If you have read a few of my previous posts, you might recall that this quarter I actually embarked on a rather adventurous (and according to some desis both within Stanford and without) a rather heretical journey of trying to understand the organized retail sector in India. Both me and Rahil Kacheria (Stanford '08) have been working our asses off these past few days with Tom to get the final draft of the paper ready in time. This paper will be featured on the Stanford Technology Ventures Program website and will be available for download to anyone and everyone. We have read a lot of documents and reports released by management consultancy firms, both big and small, to get a feel for things and try to understand not only the what and how of things, but as Tom says, the "Why" as well. Because the fact that a kirana store waala Chotu will come to your house, open your bridge, stack the Rasna bottles in the right place and leave saying "bhaiya aapke khaate mein likh deinge" (dude am gonna add this on your tab at the store) - is just not comprehensible to people in the US!
But some interesting things happened along the way of coming up with this report. One of those I am going to share with you in this post. So since Mukesh and his Reliance Retail Ltd. are making a huge foray into the organized retail sector, we thought it only appropriate to do a case study on them. For any case study, you need data. And unfortunately for us, RRL does not have any publicly available data that we could make use of in our study. So I tried LinkedIn! (btw, if you are not on LinkedIn - now would be a good time to get on it). A few people in my network, I saw, were in the networks of the VPs at Reliance Retail. I did get my friends' references, but in a space of a few days I realized that I was on a fool's errand. Nothing came off it. So the next thing was to go to the website and go to the basics - call the receptionist at Reliance Corporate HQ in Mumbai. (Btw, I have this knack, i think (:P), of scaling up from the receptionist to the President of the company!) And so in a sweet voice and with a little bit of accent I spoke to the receptionist who directed me to another reception - this was the RRL reception. Again, I introduced myself there and got the receptionist to somehow understand that I wanted data on a study and not a job! Nonetheless i had to talk to the HR dept. as that was the max the receptionist could do for me.
The HR person was helpful, she went out of her way to get the number of a VP who she thought might be able to help me. With the number, i called up the VP. I did get him, and again I introduced myself and told him about the study, but he interrupted me telling me that he was the wrong person to talk to. He then gave me someone Else's cell number. This time, he had hit the hammer bang on the nail - Vice President, Corporate Communications! Finally, I had my man. I gave him a ring, and he was, to my delight, reasonably forth coming in his tone and attitude towards my description. He told me to email him the details that i required and he would get back to me same time the next day.
This was 3 weeks ago. Not only did he not get back to me the next day, he decided to forget about me, until I sent him a third email saying that we were running out of time. He responded immediately saying that he would have the data in a few hours. 2 weeks from that, I am without any shred of data from RRL.
I also needed data from the government, regarding some policy documents pertaining to the 51% FDI in retail, a few tax laws, and as such anything which could help me. Awantika was kind enough to put me in touch with a gentleman working in North Block. I spoke to him on the phone and in detail explained my study and its scope. He also asked me to send him an email. I did and after 4 days, I received more than i could have asked for. Not only did he give me what I wanted, being an economist by training the gentleman went out of his way to send me data which I should have asked for, but for my lack of background in economics couldn't get around to requesting them. He didnt stop there, he told me that he would be sending some documents via post as they are only available in hard copy format.
Government of India 1
Corporate India 0
My study now has a case study on Pantaloon, which, now that i think about it, looks more poised to soar the retail skies in India than others in the race. May be because they have retail formats which cater to a wide spectrum of the society, unlike the others. Anyways, that was that. Here is a video clip I saw on CNN-IBN which has a really interesting new format of retail coming up. This sure as hell is an innovative strategy. If you cannot view it here, go here.
And what is ironic is that the channel ran this story on the same day as the above story, man if India is not a land of irony then I dont know what it..here is the video.