Magazines Archives - 2008 October

Professional courses address talent shortfall in India
Story 2 - Focus

Like other markets in the region, India still lacks skilled retail personnel to man its stores. But the proliferation of schools offering retail-management courses are expected to address the shortage in the country, reports Shirish Nadkarni.

A part from the US and China, India is the only other country where a retail chain can dream of having 5,000 stores. Such retailers require skilled and professional personnel to not only meet the growing demand in the domestic market but also for the business to compete globally and grow fast.

However, the industry in India faces a dearth of skilled staff and groomed, aspiring retail managers.

According to the Retail Association of India (RAI), there is currently a demand for 1.25 million retail personnel, a need estimated to reach 3.25 million by end-2009. As it is, the sector faces an attrition rate as high as 50%, with rife poaching of top professionals. This is of particular concern as several
Indian conglomerates have opened retail chains in India, creating huge employment opportunities for trained retail management professionals.

Among these giants are Reliance India, Pantaloon Retail, RPG Group, Titan, Raymonds, Westside, Barista, Bata, Cafe Coffee Day, Crossword Bookstores Limited, Foodworld, Nilgiris and Tata.

Jobs are available for department managers, assistant store managers, buyer trainees, merchandising assistants, customer service representatives and management trainees in the retail

“There is a huge demand for retail management professionals for the processing of all merchandise shipments, achieving store sales and profitability, communication with the clients to gain their satisfaction and administration of stores,” says Kishore Biyani, founder and chairman of the Future
Group, which owns Pantaloon Retail.

The group has tied up with the KJ Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research, Mumbai, to offer the country’s first Diploma in Retail Management (DRM).

“Retail is all about distribution of the product from the manufacturer to consumers through short and convenient channels. A retail-management course with reputed career institutes could well fetch a dream job. With the spurt of shopping malls and departmental stores, huge employment opportunities
are opening up in India and abroad.”

The 18-month Somaiya-Pantaloon DRM course, which entered its fifth year last June, is a response to the need for a course geared towards developing future retail managers — one that not only equips students with the right skills but also inculcates the correct values.

“The idea was to have a course that would provide a breeding ground for future retail managers who would be geared up to face the demands of a retail job,” says Biyani. “There was [also] a perceived need for a retail management course to cater to the growing number of people wanting to make a
career in retailing.”

Before 2004, there was no specialised retail-management course in the country. “Ours was the first industryacademic participation in the retail sector in India, after the realisation dawned that a retailer would be in the best position to understand both the academic and mental qualities needed in a candidate looking to pursue a career in retailing,” says Biyani.

“The idea was to pool both strong academic and practical knowledge while building the course curriculum and format. This makes it a first-of-a-kind initiative taken by a leading retailer in
our country.” The benefits to the industry as a whole are obvious. The DRM course
creates a pool of retail-specific managers who remain in shortfall to date. Currently, those employed in the sector are from various service industries like hotels and airlines.

The Somaiya-Pantaloon DRM course guarantees graduates 100% placement. Upon successful completion of the course, the students are absorbed by Pantaloon Retail (India) at the managerial
level under the company’s various store formats.

“All students are expected to work at the retail (shop) floor level and learn every aspect of retailing from day one,”

says Biyani. “And, unlike an MBA or other management course that has an elitist and intellectual aura, our course is very practical and operation-deliveryoriented, with no snob value attached.”

Following 12 months in the classroom, the course offers a six-month paid training segment at a Pantaloon store of any format run by the retailer. While selecting candidates for the internship,
strong emphasis is placed on attitude, hard work, customer friendliness and service-industry mentality other than academic and classroom knowledge. Many other academic institutions in India have also begun offering professional retail-management courses. The sole requirement is a pass in higher secondary education, or the 10+2 examination as it is known locally.

Retail-management courses are offered in Mumbai at the Welingkar Institute of Management, Institute of Management Studies, Mudra Institute of Communications, Indian Retail School, Pearl Academy of Fashion, RPG Institute of Retail Management (belonging to the RP Goenka group, which owns Foodworld and Spencer’s), and SP Jain Institute of Management and Research.

Such courses are also offered at the New Delhi-based Birla Institute of Management Technology and Indian Institute of Retail, the Pune-based Symbiosis Centre for Distance Learning; Indian Institute of Jewellery, Institute of Technology and Management, The Retail Academy in Ahmedabad, National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and Retail Management Course Scope in India.

The course curriculum includes subjects on supply-chain management, marketing information, finance management, accounting, electronic retailing merchandise management, marketing and business communication.

Students also learn about sales promotion, with public relations; inventory management; customer relationship; business ethics; retail-brand management; business communication; management and organisational behaviour; and quantitative methods in retailing.

“Retail-management courses open up job prospects in the book-and-publishing industry, music stores, multiplexes, shopping malls, garment industry and even in the processed-food industry,” says Vinod Sawhny of Bharti Retail, part of the multi-faceted Bharti group belonging to Sunil Mittal.

“There are also opportunities for retail-management professionals [overseas] . They can work as store managers, inventory monitoring officers or marketing and sales executives. A flair for communication and a burning zeal to sell with an aggressive go-getter attitude is a must ... for managerial and
administrative jobs in retail chains abroad.”

Doubtless, there will be many retail formats in India five years down the line, although neighbourhood kirana stores will continue to exist because of their unique value proposition.

Given the fondness for shopping in Asian countries, malls will come into play in a very big way, and with a huge requirement for professionals to man them well.

“Professional marketing education in India is probably quite good, although retail education is relatively few and will take a few more years to mature,” says Nirmalya Kumar, professor of marketing at the London School of Economics. “Having said that, many good books on retail management exist,
so teaching retail skills is not that challenging and should be possible, relatively easily in India.”


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