The breathtaking expansion of the retail sector holds great promise for those planning a career in retailing.According to a rough estimate, nearly four crores of people in India are engaged in the unorganised retailing sector. The country has the highest shop density in the world, having at least one retail shop for every 100 people. However, the industry remains fragmented, with little by way of scientific organisation.The retailing industry covers not only small shops but also department stores, supermarkets, mail-order units and even exclusive outlets of manufacturers for carrying out direct sales. Globalisation opened the gates for economic development in the country, but the consequent rise in number of small jobs or occupations has not been significant. However, a new generation with considerable disposable income has emerged recently in urban areas. Popularity of television commercials promising glittering lifestyles has led to the rising demand for a wide variety of consumer products among large segments of the urban youth. Consumerism has, perhaps, expanded to attain undesirable dimensions, leading to doubtful social equations.The fast growth in number of urban nuclear families, along with a rise in number of working women, is steadily pushing up the buying power of the urban middle-class. An interesting evidence for this is the credit-card revolution. More and more people look for quality in the products that they buy. Stunning innovations in sales promotion attract urban consumers to new ways of handling their shopping baskets. "Kids retailing," apparel sales and fashion marketing are reaching new horizons. As a consequence of these changes, the retailing industry is on the verge of a great forward leap. Department stores that sell bakery items, frozen food, meat, dairy products, apparel, cosmetics, provisions, vegetables, home furnishings, footwear and household appliances are growing at a fast pace. Customers have the ease to find all their needs under a roof and enjoy the convenience of one-stop family shopping.
Startling consequencesWhat are the consequences of retailing growing as a large industry? Giant business houses, with their rich organisational infrastructure, may capture the retail market and leave the small shop owners high and dry. The minnows may not have adequate financial strength to compete with the rich entrepreneurs who may easily drain out the sources in one go, as in vegetable procurement. Small shops, called "Kirana" or "mom and pop" outfits, do have great cause for alarm. Several lakhs of people now engaged in running small shops and associated activities may get displaced. There is another side to this picture. Those who have studied at least up to the Plus Two level will have opportunities to enter the large retailing enterprises and gradually rise to attractive positions based on their personal merit, experience and added qualifications that they acquire while in service. Further, there will be demand for managers with specialisation in retailing, since the volume of specialised work and finance involved in the units will be large. To appreciate the size of a large retail shopping centre, remember that the average area of a centre of Wal-Mart, world's largest retailer based in the U.S., is around 85,000 sq.ft, whereas the average area of a small shop in India is 500 sq.ft. As an instance of retailing emerging in a big way in India, Bharti Enterprises, a telecom company, has joined hands with Wal-Mart for foraying into the retail business. Many other investors are in the queue. Some may argue that this is not new in India, citing chains such as Bata that specialises in footwear. But what we are discussing here is a different kettle of fish. The new genre of retailing organisations will have a great impact on commerce. Retailers such as Pantaloon, Subiksha, Spencers, Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Big Bazaar, Bharti and Westside are already in operation. Reliance, Tatas, RPG and Birlas are said to have giant projects on the anvil. But the coming of multinational retailers such as Wal-Mart, Sears, Tesco, Target, Krogers, Benetton, Nike, Carrefour and Reebok will have far reaching impact. Whereas 85 per cent of retailing in developed countries is handled by the organised sector, its contribution in India is below 5 per cent, though it is growing at a rapid rate. Nearly half the fast-moving retail products in the country are food items. More than half of these fall in the unbranded variety. Here lies the potential of retailing: brand them and sell them through large organised retailing outlets.
Leap in opportunitiesAccording to one estimate, organised retailing on India will reach $ 23 billion by 2010. A growth rate of about 20 per cent will involve a leap in the job opportunities for the educated youth. According to one estimate, the emerging jobs may go to 10 or 15 million. We are speaking about jobs of salesman, counter assistant, store manager, logistics manager, retail manager, visual merchandiser and supply chain distributor. When retailing emerges as a big business, there will be tough competition that calls for the dynamic services of active and enthusiastic professionals. Mass procurement, quality check, scientific distribution of products and ensuring purity, good quality and reliability at reasonable prices are the hallmarks of effective retailing. Mass procurement directly from the producers will eliminate intermediaries and help to bring down the selling price. Though the successful operation of such units will be confined to urban areas, the retail market in India is unusually vast, offering great potential. If the middle class can be roped in, the business is bound to thrive. Retail giants from the developed countries such as the U.S. have cast their nets wide to cover India and China. B.S. WARRIER