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Monday, September 13, 2010


He had a job to make a fledgling grow at a time when the big guns were getting battered by times. Today, the storm has passed and what remains is a ‘huge year’ ahead...

Retail was one of the favourite words until the slowdown occurred. All hopes of making it big were dashed and millions of rupees in investments were washed away. There were big winners and bigger losers. But at the same time, when there were others burning the tracks with speedy expansion plans, there was one start-up in the retail space – Mahindra Retail – which chose a different path. With its mom & me retail outlets, it not only defied the age-old strategy of establishing a name in the retail space through generic grocery and vegetable business model, but also went slow at a time when everyone was scampering to grab more space... Although criticised for its strategic intent initially, it survived the crash, came stronger than most competitors and today appears to be gearing up for a rather different new year, with its plans to open 50 new retail outlets in 2010. K. Venkataraman with his team believes that he can take the current count of seven stores to 57 without many headaches. Today, mom & me is betting big on the expecting parents, luring them with each offering and taking care than the mom & me brand becomes recognised for care and special offerings. A 4Ps B&M exclusive interview with the man who led this careful march ahead...

What challenges did you face during the initial phase when you decided to open the retail outlets?
Earlier, we were not into retailing, and so the initial bottleneck of entering the industry should have practically posed a big problem. But we did our homework and research for two years before opening our first store, therefore there we no problems like figuring out the right property, logistics issue et al. But there were some problems that crept up due to the format of specialised retailing that we got into…

Can you give us some details about such problems?
Since it was a specialised retail format, we didn’t know the accurate manpower. Then, figuring out all possible merchandise that an expecting woman would require required that we become extremely careful when it comes to choosing the type of products that we needed to keep in our stores.

Did the presence of big retail brands make it difficult for you to establish ‘mom & me’?
Not really, as our target audience was very focused, and we were offering services to this target audience that were unique. When motherhood starts, various things are required and we started offering them under one umbrella. Then, pricing also became an important factor and we didn’t keep our prices exorbitantly high. I think such strong bases were enough to promote and push ‘mom & me’.

But compared to other players in the market, don’t you think, you have been slow when it comes to expansions?
We know that we have been following a very slow retail penetration model, but we never really believed in opening stores unless and until we had a full back-up to support the store(s). And then there was no point in opening-up stores by disturbing the financial equity of the company. Our stores had to be located in prime areas or in the prime points in any locality, therefore mapping down such points was time consuming and costly.

So would you continue with such a slow growth model?
See, the initial two years was a testing phase for us, so now we know the exact property layout and the brand is fast getting well known too. Hereon, we would definitely adopt a more aggressive expansion strategy. For instance, in 2010, we would be opening 50 more stores and this would not be limited to only where we are already present. The growth will happen in new locations too.

Do you have any plans to take ‘mom & me’ overseas?
Yes, in fact we would be leveraging from our other businesses. Say for instance, Scorpio has retail outlets beyond the national boundary and opening a ‘mom & me’ store in such locations can be an option. In fact, every year we have the ‘blue-chip’ conference where group heads of Mahindra’s various ventures meet to discus how the group can benefit from each others’ business and several such issues are discussed. So the plan is on...

Would you roll out any other specialised retail formats in the future?
We are open to that option, but right now we haven’t thought about it. But we would never enter into the regular retail model; it has to be a ‘specialized’ model.

K. Venkataraman is the Managing
Director of Mahindra Retail

For more articles, Click on IIPM Article.

Source : IIPM Editorial, 2010.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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