Not so any longer. Today, a career in the retail industry is on par with other careers. Products of prestigious business schools, who once shunned the industry, are eager to get into the thick of action. Retail marketing has become a specialised course in many business schools. Retail outlets have become 'family outing' experiences, with entire families spending many hours browsing through shelves displaying alluring products. Clearly, the retail revolution has hit the country.
The credit for this change of heart can be laid at the doorstep of a man who, with his handsome looks and boyish face, could have easily become a leading hero of the Kannada film industry. This man is none other than, B. S. Nagesh, chief executive officer of the Shoppers' Stop chain of departmental stores. Nagesh entered the retail industry at a time when the concept of 'organised departmental stores' was considered a non-starter in this country. Prior to his entry there were some attempts made by others in the past, to set up departmental stores of the type one encountered abroad. They all died a premature death and perpetuated the myth that 'foreign style' departmental stores would never succeed in India. One can never hazard a guess as to why the previous attempts failed and why Shoppers' Stop took off the way it did. Was it the fact that the country just became ready for the retail concept? Were the previous attempts badly organised? Was there a big gap between customer expectations and its fulfilment? Or, was Nagesh just plain lucky? It could be a combination of all these factors. But attributing the last factor to Nagesh's success would be doing a great disservice to the man.
Born in Bangalore forty-one years ago, Nagesh has spent his early years in Gorakhpur, where his father, who was working with the Railways, was posted. He did his schooling in Bareilly and acquired a degree in management from BHU, Varanasi after finishing college from Gorakhpur.
After getting the management degree, he worked with Blow Plast Ltd and Orson Electronics, before joining Carona Ltd., where his thirst for retail was ignited. At Carona, which was the country's second largest footwear company, he was the youngest manager in the hierarchy and had over 100 stores assigned to him. Though he was in trade sales, he really moved the retail way by encouraging secondary sales to pump up primary trade sales. This saw the man stand behind many a counter at the retail level, which helped convince the secondary tier that his involvement was genuine – thus boosting primary sales.
After having handled over a hundred retail stores of 500 and odd sq. ft. each, he had a burning desire to set up and run a huge departmental store of 50,000 sq ft. He got the opportunity to realise his dream when a head hunter called him, presumably on the reference of his mentor, Mr. Rajiv Sahai -- currently a very senior executive with a leading entertainment company – and to whom he had mentioned his desire. The head hunter took him to a real estate tycoon based in Mumbai. This tycoon had a huge property lying vacant and had the intention of making commercial use of this property. For some reason this tycoon believed that a huge retail departmental store at this property would be the way out. The tycoon was none other than Mr. G. L. Raheja, the country's undisputed king of real estate. This belief led Mr. Raheja to meet Nagesh. And, the rest is history.
True to his nature, Nagesh refuses to take sole credit for building Shoppers' Stop into what it is today. While the arc lights for the success are on him, he is very clear that the credit for the same is to be shared with two groups;
- first the promoters of Shoppers' Stop and Mr. G.L. Raheja, in particular, for having reposed their total faith in him and his team and allowing them to make mistakes; and,
- his team, which has stuck by him during the critical phase of growth to make the store a thrilling shopping experience.