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By Way2k Way2k
Way2k 30 Aug 2012
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Ashni Biyani Biography
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Ashni Biyani

Biography of Ashni Biyani is worth reading. She is daughter of Kishore Biyani, got herself involved in the innovation and incubation division of Future Group at a young age of 22. She did her schooling at Queen Mary, studied at HR College in Mumbai, and did a course in textile designing and design management from Stanford and Parson’s School of Design. It was only three years ago that she joined the Future Group, but Ashni Biyani ate, slept and breathed retail ever since she was born - retail was in her blood. Another bonus is that she has many mentors and guides within Future Group guiding her. She attended the strategy sessions of the company with her father and cousins in her teens. “Initially, I didn’t understand a word of what was being discussed, but started absorbing things slowly. They have become a part of me ever since,” Ashni says, with visible passion.

Ashni Biyani Biography

Ashni Biyani joined Future Group first as design manager of Future Ideas, the innovation and incubation cell of the group and later became director of Future Group. Ashni is not involved in any operational role as it’s not something she wants to do, but is rather more interested in identifying key themes that can build consumption. Since the last year or so, her main job has been to ‘imagine the future’ of the current format of the Big Bazaar stores and give design inputs. And all this is being done keeping the cost factor in mind as money is finite. "I watch the cost in whatever I do," the daughter of the Rs 10,000-crore Future Group founder and CEO says. Ashni says she has a team comprising of 11-members which includes mythologists, sociologists and anthropologists - people who have studied the nuances of Indian community behavior - and uses these insights for designing stores, launching new products and planning marketing initiatives. She says her team has learnt a lot from the publishers of the Kalnirnay almanacs, which throws a good deal of light on every single religious or community festivals of every large community. That helps the group develop marketing initiatives based on these local festivals. The sole idea behind this is to capitalize on the trend of Indian consumers to reserve big-ticket purchases during auspicious days. This has led Ashni to her idea of setting up Big Bazaar Family Centers, which are large-format stores measuring more than 80,000 square feet and which focus a lot on the food and cultural habits of local communities. According to Ashni, if one can comprehend the different communities in the country, their customs, festivals, belief systems and other nuances that bind them together, a retailer’s job is almost done. "Our recently launched Ektaa brand will do precisely that," Ashni says.

The Big Bazaar in Malleswaram is yet another example of this community-based retailing idea. The Malleswaram store has been designed keeping in mind that the store belongs to the community within which it exists. So, the store has 65 varieties of pickles, 45 kinds of papads and about 50 types of rice. There is even a cart selling plantains inside the store, a scene very familiar to Bangaloreans. And then there are community-connect initiatives like ‘Anna Santharpane’. It started off in Mysore with organizing lunches for people (they need not be customers) to be served by Big Bazaar employees on every last Friday of a month - another breakthrough of Ashni and her team. The customers are given an option to donate any amount in lieu of the lunch and that donation is given away to local charities. Though not a strictly business initiative, the charity lunches have resulted in a 25 per cent increase in monthly sales and are now being rolled out across all stores in South India.
All this planning explains the 12-hour work schedule that Ashni maintains. At Malleswaram, for example, she and her team worked on the community store idea for over six months, visiting neighbourhood families to study their consumption patterns and the smaller nuances of life around the locality.

Ashni Biyani believes that one has to begin from the ground level if you want to succeed in retail sector. She says she doesn’t really worry about the designation that she has and that’s where the Biyani surname helps. She can seamlessly move on to different kinds of roles without anybody minding her intrusion. The other good part is she gets enough mentors who are willing to help out. For example, she says, she had no clue about numbers two years ago. Her mentors have made sure that she can now figure out a balance sheet quite fast, which has helped her to ‘live a quarter-on-quarter life’. "The family was a little taken aback when I actually joined and thought I was having fun," she says. But the drastic changes which she has brought in the retail sector of Future Group will indeed help it boom in the coming days and Kishore Biyani seems to be obviously happy with his decision to push her daughter into the business.

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