Retail – The sunrise sector for employment opportunities

I recently wrote an article on the Retail sector in India and the employment opportunities it provides. Here’s the link to the original article on ET Retail.

Few months ago, a small paanstall mysteriously appeared on the footpath near our office. I saw a young man at the helm, selling paan, cigarettes, chewing gum and some toffees. As I walked by his stall in the evenings, I occasionally bought a packet of chewing gum to encourage his endeavour. In a short time, I found that he didn’t need much encouragement from me. I saw the number of people visiting his stall grow and now he has packets of popular namkeen and chips, cold drinks and mineral water. In just a few months, I saw his stall growing significantly to cater to the office crowd in the area. He still smiles at me and offers me free chewing gum to show his gratitude for encouraging him in his early days.

This young man’s journey is also the story of Indian Retail Sector which over the last decade or so has gone through a major transformation. Shedding the initial fears of large corporations displacing small shops, there is now a noticeable shift towards organized retailing. Suddenly you notice malls in every nook and corner, displaying large billboards and proudly lit up at night. Indian brands compete unabashedly with their multi-national counterparts. The un-organized retail has also stepped up, with even the small time kirana stores modernizing themselves in terms of display and operations to keep pace with the growing demands of the customers.

Today, the retail sector accounts for about 22% of India’s GDP. According to a recent KPMG report on Indian retail, the overall size of the industry is estimated to be $534 billion in 2013-14 with a CAGR of 15% over last five years. Going forward, the overall retail sector growth is likely to witness a CAGR of 12-13 %, which would be worth $948 billion in 2018-19.

A number of factors have influenced this dramatic growth. Growing youth population, nuclear families in urban areas, a growing middle class with rising incomes and the resulting purchasing power, and higher brand consciousness have driven the demand for retailing. Opening up of FDI has created conducive regulatory environment for the sector. This coupled with rapid real estate infrastructure development, better efficiency in supply-chain, R&D, innovation and new product development has fueled the supply side.

All this translates to the many opportunities for the youth in the country. As per a report by NSDC, India will need around 56 million strong work-force for the booming retail sector. The sector will have one of the highest incremental human resource requirement of 17.35 million by 2022, offering opportunities in sales, merchandising, store management, central management and procurement.

For the youth to avail the upcoming opportunities and pursue a promising career in retail industry, it is important they equip themselves with the right training as different lines of retail business require distinct skill-sets. Some skills and interests that one must have before joining the retail industry are:

  1. Enjoy working with people 
  2. Enjoy constant customer interaction 
  3. An enthusiastic, flexible and positive attitude 
  4. Ability to step in another person’s shoes 
  5. Empathy and understanding towards a distressed customer

Formal education is not as essential in the retail industry as it is in other areas of marketing. Many senior executives in this industry are people who were hired as retail staff. Their sincerity, hard work, enthusiasm, speed and experience,and an unwavering customer-centric focus resulted in their growth. So with the right attitude, one can easily hope to make it big in the retail industry. Typically, one can enter the retail industry as a class Xth or X11th pass out and with the right attitude and training, over a period of time,can advance to specialized jobs or management positions that offer higher remuneration.

Major proportion of the employment in the retail sector is in front-end/retail assistant profiles in stores. Store operations account for 75%-80% of the total manpower employed in the organized retail sector. Although the skill requirements may seem similar across segments, the type of product retailed, format of the store and customer involvement impacts the intensity of skill requirement across various functions. Soft skills such as communication and interpersonal skills are the key criterion for employability for both the entry-level and middle-level jobs at the retail store.

Retail industry in India has the potential to provide employment to a large number of youth. The latest announcement by the government to allow 100% FDI in retail (e-commerce, wholesale and in the marketing of food products) has already indicated a surge in employment opportunities in this sector. A direct result of FDI would be increase in the number as well as the formats of retail, which would result in the generation of jobs in multiple categories. This development brings with it an unprecedented need for nation-wide availability of skilled labour and an increased demand for comprehensive skills training.