Tailoring a career in retail | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 23, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:49 PM, July 19, 2016

Tailoring a career in retail

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Sabbir Hasan Nasir is considered as a guru in the field of brand, retail, sales, strategy and marketing. This BUET educated engineer with an MBA from IBA, DU worked in various multinational and local companies including Bata, TetraPak, Golfrate, Otobi etc. At present he is serving as the Executive Director of ACI Logistics (Shwapno). According to him, the retail industry is poised to show enormous growth in the coming years. And it's going to open countless career opportunities.  He shares these insights with Shahriar Rahman from NEXT STEP.

Starting with your sector, since you are leading the brand and retail sales of Shawpno, what are the scopes in this field, career-wise?

In Bangladesh, I see enormous career opportunities in retail. People from sales, supply chain, marketing, etc. have huge scopes. They can learn about the market challenges, and how to overcome them. They also have the opportunity to get trained about the global best practices in an industry that is set to grow immensely in Bangladesh. Nowadays the local corporate are very ambitious and determined. Hence they want to benchmark their brands on a global scale. We at Shwapno are following these standards and policies. Career-wise, these are really helpful for the people who are working or will be working in this industry.

Running chain-superstores means extensive dependency on supply chain management. So being a veteran in this field, how would you describe the growth opportunity of one's career?

Yes, I do admit Logistics and Supply Chain Management is almost synonymous, however I have to add that in the super-store industry, it's a vital part but not the only part. T the robustness and optimisation of the supply chain in this sector are core competencies. The people who join supply chain management are generally engineers specialising in industrial processes. Over time, they specialise. In Bangladesh there are quite a few institutes where one can enroll in to get specialised diplomas. These courses are really helpful in the workplace.  In retail supermarket industry: network optimisation; route planning/optimisation; collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment, are the areas in which people generally specialises on.

Besides supply chain management and retail marketing, what other professionals have scope to grow their career in this field?

As I said, besides supply chain this industry has other parts as well. Business understanding and strategy development, retail brand development, financial planning, and human resources development are some of the exigent most areas.  These areas are considered as the fundamentals of retail business.  Moreover creative sectors such as fashion designing, product development, visualising, activation, ATL, and BTL, play a significant role. So professionals from these sectors can join the retail supermarket industry. Aside from these, countless other job opportunities are being developed that are indirectly related with our industry.

How challenging is this field considering Bangladesh has a highly price-sensitive consumer base?

There are actually three basic challenges that we are facing in the market. They are: price-sensitive consumers and their mindset, inadequate real-estate facility, and skilled human resource. Firstly, the consumers in South-Asia region are very price sensitive, but in comparison, their bargaining power is really low compared to the supplier's. Thus profitability becomes a big issue here. Moreover consumers are more comfortable with unorganised trade. As a result they don't prefer shopping from unregulated markets, which in some cases have no overhead cost. Competing with that segment is one of the greatest challenges in our industry, I presume.

Secondly, real estate facility in Bangladesh is a big issue. To accommodate all the goods in proper manner we need extensive real estate. But those are almost impossible to find in populated localities. As a result we need to design each of the shops separately to accommodate our products. At Shwapno, we try to bring the look and feel of the local markets so that the customers can feel comfortable shopping here. Lastly, this industry lacks human resources with skills and real-world experience in the retail superstore industry.  We, at ACI, have to train our employees time to time with the required skillsets. In a nutshell, we need more talented and diligent young people to work with us to overcome the challenges.

How big is the market for retail superstores in Bangladesh?

The market worth of our industry is currently around Tk. 1000-1250 crore. The Supermarket Owners Association of Bangladesh conducted a survey recently in which it was estimated that the current size of the market is somewhere around Tk. 1400-1500 crore. In our national economy the contribution of retail superstore is somewhere around 1.25-1.5%.

Do you think there is intense competition in market now with so many players out there?

ACI Logistics's “Shwapno” is currently the market leader in retail superstore industry. We currently have more than 45 shops. There is the Hyper-Store in Uttara that has gained much media and public attention. We've also diversified our product lines. So in terms of competition, we are ahead of our competitors. But, yes the market is intensely competitive. Our competitors are also bringing many interesting campaigns. Besides that we are also competing with local markets. So, yes - we are encountering stiff competition in the market.

As you mentioned this is a booming sector and will be requiring huge human resource shortly. What portion is skilled and readily available, and how much more is required to be trained?

We need a huge human resource in this industry. In the coming days the requirement would be even higher. We see that some semi-skilled workforce is readily available in the market. Fully qualified people to understand and run operations of this nature are however really few. We at ACI are investing a lot in developing these human resources to cater to our internal needs. But we expect as the market grows and matures overtime we will be having more skilled work-force readily available.

What would be your advice for the fresh grads or anyone who want to build a career in this field?

It might seem like I am exaggerating, but for anyone who wants to build a career in marketing, sales, supply chain, planning or trade, marketing - retail is the best way to start. This industry has a broad learning curve. So if you work here with an open and aggressive mindset, you are guaranteed to excel in any track. Also we require various soft skills in our day to day activity. So I think everyone should at least have some basic soft skills, i.e. IT, graphics design, programming, etc. Try to develop these skills; it will invigorate your resume!

What would you advice the up-and-coming entrepreneurs in this industry?

I should ask them to start small. Then develop expertise. Understand the dynamics of the market. Be bold in taking calculated risk. And incorporate all the local best practices.

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