Monday, October 26, 2009

Maturing of Indian organised retail

Check this article from Business World, its about Spencer's retail and their efforts to survive (and then probably thrive). The article has impressive numbers and graphs about Indian retail scenario.

The most important point for me is that Spencer's will be shutting down three formats and focus on hypermarket and supermarket. I believe this is a very very smart move. The so called organised players of Indian retail have chosen to dabble in all formats simultaneously. Every format served a different customer but they were served by the same supply chain. This was a sure way to ensure dissatisfied customers and high operating costs.

A small store like Spencer's Express or Spinach needs frequent deliveries and in small quantities. Every delivery assortment would have different types of items. However, A large format Big Bazaar could easily store and accept deliveries of full truck loads. Every aspect of inventory planning and distribution would be different. We cannot expect the same supply chain to serve both needs.

It is good to see that Spencer's has seen the light. Am sure with the realisation that the fabled growth of Indian (so called) organised retail not happening, others have no option but to join in.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Promotions and change of jobs

Two incidents -

In a faculty meeting at NMIMS we were waiting for the tea to be served. The person manning the tea arrangements outside refused to serve us as he was the 'supervisor' and person supposed to serve tea had gone down.

At a Pizza Hut outlet at Borivali, peak time, the staff were trying to clear and re arrange tables as fast as they could. There was a rush of customers waiting outside. As soon as the table next to us became empty, the supervisor started collecting the tissues strewn on the table. Till the waiter arrived a lot of the table was clean. Both of them together cleared and cleaned the table.

I am sure all of us can take our own lessons. Job roles in processes are sometimes defined very narrowly. The definitions are also internally oriented and have nothing to do with the customer. Internally oriented job roles may lead to some hypothetical efficiency calculation, but they may be detrimental to customer service.

I am not looking at criticizing individuals. Of course a point could also be made that the faculty could have taken tea on their own. An employee behaves in a manner that is defined in his job role. In an era of less competition job roles and processes defined to create high efficiencies were okay, but in the current competitive scenario they are a sure way to ruin.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Clean technologies - CSR or business?

I was invited to take a session at an small MBA institute in Gujarat. I had given then a few pages of reading material. I saw that the institute had edited the layout of my material so that it fit in only four pages and printed it on both sides of the paper. I began my session by appreciating the editing that saved lot of paper, an environmentally conscious action. A student stood up to reply that she was responsible for this and her prime motivation was to save money. Printing on both sides was obviously cheaper than two sheets with one side printed.

This incident reemphasized my concern that we had a wrong approach to clean technologies and sustainable environment based practices. Many companies had a special department that looked at these initiatives and these were paraded to the world as CSR (Corporate Social responsibility) initiatives. Firms used such actions to occupy high moral ground among consumers and the society.

A better way to look at these initiatives would be to assess them as normal business projects. They would have an investment and a straight monetary return. This would be the only way to ensure that the projects are taken up willingly by many companies. Businesses should be convinced that clean technologies save money and that they save the environment is a by product.