Nilesh Gupta, Director, Vijay Sales carries forward the legacy of his father Nanu Gupta, who set up the company as a small TV showroom in Mahim in 1967, and grew it into a leading electronics retail store chain in India with annual turnover of approximately Rs 5,000 crore. His engineering background, combined with robust on-site experience in the company’s stores and deep understanding of consumer behaviour, give him the edge to not only realise his father’s vision but also to reach for new horizons. Here are excerpts from a conversation with Nilesh Gupta:
What have been the highlights of your journey from the time in 1992, when your father Nanu Gupta introduced you to the family business, to now? What are the stories you can recount from there – including your earliest memory of Vijay Sales?
It’s been a huge learning and the learning still continues. When I joined the business, it was a very simple business as brands and products were few, and the store size was just 500-700 sq. ft. We had only three major brands Onida, BPL and Videocon in TVs; Godrej, Kelvinator, Allwyn and Voltas in refrigerators and Philips in audios. Also, in each category, there were just two to three models and hence running the business was easy. In those days, from the consumer perspective, the prime importance was the longevity of the product. EMIs in those days were @2% per month flat interest charged to the customers. It was more or less a sellers’ market. Also, I vividly remember with every Budget, the taxes used to go up; so, we used to sell good numbers in the week preceding the Budget. Then,electronics goods used to appreciate in value, unlike getting depreciated now from the moment one buys. There were lots of concepts which we had introduced in the market; for instance, ours was the only store which had all the display TVs running from morning to evening, whereas in other stores, the TVs were always switched on when a customer walked in. We were among the very few who used to maintain customer records and ask the customers to call us in case of product failure and then get it attended to by the brand through our team. The buy-back concept was also introduced by us, in which customers could exchange their old goods with new products. Our first buyback campaign was called ‘Adla-Badli’ and it was a huge success. We were customer-focused from the beginning.
In our early days, we used to keep the TV carton boxes outside our stores. Once, a customer told us that he used to pass by our store daily and he observed that the height of the pyramid of boxes wasconstantly changing, and hence he inferred that this store has good sales! What a consumer insight we got from his observation! This taught us that each and every little thing matters. Then, multinational brands like Sony, Samsung, LG, Panasonic, etc., started coming in around 1996, and with them the product range too increased. That’s when we started increasing our store size and footprint too. It was also when the overall market pie started expanding exponentially.
In a highly competitive market, what is the USP of Vijay Sales that has made it so successful? What are the practices that set you apart from the rest?
Our only USP is our team, leading to customer loyalty which we have built up over the last 50+ years. Today, we have third generation family members buying from us. The primary reason has been our single-point focus on customer service. I wouldn’t say that we don’t have a few unhappy customers, as there is always room for improvement, but I can say for sure that we would have the maximum number of satisfied, if not happy customers. This has also been possible because of our team, which has very well imbibed our customer-centric philosophy. The advantage of such loyalty is that most of our customers give us the first chance to serve them.
I’d like to recount one profound experience here: Once, a customer walked into our Prabhadevi store with his seven-year-old son. I happened to be on the floor. The man met me and pointing to his son,he told me, “Nilesh, when I was this age, I used to visit your Mahim store with my father to buy electronics and I sincerely wish that when my son grows up, he too should buy from you along with my grandson.” That day, I realised the responsibility I had to carry forward my Dad’s legacy. We have a dedicated team which takes care of the entire journey of the customers, from buying to upgradingproducts. Our focus on post sales service with our own call centres and a dedicated team coordinating with the brands has made all the difference.
Tell us about your vision for Brand Vijay Sales for the next few years. Do you foresee diversifying the brand into any other category? What are your long-term goals?
We have a single point vision of continuing the legacy of customer service and retaining customer loyalty. Our growth plan is organic, to grow @20% per annum; we do not want to bite off more than we can chew. We have currently no plans of getting any private equity to fund inorganic growth. All growth will come from internal accruals. We will not get into any unrelated category or dilute the brand by getting into any other industry, but within the domain of electronics,we would cover everything, especially IOT products. Our next major thrust will be our online portal www.vijaysales.com. Our aim is that, along with online, our omni-channel sales should contribute at least 20% to begin with, and over a period of time, it should surpass even our offline sales.
How was your experience as a teacher in the Teach India Movement for one year? What stands out as a moving memory from that year? What did you learn even as you taught?
It was an amazing experience and to tell the truth, I learnt more from the students than what I taught them. It was always a thought in my mind to be a teacher and Teach India gave me this opportunity. I was touched by the enthusiasm of the students to learn even under trying times and conditions. Most of them were from economically challenged backgrounds, but they had no complaints and were always cheerful. Their hunger for learning was immense and hence they had joined the course. It taught me humility of a different level. I learnt that life is not in the material things but in the moments.
What is one motto that you live by?
Always stick to fundamentals and be transparent and fair in all your dealings.