Bharti Walmart looks at entry level hiring as two parts of the same equation. Firstly, at the stores where the entry level job is of a floor associate, the person is someone who can manage customer service, stock the shelves and make sure that the product is rightly placed and is also able to address any query regarding a product in the store. And for this, we require people who have great customer service attitude and are keen to learn about the product, etc. Unlike developed countries, where people have been used to the retail model, in India modern retail is a new concept and most people are not exposed to this. Therefore, they need to be trained on customer service attitude and other skills demanded of a floor associate. However, the absence of such skills does not become a huge entry level barrier as the trick lies in identifying someone who is willing to learn and provide them some basic training, so they can be put on the job. Secondly, we look at the home office jobs, which are jobs like merchandizing, supply chain management, etc. Here the entry level roles include assistant buyers and merchandizing assistants who are pretty difficult to source, because the country does not have any readymade pool of people who have been exposed to retailing and therefore, one would have to hire MBAs or people who have an economics graduation and literally train them on merchandizing. Therefore, it is a mixed bag. So, do we find readymade talent? No.
Therefore, we focus a lot on training these people, so they can be made productive on the job as soon as possible. To that end, we currently run seven training centers to train entry level associates in our stores. Four of these training centers are run in a public-private partnership model where we partner with the state governments to train associates who can become store associate and a lot of them are done inside our stores, where we provide scholarships to associates to get trained. At the end of the program, we do not insist that they get employed only by us other companies are open to placing them as per their requirement. The first such training center was launched in Amritsar in collaboration with the Government of Punjab and now we have one in Delhi, which is in collaboration with the Government of Delhi; in Bangalore it is with the Government of Karnataka; and in Maharashtra in Jalna in partnership with the Government of Maharashtra.
We train the candidates for 4 weeks. Our idea is to pick up the candidates from the underprivileged parts of the community, who could otherwise not get this opportunity. We provide them scholarships to complete their training and anyone who showcases the right attitude towards customer service, is 18 years of age and has an inclination towards learning, is welcome in our centers. Our effort is to contribute to enhancing employability by placing these candidates either in Wal-Mart or other companies. We believe that it is something we should do for the community and in the process, if we can find associates who can work for us it is great, otherwise we have just generated an employable pool of associates and helped the underprivileged to join the mainstream.
We setup hiring centers for sourcing candidates for the floor associate profiles when we are opening stores. We are open to hiring anyone who wants to come and work in the store. We have a ‘feet on street’ who actually distribute pamphlets in the local community. A lot of people who come and work for us have either worked for the existing unorganized sectors or they work for some DSA work or unemployed.
Since we do not get ready talent for these profiles, the candidates need to be trained for at least 8090 days before they can work in a retail store, because there are lots of processes that they need to learn in the store. The challenge is the 30-40 percent attrition that we face. Although the numbers are far better than the industry average of 70 percent plus attrition in retail, we do have people leaving for the mere nature of the job. A retail job is where you are on your feet for a good part of the day and at the same time you have to deal with varied questions from the customers. This makes people tired and compelled to move very quickly.
Going forward, the challenge will continue to be around finding associates who want to join retail as a career. As the industry expands, there will be some amount of pressure on attrition and other retailers will poach people from each other and most importantly, as you grow, you need those many store managers and that is the talent pool, which is just not available in the country, so it is a lot of investment that you really need in order to create good floor managers.