‘Born to be a grocer’ has a different meaning for me. After the traditional career track of IIT, IIM and Hindustan Unilever, I was going to be a grocer, much to my family’s disbelief. Selling ‘daal-chawal’ as a chosen vocation for the educated son was not their idea of smart choices. I wasn’t alone. I walked down the path with R K Damani of D Mart and Kishore Biyani of Big Bazaar, both avid customer observers and business creators by betting on the Indian consumer. Customer observation and insight hunting is now an instinct with me, after over a decade of consistent aisle running in all parts of the world. To my wife’s delight I love visiting stores, but much to her chagrin, I equally love chasing women customers to see what they are buying! Food, brands and retail, my vocation, catches everyone’s fancy. I’ve stirred up some recent excitement for myself shaping food stores for different ends of the market spectrum including upmarket Foodhall and now Fresh produce led neighbourhood store RelianceFresh, etc. I’m excited by various cuisines, languages and recently, learning to play music. But through all my adventures, one thing has stood by me always, a good cup of masala chai! Meet me @SupermarketWala
‘Born to be a grocer’ is my resume. I run stores and sell groceries. That’s my job. I look at shopping racks, customer trolleys, cash tills. I can safely say that I’m not a writer. But passion does strange things to people. My passion for the Indian shopper drove me to write about her, her preferences, her quirks, her fancies, her stubbornness and resistance to anything ‘new’ when it didn’t match her ideas.
The editorial team at Forbes India offered their platform to talk about modernising retail and shaping consumption in the new confident India. That started this blog ‘Shopkeeper-in-law’. Your thought-provoking comments and responses kept me going. Many consumer study projects have sprung from exchanges on this blog. Sharing here made my thinking richer, and in turn led to more articles. In these articles lay the kernel of a book, and Random House quickly spotted the potential of a book that spoke about and to the Indian consumer.
SupermarketWala: The Secrets to Winning Consumer India is being launched later this week. You, dear reader, have almost written parts of this book and I am truly grateful for that. Do get a copy, read it, and let me know what you think of it. Mukesh Ambani and Kishore Biyani have backed SupermarketWala with their Foreword and Preface. As Kishoreji nicely puts it, “SupermarketWala is a timely narrative, to shape a strong foundation for future strategies. We need to create an archive of good business practices that connect directly to our social reality." He goes on to add, “There is still not enough body of knowledge to create home grown modern retail experts. Damodar Mall is amongst a very small number of such experts.”
Each of the chapters in the book ends with a Mind Poke: an invitation to comment and to add to the thinking in that chapter and take the thought forward. This Mind Poke comes from my habit of interacting with you, after every blog post.
Now that the book is out, you’ll find me posting here more often. These days, I am watching with a lot of interest traditional, owner managed stores that are changing over to the self-service format. I think this will become a mainstream phenomenon very soon. I look forward to observing it and in my own way helping the transformation. More in this thread, in a later post.
In the meantime do visit the SupermarketWala Facebook page! Many thanks, again for creating the book with me.