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"It happened in India" by Kishore Biyani

"It Happened in India" is a book written by Kishore Biyani, the founder of Pantaloon Retail Ltd., telling us the story of how Pantaloon was created. As we all know Pantaloon Retail is now a diversified retail enterprise with presence across various retail formats like Big Bazaar, Hypermarkets, Central etc. selling everything from readymade garments, to electronic goods to provisions. In this book, Kishore shares with us his trials and tribulations he underwent before things started going right with Pantaloon Retail.

Kishore Biyani, belongs to a trading family from Rajasthan settled in Mumbai for more than 60 years now. He was born in a family of traders and though you cant call them very rich, but I guess they were quite well-off. He was never interested in studies but did complete his commerce graduation and always had ambition of making it big in business. He didnt join the family trading business but rather than tried out different things on his own, like readymade garments, textile production, creating brands before he ventured in retail business of selling garments.

I have to accept that he is true visionary when he started selling readymade garments when nobody preferred ready-to-wear shirts or trousers. I remember buying the cloth from a textile shop, go to a tailor, give him the measurements and wait for him to deliver the stitched pants. Though it was time consuming, it suited the tastes of people and fitted perfectly compared to readymade garments. Kishore made a big gamble when he started Pantaloon Fashion House to retail ready-to-wear garments. The initial years were really difficult for him both in establishing his brands and finding sources to fund his bold initiatives. Pantaloon went public in 1992 in order to fund their expansion plans. The IPO size was Rs2.25 crores, yes, it is two crores and 25 lakhs. This is miniscule compared to present day IPO's. I also share the same feeling that Kishore Biyani went public too early to command a premium in the share market or to generate huge capital for his expansion needs. The stock, as Kishore writes, languished below the par value of Rs10 for a long time before it was identified by some smart savvy investors. One instance what he quotes in his book is about how a business after seeing huge crowds build up at his showroom for Republic day special discount sales, went on to buy 4% of the company. The businessman still holds these 4% stake in Pantaloon Retail.

Again Kishore was the first person to introduce the concept of retailing staples through his Big Bazaar and other retail formats. He has a very great understanding of Indian consumers and he introduced the concept of selling rice, wheat and other pulses in loose, so that the customers could touch and feel the quality before they decide to buy them. The same concept is being followed by other retailers like Reliance Retail in their Reliance Fresh stores.

Kishore went by his instincts and doesnot rely on market research or analysis either for opening new stores or building new businesses. He believed in himself and the India story and he has successfully resisted temptations to export goods or expand geographical spread to other countries. He believes India itself is a huge market for anybody and he doesnot see the need to look at other countries for expansion or growth. He believes Indian consumer is unique and never felt any need to bring in foreign consultants for building in retailing business.

Today, the Pantaloon group has been renamed as Future Group and they have expanded their presence across retailing, financial services, real estate management etc. Another example of his vision is that he has booked the retail space requirements for his Pantaloon stores till 2011 at very cheap rates.

The story of Kishore Biyani is truly inspiring on two counts. He strongly believed in himself and showed lot of persistence and perseverance, two great qualities each one of us can imbibe.

The book is being sold at Rs99/-, a true Pantaloon style.

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