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June 25, 2010

Hemu Ramaiah – Story of an Indian Retail Pioneer

At Venture Intelligence, we recently had a great experience interviewing Hemu Ramaiah, founder of the Landmark bookstore chain (in which the Tatas acquired a majority stake in 2005). For me, the interview (which is part our Entrepreneur Podcast series "Entrevista") served as a confirmation that a customer facing role is the best start to an entrepreneurial career.

Other key takeaways from the podcast:

* “Make Your Own Mistakes”
o Trust Your Gut (based on your understanding of customer needs)
o “Don’t let Accountants take over your business”
o Examples: Deciding to get software designed by a start-up firm (which made the effort to understand her requirements better), deciding not to charge extra for courier delivery for Internet orders, deciding to buy (rather than rent) space for the stores, etc.

* Importance of Growing the Market vs. worrying overly about competition

o Amazing story of how she decides overnight to start supplying books to her competitors (in order to boost volumes for the import orders)

* Choice between Private Equity and Strategic Investors

* Planning the Personal Exit

o Because “business is a treadmill” and “life shouldn’t pass you by”
o Basing the decision on an age cut-off (rather than some target corpus)

* Converting Problems into Opportunities
o When she learns that her daughter’s schoolmate has never visited a bookshop, Hemu decides to turn the problem (of parents not exposing their children to books), by “taking the bookstore to the school”.

You can download the full podcast (and find links to other other interesting Entrepreneur podcasts) from the Entrevista blog at http://www.entrevista.in

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. Request free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports.