Know Your Divisional Heads


My qualifications: Postgraduate in Statistics from Nagpur University and a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management from IIM, Ahmedabad.

I head: The Retailing Division.

I deal with (products): We sell the products of our FIG, Appliance, Security Equipment, Locks and Prima Divisions through the Company's showrooms. Recently, we have added other household accessories like beanbags and bedlinen to our portfolio.

My Division's marketing techniques:

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To provide the customer a pleasant buying experience, both in terms of good showroom ambience and good treatment by the showroom staff.

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Showrooms to maintain an excellent rapport with their customers through mailers, telemarketing and personal contacts.

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Showrooms to project the "new face of Godrej", thereby enhancing the equity of the Godrej brand.

Its sales turnover: Expected to cross Rs. 4,200 lakhs this year (2004-05).

The export turnover: Nil (would love to open showrooms abroad!).

We export our products to: Not applicable.

Our competitors: Major furniture players like Durian, Style Spa, etc., major appliance players like LG, Whirlpool, Samsung, etc.

My Division's goals for 2005-06: To achieve a growth of 70 per cent (!) and reach a turnover of Rs. 7,200 crores.

My personal goals for 2005-06: To establish the Retailing Division as a thoroughly professional, economically viable business where the customer always comes first.

My strengths and weaknesses:
Strengths:

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Empathy

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Ability to carry people along

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Analytical skills

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Process orientation

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Ability to stay calm in a crisis

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Sense of humour.

Weaknesses:

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Tend to trust people too much

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At times give excessive attention to detail

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Need to make more productive use of time.

My family background: My wife, Hilla, was a lecturer in English. She gave up her career after marriage to look after the family. We have two daughters — Dhun, 20, is in second-year B.Sc., and Sherna, 14, is in school in Std. IX.

My first crush: I married her.

My hobbies: Reading, travelling, music.

My pets: I love dogs.

My favourite books: My favourite author at present is Sumantra Ghoshal. My all-time favourites are Oscar Wilde, Bertrand Russell, P.G. Wodehouse.

My most embarrassing moment: Too private to narrate.

I am content with: My family and my work.

I am jealous of: No one.

I get upset when: A commitment to a customer is not met.

I fear: The tsunami!!

I am proud of: My team.

My retirement plans: To travel, to read, and to enjoy my retirement.

The future of Godrej: Glorious.

I love India because: of its people, its culture, its music, its history.

 

Salesman's Progress

B.K. Karanjia

I had a little surprise for Byram N. Doongaji when I went to interview him at Pirojshanagar. It was just a tiny piece of paper, yellowing with age and on the verge of disintegrating. I had carefully preserved this piece of paper for possible use in the Godrej Archive because it bore the signature of Pirojsha Godrej who consolidated the several businesses launched by his elder brother Ardeshir. It was a bill bearing Pirojsha's signature for a Godrej steel cupboard bought by my father way back in 1919. What was significant or, rather, unbelievable was the price marked on it — just Rs. 210. Doongaji was a little taken aback when I told him about this bill but, good salesman that he is, he took it in his stride, painstakingly explaining why the present Storwel price has multiplied manifold to Rs. 7,000 or more. Father had purchased six such steel cupboards, which were inherited by me. Repainted, they look as good as new.

There were two differences, though. The steel in the old cupboards was much thicker than in the Storwels of today. It took four men to carry each down our staircase at Chowpatty and up the staircase of our new flat at Bandra. The second difference was that these cupboards didn't carry the present Godrej logo. The key-plate bore the letters G,O,D,R,E,J vertically, one below the other, with a semicircle on the top bearing the word "Patent". The Godrej logo based on Pirojsha's signature had not been adopted then.

Doongaji doesn't at all resemble the loud-mouthed, smooth, fast-talking, smartly dressed, aggressive salesman one encounters these days — simply dressed, soft-spoken, not at all aggressive, in fact the very opposite, quiet, polite and a good listener. To my mind there are two attributes that have helped him to rise from Branch Manager, Bombay, in 1991 to Vice President and Business Head, Retailing Division, selling a wide variety of products. The first is that his voice carries conviction. The second that he has an honest face.

Maybe there's a third attribute too. Doongaji is incorrigibly optimistic. If ever it came about that a Godrej refrigerator was required to be sold to an Eskimo, Doongaji would give it a try!

A happy family photograph accompanies this interview. Which family wouldn't be happy with Doongaji at its head?

Ch. Why are Godrej cupboards so expensive and of such a thin gauge whereas earlier they were much stronger and cheaper?
BND Over the years, the price of steel has gone up substantially and it is no longer viable to use thick gauges of steel as in the past. Internationally the trend is towards using thinner gauges. Customers today are looking for functionality and aesthetics.

Ch. How would you as a salesman, convince the customer into buying a Godrej cupboard?
BND First of all, I'd try to find out what the customer needs the cupboard for. Is it an additional cupboard for the child or is it the main cupboard, and so on. I would then show the customer the best model to satisfy his needs and the best colour that will go with his decor. I would also emphasize the aspects of quality and lifelong durability. The price would come last.


