As an aspiring businessman in the 90s, Kunaal Kumar had two options ahead of him. Follow up his engineering course with an MBA or delve into his father’s bakery business to learn the ropes. He chose the latter and is now running one of India's successful retail chains in Delhi. He says:
“I wanted to pursue an MBA, but my father decided that he could give me business lessons better at his shop.”
After learning the tricks of the trade from his father, Kunaal Kumar in 2005 relaunched Modern Bazaar - his father’s venture, but this time not as a bakery but as a chain of retail outlets in the Delhi-NCR region.
Today, Modern Bazaar offers more than 25,000 products ranging from regular groceries to health and organic food. Kunaal says, the store houses a bakery and meat kitchen, a cafe, swathes of gourmet specialties and an international food items section. But what attracts the customer is the dedicated seafood section, much to the delight of sea food lovers residing in landlocked Delhi and NCR.
The retail chain sees a daily footfall of nearly 6,000 to 7,000 customers, and the store has something to offer everyone, says Kunaal. “At Modern Bazaar, you get a five-star experience at a three-star rate,” he adds. Growing stronger over the years, the retailer today employs 800-900 people and has a turnover of Rs 200 crore.
Kunaal’s journey in the retail sector had humble beginnings. His father Vishwant Kumar was running Modern Bazaar - a small bakery, in Delhi’s Vasant Vihar since 1971.
After completing his engineering, Kunaal joined his father’s business in 1991. Kunaal worked with him till 2004 in the same shop. He says,
“During those years, my father instilled in me the passion for customer satisfaction. He taught me that if you give the customer the best quality and experience at a reasonable price, you will succeed.”
But as no business is bulletproof, an unexpected crisis knocked our door, says Kunaal. Recalling the night their shop caught fire, he says, “Our shop got completely destroyed in that fire. We had to shut it down immediately as there was nothing left except ash.”
Post the mishap, Kunaal’s father retired and that is when he decided to make an independent start. He says, “I started with a small bakery shop again in 2005 in the same market.” But he decided to pivot his new store around offering his clients a memorable experience in whatever capacity he could.
He says, “No matter at what scale I operated, a small shop of 1,400 sq. ft in 2005 or the present 6,000 sq. ft stores, I had committed myself to give my customers an experience to relish for.”
Since then, there has been no looking back for Kunaal. He says he has managed to open a store in Delhi-NCR around every 1.5 years.
Crediting his team for the success, he says, “My team is quite old as I have always believed in retaining my employees.” They are more passionate about Modern Bazar’s success than me, adds Kunaal.
Kunaal believes travel is your best teacher. He travels extensively across the world to bring best practices from abroad back home. He also considers product development as his forte and therefore likes to closely supervise the products that enter his store. He says, “Back in 1991, we offered around 10 varieties of bread. Now, we offer more than 100 varieties.”
Apart from products development, he has embraced technology to stay ahead and remain aligned with consumers’ evolving interests and needs. He says, “We dig each stores’ data to derive insights and patterns and try to incorporate them. This way, we keep on improving our products and services.”
Modern Bazaar also moved online in 2016 to cater to its customers. It has a dedicated website which gets around 600-700 orders per day, standing at 10 percent to its offline sales. On asking if retail’s future is online, Kunaal says, “Not really. I think Indians like to go out and shop. Sitting at home and ordering online can be monotonous.”
Kunaal sees a lot of scope in the grocery retail business and plans to open 10 more stores in Delhi-NCR in the next five years. He says,
“There is so much demand for Modern Bazaar. If I could, I would open five stores every year”.
However, Kunaal is equally wary of the fact that by opening more stores, he could be prone to compromising on quality. To address this, Kunaal says, “I have realised that if you streamline the processes, you can scale faster.”
Kunaal therefore plans to delve on his experience to scale at an advanced pace and open Modern Bazaar stores all across India, without compromising on the quality.
Kunaal says entrepreneurs should be honest and sincere with their job. “It is important to make a goal and work towards it.”