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Counter Attack

Honesty and transparency in dealing with customers will take you far if you want to be a retail professional, says Syed Amir Ali Hashmi.

education Updated: Jun 20, 2012 17:38 IST
Syed Amir Ali Hashmi

Shadab Ali, assistant department manager, Tata Croma, chose retail as his profession because he had great faith in his ability to convince others about the usability of a product.

Today, Ali grumbles that the institute from which he got a Master’s in marketing management did not prepare him well for the challenges that the sector offered. The worst, he says, is that “you have to listen to the customer, even if he is not right… the work requires you to be on your feet for long hours, quite a shocker for someone from a well-to-do family. But now I know this is my job and I have taken it all in my stride.”

That perseverance has paid Ali rich dividends in terms of opportunities that helped him “move up the ladder”.

In the past few years, the country has seen a retail revolution, and to cater to the demand of the sector, courses with various specialisations are being offered in several institutes and colleges.

However, key knowledge can only be gained once you start working in this field as a trained professional who might be involved in processing merchandise shipments or store sales, or be required to look after the store administration and also to communicate with clients.

“Freshers should be ready to work long hours — even though this can lead to a burnout — as retail is a very here-and-now business,” says Balvinder Singh Ahluwalia, president, Koutons Retail India Ltd. “Also, there is less room for long-term strategising as market trends change within a short span of time.”

One does not require any specific qualification to be in this field — and there is also no set time for retail aspirants to join the business.

For functions other than retail operations, the qualification depends upon the job profile.

“One learns while working, which is the most crucial factor that determines whether an individual is the right fit for the profession,” says Ali. “The basic requirement is that a person should be hardworking and ready to take up challenges.”

Thanks to the mall culture and people’s increasing propensity to shop, retail offers jobs in music stores, books and publishing industries, multiplexes, shopping malls, and the garment and processed food industries.

Stores such as Hotspot, Koutons retail, Planet M, Shoppers Stop, Café Coffee Day, Barista and Big Bazaar offer numerous chances to freshers to progress quickly in this field.

Multinationals such as Pizza Hut, Adidas, Nike, Domino’s, Benetton, Sony, Sharp and Levi’s are also recruiting skilled professionals.

Ahluwalia says, “The retail pattern has gradually entered almost all the major sectors of business and it has also opened up the scope of jobs in all such businesses. Marketing, real estate, visual merchandising, catalogue production, inventory planning, tourism and the luxury industry — all of these sectors provide jobs in retail.”

He sees the future of retail in India as absolutely promising. “The market is growing and even the government policies are becoming more favourable (for the industry),” says Ahluwalia. Retailing in India, he feels, “is heading towards becoming the next boom industry”

Ali, however, has a word of caution for budding retail professionals: “Keep your ego and ‘I am the best attitude’ aside when you join the sector, as initially you have to attend to customers and sell your product or service. And never fight shy of challenges.”

What’s it About?
A people-oriented industry, retailing came to India in the mid-’80s. A retail professional is primarily involved in selling products and services to consumers. There is a huge demand in the retail sector for trained and skilled professionals for processing merchandise shipments to achieve store sales, look after the store administration, and to communicate with clients

The Payoff
The starting salary of a retail salesperson is Rs 6,000 per month. After two years of experience as an assistant manager, plus an MBA degree, the salary can be around Rs 22,000 per month. A head of operations gets around Rs 4 lakh per month. Apart from salary, you get bonus and incentives on attaining targets

Skills
. Communication skills must be excellent
. Dignified conduct
. Patience while dealing with clients and physical fitness
. Ability to convince customers of the usefulness of a particular product
. Updated knowledge of changes in the retail market
. Familiarity with advertising and merchandising techniques
. Ability to retrain

Clock Work
Work at retail stores is done in shifts. If you have a morning shift then your work schedule will be something like this:
7 am: Wake up and get ready for office
9 am: Reach the store
9.30 am: Take instructions from seniors about targets for the day
10 am: Get ready to welcome customers
1.30 pm: Lunch
2 pm to 5 pm: Interact with customers keeping in mind the targets to be achieved
5.30 pm: Report to your senior and assess targets achieved
6 pm: Leave for home

How do i get there?
After Class XII, one should ideally do graduation and then go for a general MBA or an MBA in retail management. One can also do a BBA course after Class XII and then top it with an MBA. There are also numerous PG diploma and certificate courses offered by various institutes

Institutes & Urls
.
BHU, Benaras
www.bhu.ac.in
. BITS Pilani
www.bits-pilani.ac.in/
. ICFAI Business School, Dehradun}
www.ibsindia.org
. IIM Ahmedabad
www.iimahd.ernet.in
. IIT Kanpur
www.iitk.ac.in
. Fore School of Management, Delhi
www.fsm.ac.in/
. Amity Business School, Noida
www.amity.edu
. Asia Pacific Institute of Management Studies
www.asiapacific.edu/

Pros & Cons
. You get paid handsomely if you stick with an organisation
. With retail giants such as Wal-Mart likely to enter the Indian scene, the sector’s
employability factor might increase
. Strenuous job, hard on the feet
. One has to deal diplomatically with annoyed clients


Retail offers a gamut of roles

High energy level is the key to success in the sector, says an industry insider

How is the retail scenario in India looking right now?
Retail has begun to look up in the past one quarter. The signs are positive. The future looks good for retail if we do not take our eyes off the fundamentals. I would say that if the sector goes for a mad growth then it will be a problem; we have to examine the demand and the needs of the customer to grow.

What is the role of people working in retail?
They can take on several roles. To start with, they have to directly interface with customers — in retail parlance, they have to start work at the shop floor level. Apart from that, retail offers a gamut of opportunities — from merchandising to supply chain management and marketing, especially to build customer footfall at retail points.

Are there good opportunities for freshers in retail now?
Sure. For anyone who is willing to work hard and does not mind putting in long hours, this sector is the place to be in. The only requirement is that the person should pick up the right skills to succeed.

How can one win over a customer who is in a rage?
Looking back at my days at the counter, I would say that one should have a customer-friendly temperament or at least train oneself to handle customers in a friendly manner. New recruits should be backed by training. Many organisations like Hotspot train freshers, devoting a lot of time to it, making them capable of managing shop floor situations.

When customers came back to me complaining about handsets, as I am from mobile retailing, I helped them take a close look at the product. I always made it a point to help customers learn everything about the product. The best way to avoid a flare-up is to give the buyer complete and correct information.

If you put the customer first, then handling them in this way will become a habit. So, the only mantra to succeed is to be transparent, friendly and communicating the right things to the customer.

What do you feel are the basic qualities that a person should have before joining retail?
Three things are a must — interacting with people directly; keenness to learn as a lot of new products are coming up; and the ability to retrain yourself every six months.

What kind of education should one focus on while in college or an institute?
As long as a person has strong fundamentals, he can be successful in retail. Retail does not need any specialisation but a certain set of skills.

I am not in favour of specialisations, as I believe that if a person has the right abilities he can join retail. This sector needs a lot of energy; if you do not have it, then retail is not for you.

Sanjeev Mahajan, CEO, Hotspot Interviewed by Syed Amir Ali Hashmi