Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bag a job in retail
Nalini Ranjan

After the BPO industry, now the retail sector in our country is set for a big boom, specially after the announcement of an investment of Rs 10,000 crore in this sector by Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries.

Reliance proposes to invest in 1500 big shopping malls in 150 small and big cities across the country. It means an estimated 10 lakh new jobs will be created in this sector once the mega project materialises. The Sahara Pariwar and other big corporates too are taking keen interest in this field seeing its growth potential.

India's total retail market is estimated at Rs. 9,300 billion, of which organised retail is at Rs. 300 billion and expected to grow at a compounded rate of 30 per cent over the next five years. Currently, employing nearly 15 per cent educated Indians, the industry has the potential to employ over two billion people in the next five years.

The retail sector is witnessing a lot of changes as traditional formats make way for new ones. The organised retail industry has grown from two to about 3.5 per cent today. There are already about 60 big malls in the country and in the next couple of years, at least 200 malls are likely to be in operation across the country.

A career in the retail sector thus holds high potential and promises high growth.

Retailerís role

The retailer is the person who purchases products in bulk direct from the manufacturers or importers and then sells it directly to customers. In a nutshell, the retailer is the last stop of a supply chain. The whole process is called retailing.

Retailing was introduced in India, in the early 90s, by some major brand owners like Pantaloon, Shoppers Stop, etc as an experiment in the domestic market. With the entry of Big Bazaar and its success in retailing, the sector has now matured considerably.

Work opportunities

There are a lot of career options in the retail industry today. A career in retail offers a range of occupations more diverse than most other industries. These are:

Sales: Every retail store depends upon the sales force to sell its merchandise. This position is an entry level one. It is dubbed as the backbone of the retail industry. In the retail industry, most vacancies arise at this level.

Store manager: Store Managers are solely responsible for managing an individual store. Most Store Managers take on the duty of running the day-to-day operations of the store.

The Store Manager also monitors the performance of his sales team.

Retail manager: Apart from understanding the mindset, habits and lifestyle of the customers, the Retail Manager determines the layout of merchandise, monitors stock levels, places orders for new stock, manages the supply chain and keeps and analyses records of all financial transactions of his store.

Retail buyers and merchandisers: They are responsible for selecting the merchandise for a store and then physically buying the goods. Their role is very significant for a particular store or shopping mall.

Visual merchandisers: Retail design or visual merchandising plays an important role in this business. Designers or visual merchandisers are the ones who give the brand a new face. They play the role of a Brand Manager in the store.

Supply chain distributors and logistics and warehouse managers: This is amongst the most vital areas of organised retailing and normally is the differentiator between modern chains, more so when it comes to top perishable goods retailing.

The majority of jobs are at the shop floor level or in sales. These account for approximately 60 - 75 per cent of the total jobs in this sector. Other job opportunities are in Merchandising, Visual Merchandising, Customer Relationship Management and in Marketing and Supply Chain segment.

According to Director of a Delhi-based management institute, S.K. Singh, successful progression always begins on the selling floor as this is where true consumer behaviour can be understood. It is possible for an individual for move either in one function or across functions as retail provides tremendous general management opportunities. "Retail is a business that combines customer orientation with a fine knowledge of retail systems and processes. If you enjoy being at the centre of customer action and would like to get a feel of running a business at an early age, then retail can be your calling. However, if you are looking for hierarchy, status and a corporate existence, then retail is not your cup of tea."

Study options

Though there are a number of courses available for related fields like Visual Merchandising and Logistics and Supply Chain Management, there are no organised professional courses on retailing in India. Some private run institutes offer courses like Retail Entrepreneurship, Retail Buying and Merchandising, Store Operations Management, Retail Marketing and Customer Relationship Management, Visual Merchandising and Space Planning, Supply Chain Management.

Training talk

Some institutes that offer training in retailing are:

  • Indian Retail School, Delhi (Run by Pearl Fashion Academy)

  • K. J. Somaiya and Welingkars Institute,Delhi (Run by Pantaloon )

  • S. P. Jain Centre of Management, Dubai

  • Nursee Monje Institute of Management, Mumbai.

However, aspiring candidates for entering in this field should undergo professional course from a recognized MBA institute or pursue a fashion technology course from NIFT. Such courses have internships and field visits that are well integrated with the curriculum.

Online course

The Retail Association of India (RAI) is the apex body of the retail sector of this country. It has recently started an online education programme for people who want to make a professional career in this field. The organisation has launched an e-learning portal with the collaboration of Gurukool Online Learning Solutions. The portal provides all essential information regarding retail sector. The most important thing is that after the successful completion of this course, trainees are picked up by companies associated with this organisation for internship.