As the saying goes, “Practice like you’ve never won. Perform like you’ve never lost”. This popular saying has been truly depicted in the life of Mr. Kishore Biyani. A successful entrepreneur having gone through tragedies and triumphs but ending up as a victor! Here’s presenting the success story of a true Indian retail czar, popularly known as the Sam Walton of India, Mr. Kishore Biyani.
Who is Kishore Biyani?
Born on the 9th of August 1961, Mr. Kishore Bayani is the Group CEO of Future Group and Managing Director of Pantaloon Retail. He is the man who triggered the concept of retail supermarkets in India. Brands like Big Bazaar, Pantaloon, Mega Mart and Bangalore Central, all form part of his USD 1 Billion brainchild, the Future group. He took the retail industry by a storm.
Kishore Biyani was a staunch believer in the group’s corporate credo, ‘Rewrite Rules, Retain Values.’ He considered Indian-ness to be the most driving and leading factor for the group.
His autobiography – “It happened in India: the Story of Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, Central and the Great Indian Consumer” has sold almost 100,000 copies so far which is far more than any other business book published in India!
How did he begin?
Kishore Biyani was an inquisitive child. He belonged to a traditional Marwari family of businessmen. Right from his childhood studies never interested him much. Somehow he pushed himself to sail through graduation and then began his interest in doing business. At first ,he joined his family business called “Bansi Silk Mills” but that didn’t catch his interest and he quit soon.
Not sure what did he want to do, Kishore Biyani tries his hands in multiple things but nothing really caught his fancy. On this fine day, Mr. Biyani observed some of his friends wearing “stonewashed” fabric trousers, a popular material at that time. Without any delay, he found a local mill that made that kind of fabric and sold the material to selected garment manufacturers and shops in the city earning his first huge chunk of profit.
After tasting success, Kishore Biyani now craved for more! He desperately started to look around for something new, something different. That is when he came up with a brilliant idea and the implausible happened. He launched his own brand of fabric for men’s trousers called WBB – white, brown and blue!!! This was a monumental day and it marked the rise of the company we know today as “Future Group”!
In a very short span of time, the demand for his material reached its peak. In the year 1987, Kishore Biyani established a new garment manufacturing company called “Manz Wear Private Ltd.” The company began to sell garments under the brand name of “Pantaloon”. It was chosen for its Italian sound and also for its Urdu origins, patloon (an Urdu word for trousers).
As is said: The first Million is always difficult to earn, similarly, the initial stages of the company weren’t as smooth as expected.
While Pantaloons was but an infant, almost everyone known to him thought that his venture wouldn’t survive. They were not allowed in retail functions, brands didn’t want to supply to them, banks were scared to extend a lending hand, the retailers association disconnected themselves from their group and so on.
Basically, it was pretty much a rough phase for them – but in Kishore’s words, “It was Fun!” Anyways, Manz Wear picked up gradually and was now supplying to a few apparel outlets; but then again, Kishore Biyani didn’t seem to be satisfied and wanted to expand his business.
The Pantaloon Success Story
The year of 1992 was a turning point. Future Group entered the stock market fueling the expansion. He expanded worldwide and by the end of the year 1994, the Pantaloon franchise had turned into a 9 million success story! However, with expansion came challenges of management and the company lost points on quality of their service, which gave rise to weak links in the chain.
It was a mess!
Hence, to fix the mess, Kishore Biyani began to explore the idea of transforming Pantaloon into large-format retail store of his own. In 1996, he opened his first 10,000 sq ft Pantaloon store in Kolkata, making it one of the biggest department stores of that time. But, he wasn’t satiated yet.
The Big Bazaar Success Story
After Pantaloons, his focus shifted to bringing Big Bazaar abreast with the major players of that time. Big Bazaar as we know it now, was then, just a concept forming in his business mind. He wanted to cater to the now evolved Indian middle class, who wanted to buy and buy something new and fresh. Mr. Biyani packaged that want; into a customer friendly Big Bazaar and we all know, how big of a hit it still remains. But don’t take our word for it. See it for yourself.
