Kunaal Kumar owns the Modern Bazaar store chain in Delhi-NCR. He is a passionate grocer with almost 28 years of hands-on experience running modern grocery retail outlets in some of the toniest locations in Delhi-NCR. It currently operates nine stores over a total retail area spanning 40,000 sq. ft.. Modern Bazaar stores stock about 15,000 SKUs across a product range that covers all home care products, Indian and imported food products including groceries, staples, fresh ready to eat, bakery, chocolate, in house products of nuts, dips, sauces, and personal care products.
“We are perhaps one of the few modern trade retailers in Delhi-NCR to be operating profitably,” says Kumar with a hint of pride at the success of his stores, and letting in sideways that he runs a business that is now 48 years in the reckoning and going strong. “I have been in this trade since I was a kid and I learned my lessons watching my father run the operations and take it forward.” He lets on that he has friends who are board members at very high-end retailers and they consult him informally about how he manages to make the business tick loud and clear.
“I believe that the sweet spot in grocery retail is to take the middle path – neither position yourself as being very high-end nor become very downmarket. This way you have a catchment that is very broad and diverse and includes both the well-heeled and the better-off.” “Our stores are a reflection of this kind of positioning where a customer walks into a store with a nice lay-out and can get to pick his choice from a wide assortment of products and brands – from the basics to the upmarket – which are all priced very competitively and come with various deal offers.” “And interestingly”, he cuts in to make a brownie point, “most of the goods that the high-end retailers stock are available at our stores but none of the basic stuff that we offer can be found at their stores.”
“I have a store in Vasant Vihar, which is close to a very high-end grocery retailer. But our business volumes must be over four times what they do on a daily basis,” he says pointing to the retinue of customers entering and walking out of his store next door. They are an eclectic lot: hipsters in trendy jeans and tops to middle-aged dowagers, soccer moms and stodgy pops to even the odd firangis sauntering in and out. “I am always close to my stores and never far away from my customers,” he says matter-of-factly. “I don’t believe in giving directions sitting in an ivory tower and acting like an armchair pundit. I am usually the first to know of any important requirement or development at my stores and I deal with them upfront.”
Not that his stores don’t have trained managers and skilled staff to deal with situations. In fact, there are over 900 people working for Kumar directly or indirectly. But it’s his compulsive grocer’s itch to scratch consumer habits and behavior that keeps him in the thick of things always. “Though I have professional managers who are in-charge of all my stores, I take a keen interest in the day-to-day operations and offer them guidance in all important matters,” he says, adding that it is important for owners to keep their ears to the ground by staying in direct touch with the stores and consumers. “I also know each one of my suppliers directly and deal with them personally and not through my managers. In this line of business, the supply chain and the suppliers are very critical components and one must ensure that the system runs like a well-oiled machine,” he let out. Many decisions have to be taken on the spur of the moment and in the field, so Kumar makes it a point to visit all his nine stores every day to get a first hand brief on what is happening and what needs to be done on a priority basis.
“The maximum ‘ghapla’ in this line of business happens in the purchase and procurement transactions so I keep a hawk eye on supply orders, which ensures that business transactions are well vetted and above board.” Smart money management and store operations over the years have brought in a bouquet of dividends. From three stores till some years ago, Modern Bazaar is now pushing nine, with plans to add at least one store every year. “By god’s grace, I have never had to shut down a store in all these years of business and I will continue to open stores if I am convinced of its profitability,” he says, adding that his stores’ turnover touched Rs. 150 crore last year and the business itself is worth Rs. 500 crore now.
Progressive Grocer sat down with Kunaal Kumar to discuss his approach to retailing and the hallmarks that have made Modern Bazaar a great shopping destination in Delhi-NCR.
Which retail format do your stores come under?
Our stores are a mix of outlets selling basic and gourmet products.
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