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Retail Forum on Customer Centricity

MISB Bocconi Hosts Retail Forum on Customer Centricity in the Retail Industry in India

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

MISB Bocconi, in Mumbai organised a panel discussion with senior industry leaders of the retail sector on 7th of September, 2016. The topic discussed was “Customer Centricity in Retail Industry in India.” The aim here was to provide insights into the current degree of customer centricity involved in the retail industry in India. The event was a round table moderated by Mr. Rajagopalan (CEO RAI, Retail Association of India), with Mr. Darshan Mehta (CEO Reliance Brands), Mr. Manish Mandhana (MD Being Human), Mr. Aniruddha Desmukh (CEO Mafatlals), Mr. Roberto Grasso (MD Ferrero) and Dr. Anjana Grewal (Director MISB Bocconi Centers of Excellence) as part of the panel.

Prof. Dr.Anjana Grewal, Senior Professor and Director- Centres of Excellence at MISB Bocconi, began the event with a presentation on ‘The Current Indian Shopper and Retail Channel Levers.’ She spoke about a primary research conducted on a sample size of over 1600 individuals spread across India and the customer behaviour observed in the retail sector. Prof. Anjana focused on the influencing factors that affect customers in making a brand choice – store attributes like ambience, customer friendly store personnel and a holistic environment created for customers.

The panel discussion began with some untold stories in retail from our panellists. Mr. Aniruddha Deshmukh, CEO & MD of Mafatlal Industries, said that he began his retail experience with KamaSutra, a condom brand in India. Mr. Deshmukh explained that for a product like condoms, there was no need for promotion, and the product sold the idea of communication between two individuals. On the other hand, Mr. Manish Mandhana, Joint MD of Mandhana Industries Ltd. shared the story of how Being Human clothing came into existence to provide funding to Being Human Foundation.

Mr. Darshan Mehta, President & CEO of Reliance Brands, then pivoted the conversation towards the difference between ‘customer focus’ and ‘customer centricity’. He elucidated that customer focus is a bird’s eye view and is looked at from the brand’s perspective into customer needs. Whereas, customer centricity is putting yourself in the shoes of the customers and analysing the real needs. This implies, customer focus is an out-in approach but customer centricity is an in-out approach. Mr. Mehta moved on to state that India, as compared to the western world is still in a nascent stage of the consumer cycle which in actuality is a forty year plus concept.

When asked about his approach towards customer centricity, Mr. Roberto Grasso, CEO of Ferrero India, responded by saying, “At Ferrero, quality and consistency are the driving factors towards customer centricity, no matter which part of the world it is. Products at Ferrero follow a two tier approach, the hard factor – what you claim and the soft factor – what you are. The same analogy can be explained by the structure of a Ferrero Rocher that it is nutty & crunchy on the outside but soft & smooth on the inside.” Mr. Grasso strongly believed that these two key factors, contributed to Ferrero’s high customer acceptance across the world.

During the Q&A session, a prominent question that stood out was about how far the structure at Reliance Brands supported customer centricity. In reply he mentioned that the store personnel at Reliance Brands were reviewed by him on a personal level because Mr. Mehta believed that the messenger is as important as the message. Mr. Grasso added, that customer satisfaction is vital in the retail industry.

To summarise, panellists agreed that customer centricity is important irrespective of the geographical market. In addition, some elements vary which provide support in connecting with the customer and this may depend on the industry, product and markets served. The conversation in the end, left the audience with a deeper and clearer understanding on the importance of customer centricity in retail.

Photo Caption: (From left to right) Mr. Rajagopalan- CEO RAI, Retail Association of India, with Mr. Darshan Mehta – CEO Reliance Brands, Mr. Aniruddha Desmukh- CEO Mafatlals, Mr. Manish Mandhana – MD Being Human, Mr. Roberto Grasso – MD Ferrero and Dr. Anjana Grewal -Director MISB Bocconi Centers of Excellence.

About MISB Bocconi

MISB Bocconi, located in Mumbai, is the world’s only offshore presence of Università Bocconi, one of Europe’s premier universities. MISB Bocconi offers Post-Graduate program in Business and Executive Education, designed and taught by the faculty of SDA Bocconi, Milan, Italy. SDA Bocconi, the management school of Università Bocconi, is one of the selected business schools worldwide to have received, for its MBA program, all three of the prestigious international accreditations—AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System), and AMBA (Association of MBAs).