Article: Retail revolution: Navigating talent challenges in India's $2 trillion sector

A Brand Reachout InitiativeTalent Management

Retail revolution: Navigating talent challenges in India's $2 trillion sector

India has emerged as a prime destination for retail investment, attracting attention on a global scale. However, amidst its successes, the sector faces challenges that demand innovative solutions to propel it forward.
Retail revolution: Navigating talent challenges in India's $2 trillion sector

India's retail sector is projected to soar to a staggering $2 trillion by 2032. The allure of India's burgeoning marketplace has attracted the attention of global capital, multinational corporations, and small-to-medium enterprises eager to capitalise on the vast consumer base and seize opportunities for market expansion.

Fueling this momentum is the remarkable rise in demand, as evidenced by research from the Indian Brand Equity Foundation. This demand is propelled by factors such as rapid urbanisation, rising incomes, and the prevalence of nuclear families. Simultaneously, the e-commerce sector is on track to surpass the $350 billion milestone by 2030, boasting a remarkable compound annual growth rate of 23%. This growth trajectory is expected to generate an impressive 25 million new job opportunities by 2030.

The retail industry has witnessed an 8% surge in job applicants since 2023, signalling a growth opportunity in the sector. Notably, most applicants (86.86%) fall in the 18-30 age bracket. However, to meet the growth indicators effectively, talent leaders in this sector need to prepare proactively for an uncertain future. 

Challenges faced by the retail industry


Digitisation & workforce planning

Predicting talent demand poses a significant challenge in the retail sector, directly influencing workforce planning strategies. Insights from the TeamLease Services Report of 2024 reveal diverse talent trends. Despite expectations of a rebound in Q4, the sector experienced subdued demand in semi-urban and rural areas, even during the festive season in Q3.

Digitisation plays a crucial role in addressing the challenges of workforce planning in the retail sector. Accurate prediction of seasonal demands relies heavily on data-driven insights, which can inform hiring decisions and resource allocation strategies. However, the lack of digital infrastructure and a siloed approach to working within retail chains can hinder HR leaders' ability to take proactive steps to support and engage employees.

In many cases, outdated systems and manual processes impede the efficient collection and analysis of data, making it difficult to anticipate fluctuations in demand and adjust staffing levels accordingly.

HR leaders need access to integrated digital tools and platforms that enable real-time data tracking, predictive analytics, and collaborative workforce planning. By leveraging technology to streamline processes and facilitate communication across the organisation, HR can more effectively anticipate and respond to changing business needs, ultimately enhancing employee satisfaction and organisational performance.

Employee retention 

Despite global market challenges, the attrition rate in the retail sector dropped to 18% in 2023, marking a significant decrease of 8.9% compared to 2022. Both brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce platforms, constituting 16% of organised retail, have been adversely affected by this trend. Contributing factors include low wages for job workers, lack of clear career development paths, and intense competition in the job market.

Research shows that the top reasons for attrition in the retail sector include a lack of growth opportunities, inadequate compensation, an absence of job recognition programs, an unfavourable workplace culture, and poor work-life balance. Unorganised retailers, which represent 81% of India's retail landscape, also grapple with attrition issues.

By leveraging digital tools and platforms, organizations can address key factors contributing to attrition more effectively. For instance, advanced analytics can provide insights into employee preferences and performance, enabling tailored compensation packages and engagement initiatives. Additionally, digital communication channels facilitate transparent feedback mechanisms and recognition programs, fostering a positive workplace culture.

Inadequate Career Advancement Opportunities

The absence of a robust career advancement framework has significantly impacted the career trajectories of workers within the retail sector. Additionally, the emergence of remote work and the gig economy has prompted a shift in recruitment focus from role-based to skill-based criteria.

Research indicates that nearly nine out of ten (89%) learning and development (L&D) professionals recognise the necessity of proactively tracking skills data to facilitate the upskilling and reskilling of current employees, thereby effectively navigating the evolving future of work. According to the 2023 Workplace Learning Report, the skill sets required for various roles have undergone a 25% transformation since 2015, with expectations for this change to double by 2027. 

