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The Biyani Makeover

Letter From the Editor: The downturn in 2008 may have been the best thing for Biyani. He admits as much. Quite simply, he had to learn the science of retailing the hard way

Published: Aug 27, 2010 06:13:27 AM IST
Updated: Feb 21, 2014 12:44:38 PM IST

I First met Kishore Biyani sometime in 2001, well before he became India’s poster boy for India’s retail sector. He was desperately trying for a makeover. He had just moved into a spanking new office at Jogeshwari in Mumbai, replete with a large auditorium. He had hired some big names in the retail industry — and was busy wooing the moneymen who had their eyes on his rivals till then. He had asked me to moderate a discussion that involved all his better-known peers—B.S. Nagesh of Shoppers Stop, Kris Iyer of Pyramid and Ved Prakash Arya of Globus. A roomful of financial analysts had come to listen to the discussion on India’s fledgling retail industry. After that session, in the men’s room, I overheard many of the FMCG analysts talk about expanding their scope to retail.

The Biyani MakeoverSince then, I followed Biyani’s career closely throughout the last decade, as he gained in stature and recognition. I watched in amazement as the man who had initially struggled to string a coherent sentence together could now no longer stay out of the headlines across every pink paper and television channel.

Biyani had an uncanny knack of mesmerising his audience with his rustic charm. Not only did he talk about India’s consumption story, he also put his money where his mouth was. So while Trent, Shopper’s Stop and Landmark group all spoke the same language of growth, none of them could keep pace with Biyani’s audacious expansion plans. And till Reliance showed up for the retail party in 2006, Biyani had enjoyed an incredibly good run.

At that time, something snapped inside. With Reliance’s entry, Biyani became like a man possessed. He began to formulate plans that seemed to dwarf everything that he had done before. A seasoned investor who knew Biyani well tells me he too got spooked by his aggression and pulled out his investments.

Perhaps, the downturn in 2008 may have been the best thing for him. In this cover story, written by Samar Srivastava who joined us recently from Mint, Biyani admits as much. It gave his group time to rethink his strategy and consolidate his portfolio. Quite simply, he had to also learn the science of retailing — the hard way.

Today, Biyani has a new lease of life. He’s thinking big again. The slowdown has taught him some critical lessons. But it hasn’t dulled his creative thinking one bit. So now, will he emerge stronger after passing through the life threatening crisis? Read our story on Page 40 and tell us what you think.

(This story appears in the 10 September, 2010 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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