He opened the first Big Bazaar in Kolkata in 2001 and within 22 days, he opened two more. Since then he has gone on to open more than 100 stores country wide and has been catering over 2 Million customers per week.
This move reflects well in his own quote, from his book:
“Part of his success is attributable to luck – being in the right business, at the right time, in the right country”.
But soon something unprecedented happened! While it seemed like lady luck would forever smile upon this business tycoon, she did turn her face away.
How the fall began?
The venture into Bollywood with the movies, “Na Tum Jaano Na Hum” (2002) and “Chura Liya Hai Tumne” (2003) spelled the starting of his setbacks. But the major downfall came when economic disaster hit the company really bad. One of the main reason attributing towards the downfall was huge amounts of debt, accumulated as a result of reckless expansion. The hit was hardest to Pantaloons, which had to:
- postpone the opening of nearly 30 new stores,
- downsize existing stores and also, painfully,
- sell 50.1% of its stake to Aditya Birla Group
- give up almost 2 Million sq ft of retail space and
- renovate half the Big Bazaar hypermarkets.
Even though these deals were painful, they were a part of Kishore’s grand strategy. He wasnted to increase productivity and not necessarily expansion. Mr. Biyani wanted to move away from ‘sasta’ (inexpensive) products to high-value, high-margin products. The ultimate objective of Kishore Biyani was to again become “cash-rich and do acquisitions”.
Nothing lasts forever, including bad times. The company had learnt its lesson and gradually it was ready to stalk growth. The business world started appreciating all his endeavours and acknowledged his business acumen. He was now popularly and affectionately known as the “pin up boy” by the industry men. Mr. Biyani didn’t stop his growth plans and therefore expanded the business to own Big Bazaar, Central Food Bazaar, Pantaloons, Ezone, Home Town, Planet Sports and a series Food Chains stores.
Why Food Chains?
Well the answer lies in the tagline itself – “For the love of food”. This visionary man realised that the changing demographics and rising upper class will surely be a fillip to all his food chain stores.
The International Grocery Store: Foodhall
Foodhall is a novel venture of the Future group which caters to the Indian as well as international consumers’ growing needs. It sells groceries of entire Asian and western cuisine. Think of Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese, African, Indonesian, Singaporean, Korean, American, European or whatever, you will find it all there! Neatly stacked up, labelled and fresh too!
Foodhall has its presence in 15 different locations across the country, with the largest one coming up on MG road in Bangalore.
As the name suggests it a store to buy farm products but when Mr. Biyani is involved, things cannot be so simple! Future Fresh offers not only Indian farm products but also international fruits and vegetables from every single country that you can think of! Yes it has expanded internationally to source the produce directly without relying on any intermediary supplier.
In Kishore Biyani’s own words,
“We are investing a lot in food through future ventures in food processing centres, FMCG products and so on. In the next three to four years we want to be the largest food and FMCG Company in the country. What makes our innovations different is that we try to sell by people and not to people.”
Status Quo of the Future Group
Today, the company has grown to transform into a manifold empire of its own which eventually falls under one single umbrella – The Future Group. The group has a wide presence in the Indian retail and fashion sectors, with their popular supermarket wings.
If we have to believe what we read then by 2020, Kishore Biyani plans to transform the Future Group into a technology company as well! However what he intends to do is just big data analytics and nothing more.
To Conclude – Mantra to success
Kishore Biyani is one of the very few entrepreneurs who have managed to build an entire empire, all by himself. He was not born with a silver spoon nor did he have any Godfathers or strong family backing. It takes courage to take risks in business and clearly in Mr. Biyani’s case, he never feared them. Therefore success surely lies in chasing your dreams and continuing to believe in them even when waters are rough.
We wish you All the Best Mr. Biyani, you inspire!
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