KE Venkatachalapathy, CEO of Megamart, says that brands, fashion, value and customer service are what the retail business thrives on
When KE Venkatachalapathy was offered additional charge of Megamart in 2004, he did not imagine it would become a huge part of his life. In the spacious Arumbakkam branch of the store, he settles back into his chair and talks about how he, a chartered accountant from Bangalore, now heads a Rs 600 crore retail firm.
“I had been the CFO of Arvind Brands for around 15 years at that point. It’s a powerful position to be in; things moved along when I gave the word,” he says. But something about the retail business drew him in, and in 2008, he moved exclusively to managing this segment.
Now the CEO of Megamart, Venkat says, “I found it a good proposition, even though it was dilution in terms of power because the business side works differently. But I was confident in my dream: making this a Rs. 10,000 crore chain in 10 years.”
The numbers speak for themselves. Six years ago, it was a Rs 20 crore business. “We have a firm plan of achieving a Rs 2,000 crore turnover in the next three years — we’re looking at Rs 900 crore this year. If that’s successful, the final aim can be reached easily,” he says. Megamart was started 17 years ago for selling seconds products from the house of Arvind.
In the last five years they have started stocking international brands like Geoffrey Beene, Mossimo and Cherokee. Venkat explains the shift: “We wanted to build a brand based on value while still providing the latest fashion. Just low prices are not good for sustainability.”
While around 120 of their smaller stores sell only menswear, Venkat wants to even it out and make the brand known as a family store. As we take a walk around the store, Venkat points out to the different sections. “We have a good ethnic base and in the next couple of seasons, we will be bringing in casual and western wear for women. Then there’s the kids’ collection starting at Rs. 99 and an entire section devoted to youngsters,” he says.
He talks about the best ideas that have been implemented in the store. “The loyalty programme called SmartOne is my favourite. Since the relationship between the customer and a retail chain is transactional, we wanted to take it further,” he says. So if you’re a member of the programme, you get invited to celebrate your birthday at the store with cake and cookies and there’s no compulsion to buy (although they offer a special discount). “I have a fantastic team who not only believe in my vision, but also look beyond the ‘buy one get one free’ type promotions. They talk about lifestyle and what customers want. It might sound clichéd, but they are the real reason for our growth,” says Venkat. His future plans include opening 35 stores every year and expanding beyond the southern states. He says, “Brands, fashion, value and customer service are the four pillars on which I want Megamart to thrive on. There’s no better satisfaction than when a customer wants to come back to our store.”