from retailers which were looking at laying off their front-end employees. Even companies such as Future Group and Trent, which are into food and essentials retailing (Big Bazaar and Star Bazaar) are known to be hiring staff from their sister companies, FBB and Westside, which have been non-functional due to the lockdown.

"The industry is facing layoffs, but there is also a shortage of manpower. If we do proper role-mapping we can curtail job losses," says Ameesha Prabhu, CEO, TRRAIN (Trust For Retailers & Retail Associates of India). The manpower crisis in the retail sector due to the lockdown is two-pronged. On one hand, the business itself is at 50-60 per cent of its original levels so the number of people required are not high. Therefore, retailers are hesitant to keep too many people on their pay rolls. "Since its mandatory to maintain social distancing within the stores, most of them are functioning at 50 per cent of their staff strength. Moreover, most stores are open only between 10 am and 5 pm, so the second shift staff doesn't come in at all," Prabhu further explains.

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On the other hand, there are retailers and companies such as BOX8 or even large format retailers which are grappling with shortage of staff. "Companies are struggling to get their staff back. They have either gone back to their villages or are unable to travel as there is not much public transport available. We are in talks with the Government of Maharashtra to help us get back some people back at least within Maharashtra," says Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO of Retailers Association of India.

AD Singh, MD, Olive Group of Restaurants, says that several of its employees have gone back to their respective homes and the company has assured them that their jobs are safe. "Today, we have no revenue and we are not in a position to pay salaries. We have told them it will take a while for the new normal to emerge and once it does, we will take them back." The Olive Group, (which owns brands such as Olive and SodaBottleOpenerWala), currently has only eight out of its 37 restaurants operational. "Out of the eight, only four are open for dining. The business is quite slow, but if 50 per cent of our business comes back and 60 per cent staff are willing to come, then we can hire back everybody, pay 5/6th of their salaries and keep the business going," says Singh.

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