Career Focus

Career Focus

Riding the retail revolution

During the next decade retailing is expected to generate one million additional jobs in the newly-emergent organised retail trade sector. Therefore there’s a premium on trained personnel to sustain this growth

As in the rest of the world, consumerism is spreading like wildfire in India. Lifestyle and fashion stores, supermarket chains, giant shopping malls and hypermarts are testimony to post-liberalisation India’s retail boom. Little wonder that some of the hottest jobs are in the sunrise retail sector. The growth of retail revenues in India is impressive by any yardstick — a steady 25 percent per annum for the past decade with no signs of slowing down.

India’s estimated 33 million retail outlets, big and small, provide employment to 15 percent of employable Indians and are perhaps the largest contributor to India’s gross domestic product after services. During the next decade, retailing is expected to generate one million additional jobs in the newly-emergent organised retail trade. Therefore there’s a premium on trained personnel, urgently needed to sustain the growth of this sector.

To meet this ever-rising demand, several institutions of higher education have introduced specialised courses in retail education and training. Among them: Welingkar School of Retailing at L.N.Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research, Mumbai; Pearl Academy of Fashion, New Delhi; National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) — all offering study courses in retailing, apparel merchandising etc. In particular B-school graduates with specialisation in marketing and a diploma and/ or experience in retail management are much sought after by proliferating retail chains such as Pantaloon India, Shoppers Stop and shopping mall companies.

The retail sector offers a variety of career options including store operations management, merchandising and buying, supply chain management, strategic store planning, visual merchandising and displays, information management, human resources management, marketing and promotions and infrastructure and facilities management. For jobs like wholesale buying you need to have a degree in product merchandising. For store managers, a degree in retail management or an MBA in marketing or finance has become essential.

Not surprisingly pay packages offered are generous. An in-house designer with a design degree or diploma could sign a Rs.15,000-25,000 per month start-up contract. Store managers take home between Rs.10,000-45,000, depending on the size of the store and the pay package of a chief executive of a big department store or chain of stores is on a par with his counterparts in industry.

Chandiramani (centre): “mall mania has caught on”
"Retailing is one of the oldest business activities in India. But until the liberalisation and deregulation of the Indian economy in the 1990s, it was dominated by small one-man retail units. However since the past five years, it has become more structured and formalised and is moving towards international standards. Today, the organised retail sector is an industry. Retailers have started investing in large and quality spaces and shopping malls have sprung up across the country, combining retailing with entertainment, transforming shopping into a pleasurable experience. Currently India has over 300 large shopping malls and the number is multiplying at a phenomenal pace," says Chandru Chandiramani, deputy general manager (retail) of the textiles division of Raymond Ltd. This textiles major is among the largest integrated manufacturers of worsted fabrics with diversified operations including engineering, steel files and specialty steels, toiletries and cosmetics, ring denim, prophylactics and the recently launched national chain of stores retailing prêt fashionwear under the brand name Be.

With the retailing scenario having experienced a complete makeover, Chandiramani has no regrets about being in this field for two decades, during which he has contributed to the growth and development of the retail sector. A science graduate of Delhi University, Chandiramani signed up with Raymond as a management trainee in 1981 and while on the job acquired an MBA from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune. Today, he supervises the pan-India marketing operations of the company’s entire range of premium suiting, shirting and Park Avenue/ Parz readymade wear and fashion accessories for men through a chain of franchised and company managed retail outlets. Under his watch, Raymond’s retail outlets have grown from 100 to 310, transforming a single product store into a multi-product fashion chain by introducing new concepts such as retail engineering, in-store planning and design and developing a new identity for Be stores.

According to Chandiramani, the retail business has become highly professional because of structured modules, formats and higher customer expectations. "The City Centre Mall in Kolkata designed by Charles Correa has given a new definition to retailing. Likewise hypermarts like Shop Rite, an international scale model from South Africa, has been set up in India making available everything from groceries to hi-fashion garments of quality, at rock bottom prices, thus giving the customer value for money and a pleasurable shopping experience. Indeed, mall mania has caught on," he says.

With the retail sector more structured and organised, jobs within it have become aspirational. "In this new environment, a salesman doesn’t remain a salesman forever. He can move up the ranks and become a store manager and earn corporate sector salaries. The retail sector in urban and rural India is set to boom as new benchmarks are being set and the ground rules are constantly changing. Both the consumer and those making careers in this sector will be the biggest beneficiaries," predicts Chandiramani.

Get set to shop till you drop.

Indra Gidwani