Raghu Pillai, former director and CEO (operations, strategy and business development) of Reliance Retail, on Tuesday took over as the chief executive of Kishore Biyani's Future Value Retail. An industry veteran, Pillai talks about his new role with Business Standard. Excerpts:
How does it feel to be part of the Future Group again?
It feels very nice. It is a challenging job and I am excited and happy.
Did you leave Reliance Retail in disappointment, given the fact that it brought expats from abroad following the economic slowdown?
Not at all. I had a good four-and-a-half years there and it was a great learning experience.
Your former colleagues like Gunender Kapoor and Sanjeev Asthana have either joined private equity firms or started their own PE ventures after quiting Reliance Retail. Weren't you interested in similar ventures?
I have spent over 15 years in retail. Probably this sector suits me. I believe this is an exciting job for me.
Future Group is the largest operator in hypermarkets space with 120 Big Bazaar outlets. What is the next level of growth you see for them?
We are talking about an economy of $2 trillion next year and $3 trillion in the next three years. Future Group with its multiple formats is well poised to tap that opportunity.
Future Group has a number of veterans working in value formats. What would be your role?
I am part of the leadership team. The exact responsibilities are yet to be worked out.
A lot of new breed of retailers like the Tatas, Birla Retail and Spar have set up modern and well laid out hypermarkets. Do you think Big Bazaars are lagging behind in some areas?
No. Ultimately different configurations are worked out to cater to Indian needs. It (Big Bazaar) is a different model. Clearly the group has a leadership position in retail and we focus on maintaining that.
Do you think that Indian retailers are well poised to take on foreign retailers if FDI is opened up?
I am very confident we can. Even in large markets, retail is a local business. There are a lot of challenges which are unique to India. Moreover, FDI is not a policy yet, hence we have to wait and see.
How do you look at the performance of big Indian retailers over the last five years? Several had to shut shop and scale back.
I think large Indian retailers have done exceedingly well. How one performs depends on the broad vision, bandwidth and strategies of each group. As far as shutting down stores goes, when you expand, you have to shut a few when they do not work out.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from Indian retail?
Believe in the Indian story. Customers are ready (for new experiments). What will work has its own paradigm.