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Modern retail: a profile of a young star Raymond Raphael

Raymond Raphael, a management graduate, initially wanted to become an investment banker, but along the way he got hooked on to consumer psychology, reports Naomi Canton.Q & A with Raymond Raphael | Rapidfire | Another rising star: Chand Singh | Skills & Qualifications| Training & Institutes | Career ladder| Global opportunities | Pluses & Minuses | Industry Overview | Challenges | Quirky facts | An interview with Andrew Levermore | Reporter's blog
Hindustan Times | By Naomi Canton, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 28, 2008 06:41 PM IST

As Raymond Raphael takes a break over coffee at a Barista near his office, his mobile rings and his break is swiftly brought to an end.
One of his vendors has just reached the warehouse to deliver some car cleaning products.

But it is closed and the salesman is mad as it means he will have to come back the next day.

Raymond, category manager for sports, toys and stationery at HyperCITY, efficiently deals with the matter. He immediately rings the warehouse manager and persuades him to accept the delivery.

"In my job, it is important to have good relationship with the warehouse manager, not just him with him everyone in each department," he says as he sips the latte.

Raymond's job is not just about building relationships. The 28-year-old makes the final decision on which products to sell in his category, makes sure the category meets sales and profit targets and, if it doesn't, explain to management why not.

He also has to meet vendors, some of who are not in the organised sector. Many fail to deliver on time or try to sell unlicensed products and it's Raymond's job to guard against it.

Despite the pressures, it has a glamorous side. He accompanies buyers to trade fairs overseas and earns more than what some of his MBA peers do.

But this is not what he had planned. When he applied for an MBA five years ago, he wanted to become an investment banker. Some time during the two-year course he was attracted by the challenges retail offered.

"Not too many professionals were entering it; it needed a lot of sorting out. Companies were disorganised and the challenge was to organise the entire thing and align vendors to the needs of companies. I was also interested in consumer psychology as well as store layouts," he says. "I thought this was more interesting banking."

Raymond, who shares a two-bed flat in Andheri with friends, is a Catholic Tamilian from Ranchi in Jharkhand. He is one among the many MBAs recruited to work in Mumbai from campuses across India.

"I like seeing the different cultures and food. Retail gives you great global exposure and my outlook has changed, as a result. But the travel is not the main draw, it's the day-to-day job," says Raymond.

"I could never see myself as a store manager - I like the analysis and strategising," he adds, now back at his desk, surfing the net to check out the competition's toy products.

Every day, he checks the previous day's sales. If stocks are low, he arranges for them to be transferred. He also has to prepare sales analysis reports or make presentations to management.

Buyers, who source new suppliers and merchandisers and control the stock, report to Raymond. His job is to develop the overall strategy for his category, such as how much of sports should focus on cricket and whether toys should be interactive. He has to make the final decision on prices, work out how much space should be dedicated to a category in a new store and supply inputs on the look of a section.

"You need to keep pace with what is happening in your category even in your spare time and even on holiday. If I see an item not at my store, then I pick it up and read up on it. You need to be passionate about your category," says Raymond.

Outside work, Raymond plays the synthesiser, listens to music, is devoutly religious and hangs out in coffee shops.

Meanwhile, at Mindspace in Malad, most men are dressed in silk shirts and chino trousers and sport short haircuts. The offices are smart and functional, not trendy, and everyone seems busy.

Some staffers are single and some are married, and there are as many women as there are men. Shweta Mohile (26), category manager for gourmet, ready and instant foods, says: "People in retail are neither trendy nor glamorous; they are hard-working types. I wouldn't mind staying in it my whole career. It's the best career in India right now. My earnings are high and I want to grow, and I feel I can do it here." On weekends, Shweta unwinds by watching Bollywood movies, swimming and bowling.

Komal Kaul (27), also an MBA, is category manager for high-tech goods. "I enjoy it because you need to be in touch with the consumer and you get to decide what will be sold in a store at what price," she says.

She enjoys travelling, reading and watching movies.

"I will stay in this career as long as I feel I am adding value," Raymond muses. "After a few years, I might teach retail at MBA colleges as there is a dearth of teachers with industry experience. I might even start a retail consultancy firm."

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