‘A neighbourhood store-turned-super market’ is how one will describe the 40 year old co-operative chain, Sahkari Bhandar. Such a description is not common to a neighbourhood store which sells regular grocery and household items, but Sahkari Bhandar has been able to shore up its standing to match up to the levels of new-found super market concepts, all thanks to its new management under Reliance Retail.
The 40 year legacy of Sahkari Bhandar has been a strong one. It has enjoyed a loyal customer base and its ‘fair price’ proposition has been a hard one to beat. However, with change in times and change in consumption patterns, Sahkari Bhandar began to lose out on its appeal as well as customers, who now preferred the more modern and air-conditioned super markets that began to mushroom in every street corner. To be able to match up to changing consumption patterns, changing preferences and changing retail aspirations, a revival of the concept of co-operative store was called for. When Reliance Retail, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, took over the management of the co-operative, the challenge was to re-cast the entire format of co-operative into something which would mesh well with modern retail aspirations.
The plan of action was to invigorate the sleepy co-operative chain by renovating the concept of co-operative store, improving its supply chain and infusing a dollop of motivation into its employees. For starters, Reliance took the onus of converting all Sahkari Bhandar stores into air-conditioned stores with a modern glass facade. Every aspect of the shop floor was upgraded – from introduction of freezers and better product racks to computerised check out points and better space décor. Reliance even brought in enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to better manage the front end and back end operations of the chain.
With respect to products, Reliance conducted surveys in neighbourhoods where Sahkari Bhandar was located, and listed products people preferred to see in stock. Accordingly, new sections such as pharmacy, fresh non-vegetarian products and bakery were added to the revamped stores. The idea of shop-in-shop has been one of the major pulls for local customers, who now find their needs being satisfied in one round of purchase alone.
The process of revitalisation saw Sahkari Bhandar being assigned a new logo. The earlier logo, which showcased two hands shaking, was replaced by a ticket sign with Sahkari Bhandar spelled across it, to suggest assurance of good quality and service. A new tagline – Sahi quality, Sahi price (Right quality, right price) - was also introduced.
A need was also felt to align employees with the purpose of the store. Reliance undertook the task of educating employees about the new format and the need for customer management. Employees were encouraged to feel a part of the organisation, and work towards it betterment and their self’s. Incentives for employees included scholarships for staff children and laundry allowances so that staff could wear clean uniforms every day.
Following many such small modifications, Reliance took the rustic charm of Sahkari Bhandar and transformed it into a modern retail format. It retained the core values which drew customers to the store; altering only the method of offering products and services. And with 25-30% increase in growth, the success of the effort is only but obvious.