Monday, October 20, 2008

A realistic odyssey in to retail world

A complete 30-session course on the world of retailing by Prof. Dr. Vijay Kumar Jayaram, Founder & Director – SIMERF, a virtual organization involved in management education and consultancy

My first experience as an exclusive retailer in selling vegetables and fruits was unfathomable. I have reached the place of biggest wholesale vegetable supplier in the town after comparing the price of vegetables with the other suppliers and confirmed that this is the best place to get the deal done. I was little apprehensive as the supplier was encircled by lot of seasoned retailers in busy bargaining. The wholesaler identified immediately that I am new into the business (I wondered where he acquired the skill of face reading) and enquired about my business location before getting into the business … When I quoted my itemized requirements, he calculated and tried to push in bulk with some additional discount… but refused as my inner voice cautioned the wastage cost (perishable) …. After rounds of negotiations, the supplier agreed for my quote with discounts lesser than current market rates and he reasoned out the heavy discount. He said he always encourage new start-ups to avoid monopoly in the market, at the interest of consumers. Wow noble value systems are still in existence … I cursed the cynicisms that values are dead in a fierce competing world ,,,, my heart lauded the supplier for a moment , with a great sense of pride that I have partnered with an honest supplier in the town in my maiden transaction itself.

I moved all the vegetables to my shop and waited for the customers next morning. I was pretty sure that my shop is going to be an instant hit in my location as I managed to get vegetables at a much lower cost from the wholesaler than the other big house retailers. Customers started pouring in. To my dismay many of their faces were little unpleasant after looking at the price tag, and they all ended up with petty purchases. I was confused for a while and enquired a customer about this. A sharp nail hit straight on my forehead “prices are higher than big retail house, so not happy with the store”… I was taken a back. I got the best deal in the town on the day, so mine should be the minimum... how it is possible?? ….I was suspicious at his complaint. I checked the price in other retail shops through my small workforce … yes its true... they are selling at a lower price than my shop for sure!!!! But how is it possible? I came to know that my competing retailers purchased at the goods at a much lower price than me from the same wholesale vendor … I turned mad when I realized that supplier fooled me with his words …. I lost in the game... my neighboring retail stores were doing well… My venture was a total fiasco. I don’t know what to do...

“Time is up guys”, Prof. Vijaykumar shouted at his base voice to break the utter chaos prevailed in the classroom to reach us ….. I came out of my retailer avatar. Yes, the above mentioned retail business was a real time simulation game in the world of retailing course. Supplier roles were played by four students and rest of us have to be a retailers as well as customers …it was a total chaos for whole 1 hour & 30 min… perhaps if any one listened to the conversations alone .. I bet that they would have presumed it to be a koyambedu vegetable market…After an exhausting role play, we all settled down and shared our experiences as a retailer as well as customers…. And also the students who played the role of wholesalers merrily explained the tactics that they have followed to run a profitable business. I was fuming at them as I was one the victim of their conspiring strategy. Professor was stunned when he came to know that group of students formed a cartel during their transaction with suppliers… I looked at my friend who also lost in the game. We exchanged a sigh at each other and shrugged the shoulders as usual.

Once we were done with the feedback about the simulation exercise, professor explained about the retail business by correlating our experiences in the exercise. He explained the different roles that are being played by a retailer, wholesaler and the intricacies involved in it. When we raised our concern that if some more constraints for Wholesaler would have reduced the chaos in the game, we were informed that its simulation is based on “Synetics” , a state where there will be free flow of thought and hence the learning will also be maximum .. Yes that’s sounds true to us from the experiences we gained from the simulation exercise..

Since then I became a fan of professor VKJ for his unique style of teaching and I was looking for his sessions every week. I was in the state of bliss when he announced that we are going to have two more simulation exercise for understanding ‘customer relationship management’ in his next class. In subsequent weeks we got engaged in simulations like ‘Blind fold Game’ and ‘Retail Banking Exercise’ to get the key insights of CRM.

It was totally a pleasant and surprising experience to each one of us in the class in understanding the concepts of such real-world subjects through simulations and role plays. The 30 hour session on retailing by professor VKJ with his power packed pedagogy helped us in a much bigger way to prune ourselves as ‘Industry – Ready’ mangers. His well crafted traps in the game made us to realize the real-world intricacies of retailing, which looks glossy and glamorous from the outside. Truly an amazing learning experience in a new dimension. Thanks a lot professor

Contributed by Arun Saravanakumar, Marcom Varsity

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