Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hemu Ramaiah – Story of an Indian Retail Pioneer

The story of Hemu Ramaiah, founder of the Landmark bookstore chain (in which the Tatas acquired a majority stake in 2005), is confirmation that a customer facing role is the best start to an entrepreneurial career. As someone who started a modern, large format bookstore (in Chennai’s Nungambakkam area) in the pre-liberalization era, she exemplifies the word “visionary” and her journey showcases how entrepreneurs – as long as they have a clear understanding of customer needs – can make winning decisions by “trusting their gut”. - The Venture Intelligence Team

Hemu Ramaiah, MD, Shop 4 Solutions (Bio) in conversation with K. Satyanarayan, Co-founder of regional language publishing firm New Horizon Media. (Recorded on June 15, 2010)

The Main Podcast (mp3) - 77 Minutes, 35.4 MB

(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

Highlights from the interview:

  • “Make Your Own Mistakes”
    • Trust Your Gut (based on your understanding of customer needs)
    • “Don’t let Accountants take over your business”
    • Examples: Deciding to get software designed by a start-up firm (which made the effort to understand her requirements better), deciding not to charge extra for courier delivery for Internet orders, deciding to buy (rather than rent) space for the stores, etc.
  • Importance of Growing the Market vs. worrying overly about competition
    • Amazing story of how she decides overnight to start supplying books to her competitors (in order to boost volumes for the import orders)
  • On the choice between Private Equity and Strategic Investors
  • Planning the Personal Exit
    • Because “business is a treadmill” and “life shouldn’t pass you by”
    • Basing the decision on an age cut-off (rather than some target corpus)
  • Converting Problems into Opportunities
    • When she learns that her daughter’s schoolmate has never visited a bookshop, Hemu decides to turn the problem (of parents not exposing their children to books), by “taking the bookstore to the school”. You can download the audio (mp3) of Hemu’s recounting of this interesting episode – which is not a part of the main podcast – from here (Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop).

1 comment:

  1. Fine podcast.
    She saw a gap in the market and went ahead and did it.

    I guess ITpreneuers don't really face the software problems that she faced.