Big Letdown

When I moved to India around 2 1/2 years ago, I was a big believer in Big Bazaar and its ability to build a “big box” retail environment, a first for India. However, my views has changed over time and a recent visit to Big Bazaar put the final nail in the coffin.

Kishore Biyani and Company seem to have strayed from the path by getting into anything and everything. Their newly named entity – The Future Group – houses everything from retail, to real estate to financial products. I have no fault with them wanting to be everything, but they seem to be a jack of all trades and master of none.

Biz Bazaar has gotten pathetic. I went there to shop for a host of common items and about 25% of the items on my list were not available. I was not looking for items such as “world peace” or “green ketchup”, but instead shampoo and deodorant. What really got me was the lack of customer service, 6 people were standing in the shampoo aisle and NOT one of them asked if i needed help. Instead they were chatting about some new company policy.

I finally approached them and asked about the shampoo, the lady looked at the empty shelf and said “sorry not available”. REALLY, no shit lady. I asked if she could check in back or when it might be available, the answers to both questions were “don’t know.”

Truth is, I can’t blame the lady instead it’s really Kishore Biyani’s fault. He seems more concerned about trying to get money in the equity markets then focusing on his customers. All I hear him talk about is “unlocking value” from his companies, I haven’t heard him once talk about his customer base in the past 12 months. The math works in his favor, goto the public markets and score Rs 500-1000 CR (which is USD 125-250 million) in funding or focus on the customer and worry about margins at the store. In the meantime stores like Hypercity are focusing on their customers and unlocking value via the “shopping experience.”

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