Ajmal V A, Chairman – Bismi Group : The Ultimate Trendsetter Stalwart of Retail Industry
Let’s look into this exclusive interview with Mr. Ajmal V.A. of The Bismi Group, who is known to be the inspiring trailblazer in the novel sector of electronics and hypermarkets in Kerala from way back in 2000s, opens his heart on how he conquered the retail market in Kerala even today with determination and continuous persistence. After completing his degree in Production Engineering at Mangalore, the aspirant entrepreneur enters business with his father in law. Bismi was known to be the pioneer in successfully giving the first innovative and elite experience for the local crowd in buying white goods. Bismi is currently the unbeatable stalwarts in Kerala in their genre flaunting 7 hypermarkets and 11 electronic retail stores. The company has an annual turnover of Rs.750 crores today and are planning to reach Rs. 4000 crores by 2022. Ajmal V.A, is all set to triumph the retail market in Kerala and let’s hear his enthralling success saga.
The Journey and the trendsetting growth
Ajmal’s father, V A Abdul Hameed, hails from Ernakulam, retired as a Chief Engineer from PWD, inclined to a secured job and his mother’s family is from Erattupetta cultured into business activities. He took his business interests from his maternal grandfather. He had joint with his father in law, V.A. Yusuf in business after his studies. He felt that the retailer gets more significance when compared to the distributor. In 2001, he auctioned in the first big building of theirs at Kaloor, and decided to fill in the vaccum that Cochin had then. It became a huge hit then. Across India, there was a splurge in malls and bigger retailer stores, and Bismi decided to go with the drift. From 2001 to 2006, Bismi only stretched internally inside the same building at Kaloor outspreading quality experience for the customers with a low cost proposition, increasing the range of products and refining on after sales services and innovating with the existing framework. And then they opened another store at Perumbavoor, then another at Thripunithura and then next, which then started a chain of eleven Bismis opening one after another across Kerala. Those times even when there was good competition, the industry was laid back in marketing. Most of them was following traditional advertising which goes out only on festival times like Onam, Christmas etc. Bismi is again the trendsetters to open on a Sunday; today weekends have the highest sale across Kerala. In 2001, ACV, JukeBox and Medley used to be very popular in viewership. Bismi’s research wing analysed and decide to go full on on those popular channels, which fetched a huge impact in luring customers into the showroom. Bismi participated in some major exhibitions across, which again was a distinctive marketing strategy then. From the onset, from Vanitha ICE to Vanitha Utsav, it’s Bismi who partners exclusively with the prestigious brand. Executing this kind of event in such a magnitude is a herculean task which has been impeccably done for these twelve many years. Calls in for big degree of frontline manpower, extreme professionals, faultless facility and professionalism. Now Bismi has stores successfully running from Kollam to Calicut, and became the first in people’s choice. The product availability in a wide range was always a high competitive element, where the customers could see almost every product lined up, try it physically at the store and then buy. This magnified the sales for Bismi and the trust the customers had in them.
Five years ago when an MNC retail giant entered the market, the retail landscaping in Kerala was undergoing a sea change, it was a real healthy competition everyone could look up to and Bismi realized that this is the time to change and expand immediately. Before that, no one knew these many people will barge into a hypermarket like this. That’s when Bismi decided to change character from standalone stores to hypermarkets, to become a better organized player. Bismi invested an year to do research and backend study on food retail to plan something new, bring in new systems n process, hired a first line team for spotless operations, developed softwares on SAP and launched the first one. Hypermarkets were devised to open in tier 2 cities, and Alleppey was chosen. It was an instant hit, have a huge footfall and then saw another 6 hypermarkets of Bismi opening across Kerala. It sprawls in 40000 squarefeet with Food, Fashion n Electronics. Now another seven hypermarkets is under construction apart from the seven running. Bismi has decided to pull off the current standalone stores, while simultaneously building state-of the art hypermarket.
Bismi is planning forty plus hypermarkets in future for Kerala, distributed across the tier 2 cities. The victory that Bismi has is that they can take a decision much faster than the multinational conglomorates who might plan to expand. This is possible with the current experience due to the uphand knowledge locally conceivable. Ajmal V.A, has clear plans of creating an exclusive ambience and experience for the women who comes to shop, with exceptional salons, privileged services like child care, options to leave laundry for dry-cleaning, special parking for lady-driven vehicles and huge free parking spaces etc. It is how we present the services, product and the brand that the clients perceive us. There is a market intelligence team exclusively out in the market for Bismi who absorbs the pulse of the market, study the aggression of the competitions and to identify the changes needed. Accordingly, new marketing strategies and services offered are strategized. Ajmal V.A, believes that a customer will step in and continue only if there is a positivity in his hypermarket. From the ambience, infrastructure to the staff in the store, Bismi makes sure the client is extremely delighted. Just the way they were an exemplary model for their counterparts who followed, Bismi is all set to create a niche and unmatched involvement in the hypermarket segment. Solid strategies are made to make these 7 hypermarkets to grow into 20 in the next two years and by 2022 into 40 hypermarkets.
An online portal, www.bismideal.com, is ready in white good’s sector and is planning to be soft-launched during the World Cup this June. The customer can completely trust on Bismi when they buy online, as they can always rely back on services looking at the branches across the state.
Enhancing a backward integration, a new sprawling farm has been created at Piravom with 300s of cows in a genuine desire to bring the customers harmless dairy products. FARMLY is the exclusive brand where the products are being sold in Bismi’s hypermarkets. The milk is being produced so organic, with no added chemicals at all, that it should be consumed in 24 hours. The sole intention was to give the customer what even Ajmal V.A’s children can also consume, and to emphasise the loyalty in the industry. All products are procured directly from the farmers.
Quality is what Ajmal V.A, always insist on in each and every area of his life and business. He advices the upcoming generation to be straightforward and genuine within your business and character. He doesn’t believe in bargaining above limits and squeezing comfort out of associations; but he makes sure the vendors feel that their money is safely parked with Bismi. He doesn’t fall in for any much stress in his life. Passion is something that should run you. Do not ever be greedy to become a millionaire in months, and have the heart to share what you earn with your team so that they will be co-operative with you. You should not pass the buck, or fall into the blame game; instead we should focus on our improvement areas and figure out how to develop ourselves.
There are 1300 employees working currently and are looking at 4000 staff in another 4 years. There is very less attrition at Bismi. Ajmal V.A, always look into the welfare of the staff who are sourced out locally for working in the hypermarkets and are given the best salary in the market. The HR manager is always connected with the staff in the stores, and even help them at their family issues as well.
Ajmal V.A, has a very supportive family with his wife, Shabani Ajmal V.A, also spearheading the exponential growth of Bismi as the Director. She is very instrumental in identifying the customer’s pulse directly at the shops, which helps enhances the positive customer experience. They have two lovely children.