In Conversation with Sadashiv Nayak

CEO, Big Bazaar
Wednesday, 15 Feb 2017
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Sadashiv Nayak is the CEO of Big Bazaar, Future Group India. His stint at Future Group began in the year 2004 as the Vice President (West Zone) of Pantaloon Retail and thereby moving to the position of CEO, Food Bazaar in the year 2007. In the year 2010, Sadashiv was the Business Head at Big Bazaar, before becoming its CEO. Prior to Future Group India, he worked with Hindustan Unilever Ltd. for 6 years, from 1998 to the year 2004. Sadashiv started his career with Asian Paints in the year 1993, before moving on to HUL.
About
Sadashiv Nayak is the CEO of Big Bazaar, Future Group India. His stint at Future Group began in the year 2004 as the Vice President (West Zone) of Pantaloon Retail and thereby moving to the position of CEO, Food Bazaar in the year 2007. In the year 2010, Sadashiv was the Business Head at Big Bazaar, before becoming its CEO. Prior to Future Group India, he worked with Hindustan Unilever Ltd. for 6 years, from 1998 to the year 2004. Sadashiv started his career with Asian Paints in the year 1993, before moving on to HUL.

How important is marketing strategy for Big Bazaar?

We have a lot of products and customers, we do trading and selling of products, so we engage with our customers constantly – that engagement, and not marketing, is our core. Our core is always our categories, our consumers, our stores. We build our marketing strategies around this core. Marketing – or any other strategy, for that matter – cannot exist in isolation. What is most relevant to us are the three pillars around which we create our communication – our growing number of categories; our customers; our engagement with different communities. There was a time, when we got created wherein savings was a large part of our creation and promise. Today, however, we don’t always focus on savings and low pricing. Our marketing, I will reiterate, is not built around savings. Our overarching thought today is, ‘Making India Beautiful,’ which is also our tagline. We are looking at a father who is accompanying his son on Valentine’s Day, we are looking at a woman in her 40s who is buying her first pair of denims… these are the nuances we are capturing with the commitment of ‘making India beautiful’. Yes, we continue having our campaigns of Maha Bachat and Sabse Saste Din and discounts and deals around public holidays but we are now making a shift in how and what we communicate with our ‘aspirational’ customer.To think like the customer, that’s the way to succeed.

Engagement with customers, sure but what does engagement with ‘communities’ mean?

This is most interesting – we celebrate 70-72 festivals around the year to capture as many communities / customers as possible. It’s no longer about Diwali, Holi or Christmas. We are celebrating Eid, we are celebrating Thaiposum, a local festival in Tamil Nadu. We are celebrating Bihu in Assam, among several others. Sitting in the head office, we may not understand the relevance of several of these festivals but this allows our local teams to connect with communities by tying up for these festivals. During Bihu, for instance, our stores in Assam, gave away fish to customers when they made purchases in our stores. What is integral to the festival is what we offer.

You can’t always get it right.

No, we don’t get it right all the time. But how we go in the right direction is that we don’t measure anything with a toothcomb. A festival like Thaiposum won’t give us great numbers but the engagement with the community will be very critical. From Eid to Easter, our celebrations with our customers allows us to get local activation done and brings us closer to the market. That’s why our marketing team is always flexible, adaptable. Our strategy is simple: We are going to have a crore-plus customers doing their business with us. we have to, therefore, ensure ease of purchase, a great shopping experience, for them. To be honest, we don’t revisit our strategies too often – there’s never a campaign for campaign’s sake. We aren’t obsessed with rewards, awards, but we have a simple mantra, to reach out to the customer with local engagement.To be honest, we don’t revisit our strategies too often – there’s never a campaign for campaign’s sake. We aren’t obsessed with rewards, awards, but we have a simple mantra, to reach out to the customer with local engagement.

Has there been an instance where a strategy went completely wrong?

Like I said, you cannot get it right all the time. Personally, I was involved in our first and the largest digital campaign in our ‘home’ category. We created a lot of buzz with advertising and lots of activation. Our idea was to let customers talk about their beautiful homes while using products from our home category. This was in 2012 and we had leading television actors and celebrities endorsing the campaign. It never took off! When we accessed it, we found that our target consumer – homemakers in this case – didn’t want to expose their living rooms on social media! Many didn’t have smartphones then and basically we realized that it was a lukewarm response to a mega campaign! The good part: We got great ideas from our campaign then, we added more products and today, our engagement on platforms like Instagram is showing great result.

How do you work and rework strategies at Big Bazaar? Hasn’t your target customer changed anyway?

The common currency for us is ‘aspiration’ and everything we do is centered around that. Take apparel, for instance. Our fashion in that category is evolving, we understand that we need to introduce more products in that category. Our tieup with brand ambassadors like Katrina Kaif, Varun Dhawan and properties like Miss India reflects the fashion needs of the aspirational Indian customer. My team and I don’t operate in boardrooms – our planning, strategizing, all happens in stores, on the ground, where we can see the action taking place. In terms of our target consumer, there are shifts taking place – life-stage shift, economic shift, organisational shift. In fact, 2017 is our year to see the shades of these specific shifts. The early adopters of Big Bazaar are now ‘young elders’. Today’s consumer is the aspirational Indian who is younger, wanting to spend more, with the ‘Zindagi na milegi dobara’ attitude. We have to cater to everyone and that’s the life-stage shift I’m talking about. On Thursdays, for instance, we engage with our young elders and talk to them about fashion, clothing, home products, food, taking the focus away from medicines, walking sticks and other strictly age-related products. We speak to them as valid customers, something that hasn’t been happening for a while.Today’s consumer is the aspirational Indian who is younger, wanting to spend more, with the ‘Zindagi na milegi dobara’ attitude.

What’s the next plan?

Our dream now is to reach out to small towns now. The ‘small town’ shift is critical for our growth. The most important mantra for us – how would we react as customers? This is at the core of Big Bazaar; I also think, as long as we empower the team, we are on the right track, seeing the right strategy. 

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