By Sheetal Srivastava Reddy
October 4, 2012, Mumbai
With the advent of modern retailing in India, retail functions need specific skills to ensure performance and these professional retail skills are rare. Though some of the leading management as well as educational institutes across India have created short-term and post-graduate courses in retail management, there still exists a demand and supply gap along with the need for efficient manpower in the retail sector. With growth and expansion come a lot of competition; hence, quality of work becomes the primary differentiator. But a lack of supply of quality manpower in this area is increasingly being viewed as a serious issue by the retail industry.
In line with this, Retailers Association of India (RAI) along with Ascent recently held its 6th conclave in human resources - Manning Modern Retailing (MMR) at Hyatt Regency, Mumbai. The theme for MMR this year was ‘Building the enabling culture in Indian retail: Reconciling business imperatives and human values'.
Welcoming the gathering, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India pointed out that it is only through learning and sharing that the industry can move ahead and retail being ‘people' centric, it is only apt to say that the role of an HR manager is important and pivotal to motivate the internal employees, which have a direct co-relation to the external audience of the brand."
Taking over from Rajagopalan was Bijay Sahoo, chairman, RASCI; chairman, RAI HR Committee and president and chief people officer, Reliance Retail. Sahoo briefed the audience about RASCI apart from emphasising on the role of HR for any successful business enterprise. "The senior leadership of an organisation has maximum impact over the culture and so do the HR professionals as well. The Indian retail industry is at a critical juncture at the moment. On one hand, the industry is still at an infancy stage as far as comparison with other developed countries is concerned. On the other hand, we have tremendous growth potential and with the opening up of FDI in multi-brand retail, the growth rate of the industry is further going to accelerate," he said.
BS Nagesh, founder - TRRAIN, vice chairman - Shoppers Stop Ltd. and chairman - RAI highlighted that it was important to ensure succession in business translating to succession in employees. Nagesh mentioned the importance of building a culture within the organisation, which eventually would be imitated naturally by people associated with the organisation. According to him, it is important for the new employees to be given a chance with the experienced ones as learning from peers naturally helps. Nagesh emphasised the importance of celebrating customer service excellence at any given instance to motivate the employees.
The first panel discussion for the day - ‘Envisioning Enabling Culture for a Retail Business' had the following panelists: Sadashiv Nayak, CEO, Future Value Retail Limited; Asim Dalal, MD, The Bombay Store; V Govindraj, VP-Integrated Retail Services, Titan Industries Ltd.; and Himanshu Chakrawarti, CEO - The Mobile Store. The panelists were the ones in stating that the culture within the organisation should be role model driven. Dalal highlighted, "What you need is empowering where on-the-spot decisions can be made."
The CPO's panel discussion on ‘Aligning employee behaviour with organisational values: Experience from Indian retail' witnessed a host of industry stalwarts who discussed the topic at a macro-level. Sharing her views on the term 'value', Dr. Sujatha Sudheendra, head-human resources at Aditya Birla Finance Limited was quick to say, "Value is not just a fancy term. You have to walk the talk. It is important to create an environment for the employees to fit in."
Having a discussion on the importance of vocational training for the retail sector not only to learn the 'know-how' of retail but also to make sure basic values and principles of retail are in place were Venkataramana B, president - group HR at Landmark Group India; V Nagaraj, senior VP & CPO, Arvind Brands; Arun Vishwanath, GM - organisational learning & HR, Infiniti Retail Ltd.; Muralidhar Rao, CEO, Future Learning, Dr. Ganesh Raja, director, ITM Global Leadership Centre; Mike Wallace, CEO, Australian Retail College; Vivek Kant, GM West & South, IKYA Human Capital Solutions Pvt. Ltd. and Dr. Kartik Dave, associate professor-marketing and retail area, BIMTECH. Moderated by Basab Banerjee - head Stds & QA, NSDC, the session was titled – Academia/Vocational Training Institute perspective panel discussion on 'Strengthening Human Values and Service Orientation in Retail through Curriculums and Training'. The panel was unanimous in their opinion that the learning imparted from the beginning should ne 'service oriented'. An interesting point brought forth by Rao was that organised retail in the country was a first generation phenomenon and hence training had to be drilled down instead of taking it for granted that the employees would know it all.
The concluding and the most engaging session for the day was a panel discussion on ‘Inclusion in Retail'. Gripping the audience were panelists Meera Shenoy, founder-CEO at Youth4Jobs; Shanti Raghavan, founder, managing trustee, Ashoka Fellow; Vijaykar, senior manager-human recourses (West) - Café Coffee Day; Thoman Xavier, marketing delivery manager, Shell Retail India and Kshitija Krishnaswamy, vice president, Corporate Citizenship, Accenture. What clearly came out from the session was the fact that retail provided a very appropriate livelihood opportunity for the specially-abled people and this was a proven fact as companies like The Future Group, Café Coffee Day, Shell etc. successfully had a decent amount of their staff members (front-end and back-end) who were challenged somewhere or the other. What perhaps was most touching in this panel was to learn from Shenoy and Raghvan about the various initiatives being undertaken by them to contribute towards the self-sustainability and upliftment of this socially exclusive group of people.
The 6th edition of Manning Modern Retailing touched upon the key aspects of HR in retail, thus bringing to light the importance of values as its central theme - be it for employment or training.