• Ameesha Prabhu, CEO, TRRAIN

    1. NS: Tell us something about you and your career Journey.

    Ameesha: I’m born and brought up in Mumbai and come from a middle class Gujarati family. I have a graduation degree in Economics from Mithibai College, Mumbai. It was after my graduation while waiting for the results, I thought of taking up a job to support my expenses and chanced upon an ad in the paper which read ‘Sales staff required for a men’s apparel store’. The Store was 3 months old, which we today know as Shoppers Stop. I joined them as a shop floor sales associate in 1992. It came as a shock to family friends because being a sales girl is a taboo across social strata and someone with qualification is never imagined to be taking up such a job. Little did I know that this job would be a game changing moment of my life. The World of retail attracted me and I never left after that. I was expected to apply for an MBA after working for 3 months but I continued to work and grew from sales staff to Head of Buying and Merchandising. I did go back to college to get my Masters in Marketing from NMIMS while working at Shoppers Stop.

    I have been in the retail sector for more than 25 years and have worked across different roles across departments and specialty stores, lifestyle and value formats in companies like Tesco Hindustan, Aditya Birla Retail Ltd, Crossword Bookstores Ltd, SWATCH Group and Shoppers Stop Ltd.

    It was while working at Tesco; I met B S Nagesh, former MD, Shoppers Stop. He shared his idea about setting up TRRAIN (a retail trust); I knew I had to say yes. Our vision was simple: Empowering people in Retail. (There are 43 million people who work in 8 million shops in India)
    As a CEO of TRRAIN (Trust for Retailers & Retail Associates of India), I’m responsible for bringing this vision to life by bringing in more retail partners into the fold; raise funds to launch new initiatives for retail associates and work towards inclusive hiring agenda among other things.

    2. NS: How TRRAIN and Pankh work for the betterment of society?
    Ameesha: PANKH is a joint initiative by TRRAIN and Youth 4 Jobs Foundation (Y4J), to work towards inclusive hiring in the retail industry. We have mapped different job roles in the retail sector with different kinds of disabilities and have designed a 60-day training curriculum for PwDs. This year alone we have placed 2200 PwDs across large retail brands in the country. To name a few, Pantaloons, D Mart, HyperCity, Reliance Retail, Future Group are among 70 odd retailers who have been hiring PwDs year on year. Our dream is build capacity to train and place 10,000 PwDs every year by 2021.

    3. NS: How retail associates are important in the retail business?
    Ameesha: Retail associates are the first interface with the customers. Customers’ shopping experience and their engagement with retail associates can make or break a brand. Thus, it is important not only are they trained well to do their jobs well but should have a sense of belonging. We made a small start in this direction by encouraging retailers to celebrate Retail Employees Day on 12th Dec. Today more than 300 retailers in India celebrate this day every year in Dec, which is all about recognizing efforts put in by retail associates in driving business and customer engagements. Turkey & UAE joined hands and we have retailers celebrating this day there too. The results have left us impressed. We also organized TRRAIN Retail Awards every year in February. TRRAIN Retail Awards recognizes customer service excellence by retail associates who serve the customers. Retail associates from various verticals send their entries detailing how they carried out customer service function. You will be amazed to know their stories. These youth are mostly from underprivileged societies, however their hard work and passion is unmatched and the efforts they are making to satisfy customer is unbelievable. TRRAIN wants to recognize such efforts and encourage the society to recognize and respect such individuals

    4. NS: Why relationship between retail associates and retailers are important?
    Ameesha: It is crucial that retail associates are connected with their corporate office. Companies realize the importance of this two-way communication and that’s why they use their resources to make sure that retail associates are in tandem with the company’s vision. Only then a perfect execution is possible. Almost all large and mid-size retailers with a sizeable associate workforce have a dedicated internal communication strategy in place. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that top most personnel in the company is accessible to retail associates. Similarly, companies who engage regularly by using different tools or employee centric event are perceived a better place to work.

    5. NS: What is your success mantra?
    Ameesha: TRRAIN is a not for profit trust. We work with various stakeholders – retail associates & youths, who are our beneficiaries to the Donors / Foundations / Partners, who help us, execute these projects. We have a small team of professionals who work on every project of ours with stringent processes and targets. This brings in a sense of semblance and also comfort to our various stakeholders. Coming from a corporate background, we ensure that our vision (heart) is aligned to our actions (mind). We have transparent governance and work with corporate trustees & advisory board members who provide valuable inputs on a timely basis.

    Ameesha’s success mantra
    I have always joined retail brands when they were in start-up or launch mode – be it Shoppers Stop or Aditya Birla Retail. In the hindsight when I reflect, the joy of creating something new is a big high for me - Be it product, process or promotion. Retail is evolving on a daily basis and understanding consumers is a passion for me & that has enabled me to perform at various levels and in various categories that I have led for various retail businesses. There is never a dull day in this sector & that’s what keeps me going.

    6. NS: What are your future plans for TRRAIN and Pankh?
    Ameesha: Our vision is to work with small & large retailers & their retail associates in India and take all our initiatives to them.
    We also want to create a level playing field for retail associates who aspire to grow in this career at the corporate level. We plan to support them in this endeavor by way of providing education & up skilling support.
    We want to bring more women and persons with disabilities into the workforce via our livelihood creation programs. We would like to see 10,000 youths being trained & placed every year by Pankh by 2021. For our women empowerment program, we have recently tied up with a large retailer to train women across various different/ unconventional roles. Also, we are working on another program that is an advanced level of retail training for women who are already working in retail.
    Finally, we want the world to celebrate Retail Employees Day on 12th Dec and recognize the effort of the retail associate. TRRAIN Retail Awards have already gone global & we would like many more countries to follow suit.

    Ameesha’s favorites
    Color: Green
    Season: Winter
    Movie: Am a movie buff - don’t have one but many favorites
    Book: I read a lot of fiction & comics (I love thriller & espionage novels; Walt Disney, Marvel & DC characters I blindly adore)
    Music: Am an obvious retro fan so Pop and Rock music shape my choices. I love music of all genres including the latest hits - Bollywood included. Madonna, Michael Jackson were growing up favorites & still are.

    -----------------------------------Inteviewed by Laxmi Khalap Bhatt, Editor, www.narisakhi.com

    If you or anyone you know would like to be interviewed by narisakhi, please email us at editor@naarisakhi.com

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