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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Drawing Inspiration from Saravana Stores

Outlook Business has a story on how Kishore Biyani of Future Group (formerly Pantaloon) is grooming the next generation in running the family business. What's interesting to note is the fact that a visit to Saravana Stores in Chennai is almost mandatory for all people who join Future Group in key roles. 

Early next morning, the Future Group CEO, the three younger family members, all of whom joined the business over the past two years, and a bunch of about 20 other key Future Group executives are to catch a flight to Chennai. They are planning a ‘deep dive’ into the popular retail destinations in the city, including the dirty, bustling and prosperous Ranganathan Street in T Nagar. This is the old-world retail capital of Chennai, and still holds its own against the swanky malls that have sprung up in other parts of the city. The family is visibly excited about this trip, even though this is the last in a long series of deep dive programmes Biyani has done with his family and professional team. (Link)

I'm surprised Kishore Biyani continues the same training regime even after the recent fire incident at Saravana Stores which exposed the lack of basic infrastructure like emergency exits at the popular shop.

Sometime earlier this year, I read "It Happened In India" by Kishore Biyani and Dipayan Baishya. The book on the growth of Biyani and the Future Group didn't live up to the initial hype. I felt that the narration style was heavily borrowed from Sam Walton's "Made in America". Big Bazaar is not yet a business / retail icon on the lines of Walmart and the book should have presented a humbler story of the Future Group. 

Here is an excerpt related to Saravana Stores from the book:

Saravana Stores is a twenty-five year old, family-run store located in the heart of Chennai and has a very simple philosophy to run its business - low margin, high turnover. Covering five floors and a basement, it stocks everything from appliances and groceries, to clothes, jewellery, toys and eyeglasses. Its textile and garment section too has everything from Kanchipuram silks to bed sheets and there is a vessel section that has loads of steel utensils. There is a separate block for fast food, where delicacies include idlis, pooris, parottas, soft drinks and ice creams. These are as popular as the special laddus and the Mysore pauk on offer. Located somewhat close to the railway terminus, one can see hordes of people getting in and coming out with shopping bags at any time of the day and any time of the year. It has around a hundred and twenty people just to manage the crowds but one doesn't get the best customer experience in the store. To many, Saravana may be a shopper's nightmare, but there are lot of customers who just love it and approve of it with their frequent footfalls. I would estimate that this single shop must be doing more than Rs. 200 crore worth business each year.

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