Kishore Biyani has earned himself the reputation of revolutionising modern retail in India. Only, can he retain his early mover advantage and win the race? Usually, every early mover faces daunting challenges in the long haul: they make the first mistakes, and followers are that much wiser. That’s something Biyani will safely admit—but actually, no. Come to think of it, in retailing, barring one or two players who have expanded with caution, everyone has made their share of mistakes.
Biyani’s bane today is that he chose to create the biggest retail network in the country with very little attention to profitability. Financial investors would often hail the business model as one “built to sell”, not “built to own.” But Biyani knows exactly where the problem lies, and also how he can wriggle out of it, although right now he’s playing his cards very close to his chest. He has all the solutions in his mind—a Plan A, a Plan B, and even a Plan C. We’ll have to wait until they unravel themselves to figure out how effective they are. Biyani, meanwhile, seems to be waiting for the right opportunity at the right time. See our cover story on the challenges facing India’s largest retailer and how Biyani intends to take them head-on.
We have another story on one of India’s few professionally managed companies, Larsen & Toubro. While L&T is still among the finest companies in the infrastructure segment, some serious governance lapses mar its image. As we all know, executive compensation is one of the biggest problems facing Corporate America and it is rearing its ugly head in India too. A standing example of this is L&T, where the top brass is truly a “class” apart. Read story on page 54.
In other stories, we have a report on the roads sector—how it’s rush time for road developers with a huge bunch of projects coming up for auction. More importantly, how frequent changes in policies and cut-throat competition is playing havoc with the sector.