‘Re­tail re­quires peo­ple with a ser­vice at­ti­tude’

Ku­mar Ra­jagopalan, CEO -- Re­tail­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia shares his take with Point of Pur­chase on train­ing. Read on…

Point of Purchase - - COVER STORY - Ku­mar Ra­jagopalan, CEO, RAI

1) What do you think is the thrust on staff se­lec­tion and train­ing process in re­tail to­day?

The re­tail sec­tor is ex­pand­ing and mod­ern­iz­ing rapidly in line with In­dia’s eco­nomic growth. It of­fers sig­nif­i­cant em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to a cross sec­tion of peo­ple across ur­ban and semi ur­ban cities and towns. The busi­ness em­ploys around 85 % of its work­force at the re­tail store level. This en­sures that it cre­ates em­ploy­ment for peo­ple with low ed­u­ca­tion lev­els too. The suc­cess of re­tail­ers re­lies on the qual­ity of its em­ploy­ees, such as its store man­agers and its sales staff. To at­tract the right ap­pli­cants the com­pany must have an ef­fec­tive re­cruit­ment process. Re­tail­ers con­duct re­cruit­ment drives to tar­get two groups: dropouts from ed­u­ca­tion places, and newly qual­i­fied un­der grad­u­ates /grad­u­ates. They of­ten rely on re­tail train­ing in­sti­tutes who skill these can­di­dates through short term cour­ses. With these pro­grammes re­tail­ers re­cruit these can­di­dates who are pas­sion­ate about a ca­reer in retailing and could be­come fu­ture lead­ers in the busi­ness. The re­cruited can­di­dates must also be trained ef­fec­tively. Much of the post em­ploy­ment train­ing in the re­tail store is on-the-job and oc­curs within the stores.

2) How im­por­tant do you think is staff train­ing in the suc­cess of a re­tail group?

Re­cruit­ing the right peo­ple does not guar­an­tee per­for­mance. Re­tail re­quires peo­ple with a ser­vice at­ti­tude. Much of the train­ing is on-the-job and oc­curs within the stores. Off-the-job­train­ing is used for gen­eral retailing sell­ing & man­age­ment skills. The train­ing is linked closely to de­vel­op­ing the com­pe­ten­cies that the com­pany looks for in its re­cruits. These com­pe­ten­cies are en­ter­prise and for­mat re­lated. They are es­sen­tial for any­one want­ing to be a suc­cess­ful re­tail sales as­so­ciate. While en­try into the in­dus­try is easy for most peo­ple, de­vel­op­ment and pro­mo­tions only hap­pen when peo­ple learn the art and sci­ence of re­tail.

3) What do you think ought to be the pa­ram­e­ters for store staff se­lec­tion and also train­ing in re­tail?

The se­lec­tion process for the Re­tail Store Staff has two stages: a) An on­line ap­pli­ca­tion (Shop­pers Stop, Re­laince, Fu­ture Group are some of the re­tail­ers who have an ap­ti­tude test) b) As­sess­ment cen­ter to an­a­lyze var­i­ous com­pe­ten­cies. The on­line ap­pli­ca­tion form in­volves a num­ber of ques­tions. These fo­cus on the com­pe­ten­cies re­quired by Re­tail Store Staff. Can­di­dates who do well in their an­swers are in­vited to an as­sess­ment cen­tre. The se­lec­tion process at the as­sess­ment cen­tre takes place over one day. It in­volves struc­tured in­ter­views and team ac­tiv­i­ties. Group ex­er­cises al­low a close anal­y­sis of how well some­one works with other peo­ple. This is a key as­pect of retailing. Can­di­dates who are suc­cess­ful at the as­sess­ment cen­tre are of­fered Sales As­so­ci­ates & Man­age­ment Trainee po­si­tions. Con­sid­er­ing re­tail re­quires a keen sense of ser­vice stan­dard cou­pled with an abil­ity to con­tin­u­ously learn about prod­ucts, the skills are not easy to come by and var­i­ous com­pa­nies use con­tin­u­ous on the job train­ing meth­ods to get peo­ple to up­grade their skills. Re­tail­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia has cre­ated a sub­sidiary called Re­tail­ers As­so­ci­a­tion’s Skill Coun­cil of In­dia (RASCI) to cre­ate oc­cu­pa­tion stan­dards for var­i­ous lev­els of re­tail jobs. RASCI will then get a labour mar­ket in­for­ma­tion sys­tem (LMIS) cre­ated for re­tail . These would be used to cer­tify var­i­ous re­tail train­ing com­pa­nies across the coun­try to en­sure that skill de­vel­op­ment is based on stan­dards. This ini­tia­tive has been cre­ated un­der the aegis of Na­tional Skill De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (NSDC).

