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:
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
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.
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?
Ch. How would you as a
convince the customer into buying a Godrej
Ch. What about
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?
Ch. How is Godrej
targeting this age group? Do we have the products?
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
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.
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?
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.
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
Ch. Would you call
this a vestige of feudalism in India?
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
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
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
Ch. If the report
is exceptionally good, what reward do you offer?
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?