A happy family: (from left) Dhun, Byram, Hilla and Sherna.

Ch. What about competitors?
BND In cupboards, the main competition comes from either regional or local players, whose quality compares very poorly with ours. In terms of reliability, the customer never knows what he is getting from these competitors. Also, in terms of product life and after-sales service, competitors cannot match us.

Ch. Your Division sells a wide variety of Godrej products. How far in your experience does Godrej advertising help sales? We follow the common ad-spending mantra of "approaching the most people at the lowest possible cost". Till 1950 this was also the mantra of top American agencies. But after 1950 in America there was a change to the targeted demographic customer between the ages of 18 and 34. Do you see any such change in India? Do you concentrate on any particular age group of customers?
BND There is a definite trend in India also towards targeting specific customer segments rather than "the most people at the lowest possible cost". The age group of 18 to 34 mentioned by you becomes extremely important in our country due to the large percentage of people in this age group and their growing incomes.

Ch. How is Godrej targeting this age group? Do we have the products?
BND Our Furniture & Interiors Group has in the recent past launched Home products, which are trendy and contemporary in design and would appeal to the younger age group. In fact we now have products like bunk beds and study tables etc., which target an even younger age group. We also have Godrej I-Space products for children, providing them with the space to grow.

Ch. According to an article in SPAN magazine, the business premise behind targeting the 18 to 34 age group in America recently "is bunk". Car ads in the 1940s and 1950s made reliability and endurance their selling points. However, since the 1960s car-sellers have taken to the symbolism of revolution. For example, Oldsmobile cars were rechristened Youngmobile. Buick told would-be customers, "Now we're talking your language." Yet young adults in America accounted for only 9 per cent of all new cars sold. This paradox I'm unable to understand.
BND Maybe car advertisers do this in the hope that young adults will grow up to become their customers.

Ch. That's wishful thinking, I think. Yet I must admit that, according to SPAN, there is one striking exception. The car named Civic, brought out by Honda, is enjoying remarkable sales among young adults in the proportion of one to every five. This could be an exception that proves the rule. The American business ethos is full of surprises.
BND Trends in advertising recently are no doubt targeting the young, tomorrow's customers.

Ch. Let's turn to the renovation of showrooms. What made you go in for these large-scale renovations? Has there been any appreciable increase in sales subsequent to these renovations? Don't you think that having good quality products coupled with well-groomed sales personnel should be the priority?
BND Most of our showrooms were last done up more than 20 years ago. In terms of aesthetics and style, they were relevant to the 1970s and early 1980s. Also the condition of most of the showrooms when the Retailing Division took over in April 2003, was bad and projected a very poor image of the Company. Today's customer not only expects quality products, but also good ambience and a good shopping experience, the standards for which have been set by other major retailers in the country. Therefore I do not think we had a choice; we had to do up our showrooms both to keep pace with the customer's expectations and to project the new image of the Company.

We have been tracking the sales of the renovated showrooms vis-ΰ-vis those which are not yet renovated. There is a significant difference, with the renovated showrooms showing an average growth of 55 per cent over the last 12 months as compared to growth of 40 per cent shown by the non-renovated showrooms in the same period.

Having said that, I do agree that good quality products coupled with well-groomed sales personnel, are also very important.

Ch. While showrooms charge a 100 per cent advance from customers, they are not able to deliver within 24 hours. Delivery of a chair can take over a week. Don't you think that the Division is not keeping up with fast-changing times? You are dependent on other Divisions for deliveries. How do you feel? What would be your role in speeding up deliveries?
BND I totally agree with you that we need to improve our delivery times in keeping with the expectations of today's customers. We have been working with other Divisions as also with our newly formed Commercial Department to improve our delivery time. The task is complex due to the large number of stock-keeping units. You will be surprised to know the total number of different stock-keeping units sold through our showrooms in the last one year runs to over 2,000 items!

Ch. CHANGE has been given to understand that a VIP entering a showroom using the Director's or Chairman's name is treated better than the normal customer. Even if the stock doesn't show a certain product as being ready, the product is both manufactured and delivered within 24 hours to a VIP customer. The impossible is made possible. Isn't it the job of the Division to satisfy all its customers equally?
BND For us every customer who enters our showroom is a VIP and it is the endeavour of our showroom personnel to treat all customers alike. However, if some "VIP customers" get immediate deliveries, I do not think there is anything wrong so long as we do not neglect other customers.

Ch. Would you call this a vestige of feudalism in India?
BND This is not feudalism. VIPs may sometimes get faster delivery because of the follow-up from all concerned. However, as I said, this is not wrong so long as we don't neglect the other customers.

Ch. It appears that the Retailing Division has realised the need of having its independent warehouse where ready stocks can be placed, but is not able to bear inventory-holding charges. How far is the Division from realising this dream?
BND There is a move across the Company to converge all "back office" facilities like warehousing, order processing, etc. We will therefore not have separate physical warehouses for Retailing. We are working towards a situation where stocks can be earmarked for Retailing in the system, thereby improving availability.

