After meeting with MET officials we were gathered in a nice hall to have an interactive session with Mr. SandipTarkas – CEO of Future Media, who was kind enough to spend some time with us and talk about Future Group and Big Bazaar in particular and their business practices in India.
We started off the session with determining what we thought were the differences and similarities between Big Bazaar and any other U.S. Supermarket. One of the differences we pointed out was that merchandise was stored on the floor in Big Bazaar which we don’t see very often in the United States. Another difference was the store’s layout. In the beginning when Big Bazaar was introduced to Indian customers, the floor layout was very similar to the one we see in Wal-Mart today. However, Indian customers were confused and therefore could not properly locate the products they were looking for. Big Bazaar needed a layout that would be suitable for Indian people. They created a new store layout that allowed customers to go through the entire store. For us, US consumers, the store seemed a bit confusing and many times it was difficult to locate a desirable product without asking for help. However, that was not a problem at all. Big Bazaar as well as most of the stores in India seem to have plenty of staff who were ready to help. Big Bazaar in particular had 4-5 employees per each department. We received quite a lot of attention once we entered the store however this might be because the store expected us and did it best to provide us with everything we need. As we were informed, normally help is provided when it is asked for.
After we picked all the items we were looking for we proceeded to the check out counter. Big Bazaar does not have self check out stands to which we are so used in the United States. Standing in line in Big Bazaar was quite an experience. The sense of personal space in India is very different from ours. Indian shoppers tend to stand very close to the person in front of them. As we found out later on if there is enough space between two people, someone will spot it and cut the line, which is very common in India. Standing in line also takes longer that it normally does in the United States where we are so used to the fast service. Indian employees were very helpful and customer service was exceptionally excellent, however they seemed to take their time while providing it. Indian shoppers find solutions to all these challenges. Since most Indians shop in groups, many times one will stand in line while others shop and by the time they find all the necessary products the person in line will be very close to the checkout stand. There is an interesting term we learnt from Mr. Tarkas – “jugaad”, which means “making it possible”. For every problem or challenge that Indians face they manage to find a solution.
Finally when we reached the cashier, we encountered another problem – change. Smaller bills were preferred to the large ones. As we found out later from Mr. Tarkas’ for small purchases Indians pay with cash, however if the purchase is quite large, the cards are being used. Debit/credit cards are becoming more popular in India; however as of today only 3 % of the total population uses them.
As for the similarities, some were pointed out as well. For example the promotions were quite similar to the ones we have in the United States. However even here we noted some differences. As we learnt from Mr. Tarkas most Indians shop in groups as opposed to Americans who prefer shopping alone. And therefore promotions like “Buy 3 get 2 free” are very popular in India.
Mr. Tarkas also talked a lot about India and Indian culture. He emphasized the fact that India is a multicultural nation with different countries within one. It makes it challenging for companies to satisfy all of their customers’ needs. There is a special approach that is needed to make sure all the cultural aspects are taken into account when doing business in India. Big Bazaar was created to change the way Indians shop and make it affordable for the majority of the population to have access to a better shopping experience.