4) It is pos­si­ble to share some fig­ures on the av­er­age spend in In­dia on staff train­ing in re­tail to­day ?

Re­tail­ers spend about 7% of their turnover on staff costs. Train­ing costs how­ever are not bench­marked yet since var­i­ous com­pa­nies are at var­i­ous lev­els of ma­tu­rity and ex­pan­sion and as such this is a nascent in­dus­try.

5) What is the kind of at­tri­tion rate in the re­tail in­dus­try to­day? And what are the other chal­lenges that the re­tail sec­tor is fac­ing in In­dia to­day in terms of man­power ?

At­tri­tion is a chal­lenge for most re­tail­ers at store lev­els as well as at mid man­age­ment lev­els. The store level at­tri­tion is as much as 70% Per an­num. While at­tri­tion is in­evitable in high growth busi­nesses re­tail­ers have to con­cen­trate on cre­at­ing a sense of re­spect and per­sonal de­vel­op­ment to en­cour­age more un­em­ployed peo­ple to join the re­tail in­dus­try.

6)What in your opin­ion ought to be the ca­reer growth op­por­tu­ni­ties and per­for­mance in­cen­tives pro­grammes for re­tail staff?

Retailing of­fers a va­ri­ety of ca­reer paths such as buy­ing, store man­age­ment, mer­chan­dise man­age­ment, sales pro­mo­tion and ad­ver­tis­ing, per­son­nel, op­er­a­tions/dis­tri­bu­tion, loss preven­tion, and fi­nance in sev­eral dif­fer­ent cor­po­rate forms such as depart­ment stores, spe­cialty stores, food stores, and dis­count stores and e-com­merce com­pa­nies. Func­tions like mer­chan­dise de­sign­ers, store main­te­nance ser­vices can also be re­quire­ments. In ad­di­tion, retailing of­fers al­most im­me­di­ate ac­count­abil­ity for tal­ented young men and women to reach key man­age­ment po­si­tions within a decade. Start­ing salaries are com­pet­i­tive, and the com­pen­sa­tion of top man­age­ment ranks with the high­est in busi­ness and in any in­dus­try. Re­tail sec­tor is wit­ness­ing ex­po­nen­tial growth in In­dian mar­ket hence promis­ing the em­ploy­ment for larger pop­u­la­tion of In­dia in ev­ery ge­o­graph­i­cal sec­tor. In­dian re­tail sec­tor is rapidly grow­ing, the com­pa­nies are do­ing their ex­pan­sion & en­ter­ing into new mar­ket. The in­creased com­pe­ti­tion & po­ten­tial of semi ur­ban & ru­ral mar­ket is lead­ing com­pa­nies to en­ter in the new semi ur­ban mar­ket, which in re­sult gen­er­at­ing huge num­ber of em­ploy­ment in this sec­tor. Com­pa­nies are giv­ing good pack­ages for the em­ploy­ees to get good tal­ent & to re­tain best tal­ent. It is the great op­por­tu­nity for the young­sters of In­dia to get good job. But at the same time if they want a good ca­reer in this sec­tor they need to de­velop their skills, qual­i­fi­ca­tion & need to do qual­ity hard work.

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