4 min read

Big Bazaar, India Central, Future Dreams

I recently read the “It Happened in
India” book. It is the story of Kishore
Biyani, the man who created Pantaloons, Big Bazaar,
Bangalore/Hyderabad Central, EZone, and much much more – effectively,
the one person who made retailing a roaring success in India and who
had envisioned it much before anyone else dared to even think about

I had first known about the book when glancing over Ashish’s book
and so when I happened to see it in a book store, I had to buy it.
I was most surprised to see the price of just Rs.99. Later, I realized
that this was true to the philosophies behind all the businesses that
Kishore Biyani has built till now – “value for money”.

It Happened in India - book cover

I have to admit that I found the first half of the book to be boring.
I mean listening to ten different people eulogizing Kishore Biyani can
get really tedious.

The second half gets really interesting – about how KB (that’s Kishore
Biyani for the rest of us) takes pride in doing things in an
India-centric manner and creating strategies that are derived from the
Indian mindset, the poignant motto “Rewrite Rules. Retain
Values.”, about how
they use the concept of “memetics” to design what kind of products to
stock in their stores, the various retail
formats they created after
analyzing the traditional bazaars, about the various people involved
and the viewpoints they brought in, and so on. I found it fascinating
that people actually think to such deep levels, and all this to try to
understand what the customer wants, many times even before the
customer themselves know it.

One of the most amusing sentences was his Time Pass Theory:

I interpret life very differently and I have this belief that we all
come to this world to kill time. Therefore, we pick up some activity
that we like doing and call it our profession. I call this the Time
Pass theory.

One of my favorite passages in the book was from the last chapter of
the book:

The last century marked the transition from the industrial economy
to the ‘knowledge economy.’ However, within a few decades of the
knowledge economy, we are again witnessing a major shift.
Knowledge as we know it is being commoditised. What was once central
to organisations – systems, processes and much of the left-brain,
digitised analytical work associated with knowledge – is being
outsourced. The most successful organisations in this new era are
the ones that harness ideas, creativity and innovation to generate
top-line growth.
The central objective for earlier businesses was to bring in
stability and consolidation. They were built to enforce order.
However, in the new era where nothing remains constant, the dominant
theme for businesses need to be speed and imagination. Going
forward, companies will be lucky if they can write a five year plan
for their business.
For organisations to survive and succeed in the Creative Economy,
innovation has to take centre stage. Soon, the nature of innovation
will also change and organisations will have to keep up with that.
Macro-innovation, like a new technology, a new product or a new
business model will continue to be important. But what will become
far more important and decisive is micro-innovation – the ideas and
imagination driving day-to-day innovations based on how well a
company pre-empts its customers’ changing needs and consumption
The new macro-differentiator can be design. Design is helping
companies to sell differentiated experiences and solutions that
connect with the consumer’s emotions. It’s no longer about selling
products and services alone. Nor is it just about completing
transactions. Every time a customer walks in, it is an opportunity
to build a relationship and invite the customer to become a part of
the transformational scenario. Design management is helping us
position the customer at the centre of every decision we take and
also operate with true entrepreneurial spirit.
It is proven fact that diversity leads to creativity. From popular
culture to sport, diversity has helped teams perform better. In
corporations too, diversity has to be brought in. That is why we
have begun to develop cross-functional teams. Having swarms of male
management graduates, engineers and accountants isn’t good enough.
We need more anthropologists, ethnographers, social scientists and
most importantly, more women to be part of every team within the
It cannot be a zero-sum game anymore. We need to create win-win-win
scenarios – where we can win, our business partners can win and the
customer can win.

Another interesting passage that I liked was where he describes
himself as the creator and destroyer (and re-creator) of all that he
builds – he doesn’t believe in preserving because that’s when the
company starts stagnating. So, every few years, KB changes their
entire organization structure to adapt to the current and future
environments, and that’s why they now have a new name “Future

“Future� – the word which signifies optimism, growth, achievement,
strength, beauty, rewards and perfection. Future encourages us to
explore areas yet unexplored, write rules yet unwritten; create new
opportunities and new successes. To strive for a glorious future
brings to us our strength, our ability to learn, unlearn and
re-learn, our ability to evolve.
We, in Future Group, will not wait for the Future to unfold itself
but create future scenarios in the consumer space and facilitate
consumption because consumption is development. Thereby, we will
effect socio-economic development for our customers, employees,
shareholders, associates and partners.

It all happened (and is happening) in India :)