Ch. It seems that the Division follows a chart — any showroom getting business below Rs. 1 crore (per annum) has to be manned only by one salesperson. That person is supposed to not only get business, but also book sales orders, follow up for other matters, do accounts-related jobs, deposit cash in the bank… Why doesn't the Retailing Division consider centralising these "back office" functions? When a salesperson has so many other "back office" functions, do you think he is in the right frame of mind to sell with a smile? Why can't the manpower be increased?
BND We are a profit centre, we have to make profits with our limited margins. We have to control costs, including manpower cost. It is, therefore, critical that our present sales staff reaches its optimum level of performance, before we look to additional recruitment. Next year, when we are planning a quantum jump in sales, we do have plans to add more people. As footfalls and turnover increase, we will definitely increase manpower.

Ch. The Retailing Division has now got key duplicating machines. In the Dombivli Showroom, it's the Showroom In-Charge who duplicates keys. Year after year, sales targets are bound to increase. Although the idea of duplicating keys in a showroom is good, does it make sense for a Showroom In-Charge to waste time duplicating keys instead of getting more business?
BND This was an experiment tried out at the Dombivli Showroom to offer better service to customers as also to increase footfalls. However, this experiment has not succeeded since customers do not seem to perceive value in this offering. We are, therefore, not planning to extend it to other showrooms.

Ch. How has BaaN helped the Division? Are there any flaws in this system? Why should a person do physical linking between advance paid and a bill prepared, if the system is already taking care of that? Isn't that duplication of work?
BND It has positives and negatives. On the positive side, the system provides us with an excellent MIS. We can get all sales-related information for every showroom on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, the system has certain shortcomings in the Retailing environment. One of these is the issue of linking of advance, which you have pointed out and which cannot be done automatically in the system. There are other areas of concern such as quick order processing, maintaining the customer database for CRM, etc.

Ch. There are hardly nine people employed in the five showrooms in Mumbai. The area of each showroom is 3,000 square feet. A temporary canvasser's commitment to the Company is virtually zero. Does the Division have any stalwarts, who younger employees can look up to? What if these few good people resign for some reason or other?
BND As I mentioned earlier, we will be adding more people next year. We have started the recruiting process. We are also holding a training programme at Vikhroli. With the help of other Divisions, we are covering the areas of product knowledge, selling skills. There is also a section on "Know Your Company" organised by Corporate Human Resources Department.

Ch. It seems that there is a communication gap between the Assistant Managers and others in the showrooms. New product introductions are not always conveyed by the Assistant Managers. How do you plan to bridge this gap, especially when it comes to product training?
BND There was a communication gap between the Assistant Managers and people at the showrooms, but now with the help of other Divisions we have worked out a system where their Assistant Managers regularly visit our showrooms and have interactions on all relevant issues. Minutes of these meetings will be sent to those Divisions and to us. These meetings will also be used for improving the product knowledge of the showroom staff. We are institutionalising the process.

Ch. What are the advantages and disadvantages of appointing "mystery customers"? Why doesn't the Division have faith in its employees? Each "mystery customer", we're given to understand, visits each employee twice a month. Isn't this a waste of time? Besides, how can you as Divisional Head be so sure that the "mystery customer" has not given a fake report on an employee?
BND This is not a question of lack of faith in our employees. The main objective of the survey is to get unbiased feedback on the service level offered to customers, as seen through the eyes of the customer. The survey is conducted in a most professional and objective manner by an outside agency who, mind you, does similar surveys for other large retailers and who has no vested interest in the results. The feedback is, therefore, totally unbiased and we use it for improving our service levels and for identifying areas of training for the future.

Ch. If the report is exceptionally good, what reward do you offer?
BND On a quarterly basis, we identify the top three showrooms who are given some awards, something in kind. This is more by way of recognition and providing motivation.

Ch. What are the lessons you've learnt in the last two years of the Division's existence? What are the changes you'd like to make?
BND One major lesson learnt is that it is not so easy to change the entire culture of the Division. We have made a lot of improvements in the way we treat our customers, in our service levels, etc. But we still have a long way to go. The key factor is our people and how we motivate them.

We have to give constant training to showroom personnel. Besides training, we in the Head Office need to interact much more with the field people. We need to meet oftener, interact with them much more, individually or in groups through regional meetings.

Secondly, we need to grow our business faster, open more showrooms. We have already finalised new showrooms in NOIDA, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Pune, Bhubaneshwar and Raipur. We also plan to open new showrooms in the western suburbs of Mumbai, in Navi Mumbai, in Gurgaon, etc. There are gaps like these we are addressing on a priority basis. We also need to add new products from outside the Godrej stable, products that complement our present range. We have already started with beanbags and bedlinen. The objective is to become a one-stop shop for home products.

The scope in Retailing is tremendous — it is for us to get our act together and exploit the potential.

Ch. I remember you as a calm, quiet Manager of the Mumbai Branch way back in 1991. What's the one quality you possess that has made you rise from Branch Manager to Vice President?
BND Talking of strengths, I think my strengths lie in leading and motivating teams. I think I am good in people-related skills. This has stood me in good stead.

 

 

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