Additional Skill Acquisition Programme (ASAP) and Retailers Association’s Skill Council of India (RASCI) organized the “Retail HR Conclave” for HR Managers from Retail sector at Kochi, Kerala on 21st March 2017. This program was envisaged with a view to create awareness about skill development in the retail sector, and to deliberate on emerging job roles, skill deficit and demand, internship and training venues, placement opportunities, innovative practices, and various other opportunities and challenges in the sector connecting to Human resources. ASAP considers role of industry as crucial and the first Retail Conclave organized by ASAP was witnessed by the participation of delegates from human resource domain of retail industry. Here’s a synopsis of the presentations by different speakers.
Mr. Ravi Deecee: The Retail Sales workforce and the unnoticed potential
The Conclave began at 10.30 am with a welcome note by Ms. Ambili E. Kurian, Senior Programme Manager – Retail Sector and later followed by a Presidential address by Mr. Ravi Deecee, CEO, DC Books & Chairman, Retail Business Advisory Committee, ASAP by drawing attention to the skill deficit in the Retail sector, he emphasized on collective intervention to bridge the gap. In Kerala, instead of retail chains, independent stores are at a unique position in the Retail Sector and there is a need for skilled labor at the entry level. The need of the hour is to make the sector aspirational and create more learning spaces along with surplus trainers to ensure quality.
He said that we have limited best practices to be adopted because of shortcoming in the training and short tenure of employment. However, the importance of Retail sales work force cannot be ignored. Online retail is an emerging area with immense scope for development in the context of skill development and job opportunities. Mr. Ravee alluded to opening of more onshore training spaces and internship opportunities for aspirants in the Retail industry. Turning work space to learning space is a worth implementing practice. Along with undergraduate courses, possibilities for degree level courses in Retail sector are also to be explored. He also stressed on the vast opportunities in entrepreneurial aspects of Retail business.
Dr. Reju, M. T, IAS: Retail Sector – the different paradigm
There is a cardinal difference in the skill paradigm of India and the Kerala context. While the whole country enjoys demographic dividend, Kerala witnesses a shrink in the young population. Our country is marked by large scale endeavors like Make in India, Digital India etc; but Kerala couldn’t emerge as a successful follower. Lastly, the dilemma in the vocational trade is a looming concern. The youth population in the state is not set ready to embrace entry level jobs in any industry.
Dr. Reju M. T. IAS, CEO, ASAP called for a deeper reflection by retailers while delivering the inaugural address. Despite all these factors, the industry in Kerala is retail embedded. Irrespective of sectors, presence of retail is ubiquitous; hence it is inevitable to handhold the potential and future of retail sector for the sustainable growth of the Kerala economy. He applauded the efforts of retailers in Kerala and mentioned that ASAP is committed to live up to the expectations of industry and is willing to tackle training demands in the industry. Dr. Reju urged the participants to play a constructive role in the skill development initiatives of retail sector in Kerala and ASAP initiatives.
Mr. Deepak L. Aswani: Dynamic but Promising
Delivering key note address, Mr. Deepak L. Aswani, Chairman and Managing Director, Lachmandas Group, Member, Retail Business Advisory Committee, ASAP projected the influential role of retail industry in the economic growth, citing successful interventions of individual and conglomerates. The scope of online retailing is vast in the post demonetization times. Inspite of facing neck to neck competition, e-commerce platforms make the retail sector more vibrant. Moreover, retail has the unique attribute of dynamism where professionals, individuals and business entities can nurture and foster. Being a customer centric business, retail sector has the flexibility to explore opportunities of tourism and hospitality sectors.
Mr. Riju Antony: Retail sector offers you a career not a mere job
Mr. Riju Antony called the attention of the participants to make careers in retail, more aspirational. People have lots of myths regarding retail jobs and wrong notions on salary and career progression which need to be dispelled. Also, retail sector has large number of part time opportunities. He quotes that Retail sector offers a career and not a mere job. The responsibility of raising awareness lies with everyone and he reminds that we have a good number of successful retailers to be emulated and followed. Such success stories definitely have influential role among young minds. He also quizzed the participants on engaging unskilled people and to incentivize for getting skilled. He opined it is the time to disseminate the positive work life of retail work force amongst our family, community and society at large.
Testimonials : Followed by the screening of ASAP Video, Ms. Revathy and Mr. Arjun testified their experience with ASAP which has led them to adorn key positions in business at tender ages and these testimonials of ASAPians thrilled the audience with hope and joy.
Open forum and Conclusion
The group presentation and subsequent open forum was monitored by a panel comprising Mr. P. Anand Ram, Deputy General Manager -Retail Operations & Business Development – Kerala, Landmark Group & Curriculum Head – Retail Business Advisory Committee, ASAP ; Mr. Riju Antony, General Manager – HR, Zonal Head – HR (South), Reliance Retail Ltd. & Internship Head – Retail Business Advisory Committee, ASAP; and Ms. Nika Gupta, Head – Training & Operations, RASCI.
Ms. Nika Gupta inquired about multiple views on the groups regarding skill premium for which, participants reverted that it can be offered as recruitment premium and monetary premium is not a viable idea. There may be experienced hands even without certification and our preference is expertise in the job role. However, premium can be given if they have skill certificates along with relevant experience in the sector.
Ms. Nika further aired her curiosity on the expectations of HR managers towards career aspirants in the retail sector. Delegates apprehended that it is not the talent but retention is a major concern of this time. Even though skilling is important; up-skilling and assuring career progression are more important, which may help reduce attrition. Industries can subscribe to the practice of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to assess skill and apply it in the designing of skill programmes.
Concluding the discussion Dr. Reju, IAS reiterated the need to address gaps in career awareness, aspiration and career growth in the retail sector. Industry can expect better tidings based on the input in this direction. Opportunities in up-skilling and re-skilling, more avenues of internship and placements have to be debated further as well. Along with successful trainees, ASAP plans to invite placement partners on the board in coming forums. He also briefed the upcoming Community Skill Park (CSP) in Kerala and requested support from industry. He shared that ASAP is proceeding with the plan of starting 20 CSPs across Kerala and Skill Development Centres (SDC) in all constituencies and concluded with an optimistic nod of industry support.