Through digitisation, HR leaders gain access to invaluable insights on skills and career pathways, enabling them to address the challenges of career advancement more strategically. Digital platforms and tools facilitate the tracking and analysis of employee skills data, allowing HR professionals to identify skill gaps, emerging trends, and evolving job requirements in real time.

By leveraging data analytics, HR leaders can identify skill sets that are in high demand within the industry and align their training and development programs accordingly. Additionally, digitisation enables the creation of personalised learning pathways tailored to individual employee goals and organisational needs. Furthermore, digital platforms provide visibility into career progression opportunities, allowing HR leaders to map out clear career pathways for employees based on their skill sets, interests, and aspirations. 

Strategic solutions to empower India’s retail sector

The burgeoning retail sector requires strategic answers to empower itself. Hence, to navigate and overcome the prevalent talent challenges, these solutions would act as the bedrock of a sustainable talent culture:  

Effective employee hiring experience 

Digitisation plays a pivotal role in transforming the recruitment and hiring experience within the retail sector. In an environment characterised by hustle, bustle, and relentless demands, organisations are increasingly turning to digital solutions to address the challenges of employee retention.

An agile system, for instance, offers a seamless and specialised onboarding process designed to enhance job sustainability for new hires. Leveraging advanced applicant tracking systems, hiring managers can streamline the recruitment process, ensuring the identification and selection of the most suitable talent for the organisation.


HRtech system solutions go beyond recruitment to facilitate an effective onboarding experience for employees, regardless of their location. With a multilingual user interface, the platform enables organizations to devise comprehensive onboarding plans that encompass activities and a 90-day roadmap to kick-start new hires' journeys.

By embracing digitisation in recruitment and onboarding, retail companies can not only attract top talent but also ensure a smoother transition for new employees, ultimately contributing to improved retention rates and organisational success.

Improving workforce management

Digitisation revolutionises workforce planning by providing organizations with tools and insights to effectively manage staffing needs amidst dynamic demands, such as seasonal or festival fluctuations. With digital solutions, managers can now effortlessly balance the needs of their employees and organisational requirements, ensuring smooth operations and employee satisfaction.

An effective attendance management system, featuring a multilingual user interface, democratizes access for employees everywhere, facilitating seamless communication and coordination across geographies. Its intuitive features automate daily tasks such as attendance tracking, scheduling, and leave management, empowering managers to efficiently monitor and plan their workforce even during the busiest seasons.

With digitization, workforce planning becomes more agile and data-driven, enabling organisations to optimise staffing levels, minimise disruptions, and enhance productivity, ultimately contributing to organizational success.

Accommodating gig workforce

Digital transformation is imperative to adapt to the growing gig workforce, enabling organisations to effectively manage their diverse employee pool and make strategic decisions that may have been previously challenging. With new-age recruitment processes, organisations can now streamline the hiring of consultants and establish a solid foundation for future recruitment efforts.

A sound hiring software seamlessly integrates with HRMS systems, empowering hiring managers to efficiently track, organise, and consolidate potential consultant candidates. Once shortlisted, candidates progress through hiring pipelines, seamlessly integrating the final selections into requisitions.

Moreover, if needed, hiring managers can utilise intuitive job boards to identify and attract potential gig workers, ensuring access to a diverse talent pool suited to meet the organisation's evolving needs. This digital approach to recruitment not only enhances efficiency but also enables organisations to tap into the agility and flexibility offered by gig workers, driving innovation and competitiveness in today's dynamic business landscape.


The increasing reliance on the gig workforce prompts a compelling shift in perspective: it's time to recognise people as our most valuable asset. With digital transformation driving a reevaluation of outdated systems within organisations, management seeks innovative solutions to meet their hiring needs.  

As Josh Bersin asserts, the traditional view of labour as merely an expense, and jobs as interchangeable containers for people, is evolving. Today, organisations understand the intrinsic value of individuals and prioritize solutions that reflect this shift in mindset.

Read full story

Topics: Talent Management, HR Technology, #SMEcorner

Did you find this story helpful?