Chaos By Design

The Wall Street Journal (paid sub. req.) is running a fascinating look at modern retail in India and the man who figured out how to make it work.
Kishore Biyani, 45, owns Pantaloon Retail Ltd., India’s largest retailer. Food Bazaar, Mr. Biyani’s Western-style supermarket which makes up more than 60% of the annual sales of Pantaloon, now has 93 outlets in the country. Big Bazaar, which sells household goods and clothes and frequently is housed under the same roof as Food Bazaar, has 65 outlets. Mr. Biyani also has expanded into other businesses, including restaurants, bars, property, mall management, media, a private-equity fund and a bowling alley.
What’s interesting here is the fact that sterile wide-aisled markets did not work in India. When Mr. Biyani tried that approach in his supermarkets, too many customers walked down the wide aisles, past neatly stocked shelves and out the door without buying. Shopping in such a sterile environment didn’t appeal to the lower middle-class shoppers he was targeting. They were more comfortable in the tiny, cramped stores — often filled with haggling customers — that typify Indian shopping.
So Mr. Biyani redesigned his stores to make them messier, noisier and more cramped. “The shouting, the untidiness, the chaos is part of the design,” he says, as he surveys his Mumbai store where he just spent around $50,000 to replace long, wide aisles with narrow, crooked ones: “Making it chaotic is not easy.”



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.