Are you focusing on the bigger picture of your business?

Rakesh had inherited a small 200 sq feet provision shop from his father. Then he bought two adjoining shops and grew it to 1000 sq ft size. His store was very famous in the neighborhood and people used to flock it to buy things from there. He gave a lot of personal attention to the store decor, cleanliness, inventory control etc. He checked these things himself. He spent his whole day at the store. He was very happy with his own progress.

His cousin, Nimesh also had inherited a similar shop, but today, Nimesh owned a chain of around 50 stores across the country and was aiming at 300 stores in next 5 years. Nimesh’s stores were also very famous for their quality, variety, cleanliness and service. Rakesh wondered at the 50 times higher growth of his cousin. He was curious to know what he should do to grow that big. Once, he asked Nimesh about this.

Nimesh told him his simple secret. “You and I both have 24 hours in a day, just like anybody else. What activities do we focus on during these 24 hours makes all the difference. We may focus all our time on doing the daily routine things or we can also focus on building our teams to take care of the routine things. I spend time on developing people and processes. First, I standardized my routine activities. Then, I multiplied my hands by finding good people and training them to help me doing routine things. I went on handing over responsibilities to them, which they were capable and willing to do. Today, in 24 hours, I can manage 50 shops, without sitting at any one of them.”

What Nimesh looked at was the bigger picture. We may get busy in developing our small business so much that we forget to prepare to scale it up. For scaling up, we need people and good processes. If we spend all our time in micro managing the things, the business will continue growing at linear rate, but it cannot multiply. For multiplication, we need to focus on bigger picture. For that, we need to get some free time. We need to develop and train our people. We need to develop our own self. We need to learn new things about our business. We need to meet new people.

All this is not possible if we are too busy micro managing. By doing so, we may be able to plug some petty expense, but we may be missing on some huge opportunity. The opportunities exist outside the four walls of our business and for identifying them, we need to keep in touch with that outer world.

Remember Nimesh’s words. We all have 24 hours. We may choose to spend it counting small change in our cash counter or focus on thinking ideas for multiplying our business and stores. The cash counter can be managed by some technology, but thinking cannot be outsourced to technology. The deadly disease of micro managing must be cured before it eats our growth potential. The Titanic sank because the captain focused too much on internal things and could not see the iceberg approaching in the foggy sea of uncertainties. The captain must focus on the bigger picture. Internal tasks can be delegated. Strategy is the captain’s job. That is the bigger picture.

BIG reasons of Big Bazaar’s success

Sometimes accused of being a Wal-Mart wannabe, Big Bazaar is surely not a Desi copying an Angrez for sure. It has received great success on its own steam and can be called our own home grown “India’s Wal-mart”, even though the comparison is out-of-place and unnecessary. 

How could Future Group’s Big Bazaar achieve what many Angrez companies still dream to do…? There are some very good reasons and learning lessons for all those who aspire to earn from the buying potential of swelling middle class of India.

1) Big Bazaar has given freedom of choice to those who did not have it in their life
Big Bazaar’s founder Kishore Biyani has popularized the very logical categorization of India in 3 divisions. India-1 is the Upper middle class, about 14% of the population that is the actual consuming class. Serving to this India-1 is India-2, forming about 55% of the country’s population. These are drivers, peons, cleaners, maid servants etc. etc. who have very meager salaries and live a hand-to-mouth existance. The third part is the balance 31% of India-3, which is struggling for the existence.

The Kirana shops which sell goods, do not offer the choice, ambience, service and of course the discounts Big Bazaar offers to customers. You imagine going to your nearby friendly grocer to buy a toilet soap. He will ask you “Which one do you want?”. If you know, you get what you what. But, if you want to know how many new brands, types, sizes are there to choose from, grocer will not be very happy to tell you or show you all this. Such situation is even worse for those from India-2. They are not treated very well if asked such questions or trying to get more information, trying to get a ‘choice’.

Big Bazaar gave them choice. A freedom to choose. It offers a very wide range of goods required for daily needs. You can have a look, touch and feel them, compare and then decide to buy. With the plethora of FMCG items occupying the shelves of stores, such choice is really convenient and facilitating the buyers. This choice, I think, is one very important reason for Big Bazaar’s success.

2) Big Bazaar connects with the masses effectively
The communication of brand Big Bazaar is sharply focused and to-the-point. Big Bazaar talks in local language. Observe Big Bazaar’s communication.

  • “Isse Sasta Aur Accha Kahin Nahin”
  • “Saal Ka Sabse Sasta Din”
  • “Hafte ka Sabse Sasta Din”
  • Sell your Bhangar at great rates”
  • “Purana Do Naya Lo… Badal Dalo”
  • Stall ke Bhaav Balcony
  • Chane ke Bhaav Kaju
  • Paise Jodo Kaam Aayenge

All this smart communication has worked wonders. Today also, you observe any of the advertisements of Big Bazaar competitors. Their tag lines are still in English. This Angrez attitude does not connect with Indians. Big Bazaar has understood it clearly and others have not yet woken upto this simple fact, giving Big Bazaar a clear, distinctive position in customer’s mind. Big Bazaar is perceived as a store which knows India and Indians well. Its communication has been successful in achieving this objective.

3) Big Bazaar has understood its target customer very well
If you go to a super store in any mall, we may find some very smart boys and girls greeting us. This may be good for some, but people like me sometimes get frightened by these fine and smart people, because they are so much better looking than me. They speak so much better than me. They are dressed much better than me. I get put off by all this and hence avoiding such stores who have very smart people greeting me. At Big Bazaar, the staff is helpful, but not overtly smart. You don’t get frightened by their style. This is very practical. The customer coming to Big Bazaar is of the middle class If they are greeted by people smarter than them, they feel uncomfortable. So, Big Bazaar has ensured that customers are not made to feel small by overbearing staff members. This is one very smart strategy of Big Bazaar and it reflects its deep understanding of the customer psyche.

4) Big Bazaar has understood changes reshaping India very well
With increasing urbanization, more and more people are migrating to cities from villages. In villages, there are no big stores, but in nearby towns there are weekly ‘mandi’ e.g. Somwaari Bazaar, Budhwaaar Bazaar, Ravivaar Bazaar etc. In such mandi set up, one gets to look, see, touch  and feel all the ware that is for sale. This is what the village customers are habituated to do. When they come to cities, they had to buy from small kirana shops, where the goods were not displayed freely. They had to ask for what they want and get away from there. Big Bazaar recreates that mandi environment for them. It gives them the same open display of all that is available, and that too, in elegant, clean, air conditioned ambiance with helpful staff to support the customer.. And I think, this is profoundly important from a customer’s point of view. The current demographic shifts happening in India are understood very well by Big Bazaar and are implemented profitably.

The mythical 50 Crore Indian middle class is a part of many smart projections of world leader retail giants willing to enter India. But, Kishore Biyani and Big Bazaar have succeeded in getting to the true understanding of Indian middle class. This a very important learning lesson for all those who wish to succeed in retail in India.