India’s ‘King of Retail’ prepares to defend his crown

NEW DELHI, July 8, 2007 (AFP) – Kishore Biyani, known as India’s “King of Retail”, is spending the weekend his favourite way: trawling the aisles of one of his Big Bazaar supermarkets, eyeing what customers are loading up on. “Modern (chain store) retail makes up about eight percent of total retail in India and is expected to reach 15 to 20 percent in a few years. We’re talking 40 percent compound growth — big enough for many entrants.” “You can tell the customer’s story by looking at his trolley,” said Biyani, who pioneered supermarkets in India, guessing that one shopper was a bachelor from the ready-made meals piled in his cart.

But his store jaunts have taken on special meaning these days as he seeks to fend off deep-pocketed competitors threatening to outspend and outsell him.

Biyani visits his Big Bazaar, clothing, home ware and other stores up and down the country to see what’s working and what’s not before competition heats up in what analysts have dubbed the “Great Indian Retail Gold Rush.”

“The real competition is two years away. We’ll be ready,” said 46-year-old Biyani, often called India’s answer to US retail tycoon Sam Walton whose “pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap” philosophy made his Wal-Mart superma