TRRAIN – Trust for Retailers and Retail Employees of India

TRRAIN – Trust for Retailers and Retail Employees of India

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TRRAIN is a seed just sprouting, miles to go…

One mans vision based on his experience and insights into the retail industry has led to the creation of an institution like TRRAIN for empowering this industry in India, which was the need of the hour. This story of TRRAIN reflects how the insight of a man into an industry can influence the process of change and progress of that industry through an institution playing a catalytic role relevant for the progress.

TRRAIN (Trust for Retailers & Retail Associates of India) is a public charitable trust with an aim to be a catalyst for change in the retail industry, with a vision to empower people in retail. It is an entity with the right amount of commitment and the right amount of enthusiasm to make a positive impact in retail and especially in the lives of people in retail.

The brainchild of Mr. B.S. Nagesh, TRRAIN was born after an in-depth research that was conducted amongst employees and employers, both, in modern and traditional retail. This study, conducted by an independent body, indicated that a vast majority of people working in the retail sector hardly ever felt a sense of pride or dignity because of their work. Moreover, social inclusion was hard to come by and upskilling or learning new skills was almost inevitably out of question. Unsettled by the hard hitting research findings, Mr. Nagesh decided it was time for him to give something back to the industry that had given him so much. Thus began the story of TRRAIN – Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India.


TRRAIN has one vision – To empower people in the retail industry. By training the next generation of retail employees who will be an asset to any retail organization because of their warmth, humility and enthusiasm for work. And initiating holistic programmes that will impart a sense of pride, reward retail associates and inspire them to put their heart and soul into the work they do.

TRRAINs mission is – To be committed for upgrading the lives of people in retail both at work and at home by being a catalyst and creating sustainable platforms through thought leadership, backed by a not-for-profit objective.

TRRAIN as an organization started with a belief that people in retail are assets, they are the lifeline of this diverse industry. Therefore, everything that TRRAIN does is only focussed on measuring IMPACT on the life of retail associates and their families.


PRIDE AND DIGNITY: To instil a sense of pride and dignity in every retail associate so that they truly love and enjoy being part of the retail industry and not just as a short term livelihood opportunity.

Retail Employees Day: Through a detailed study on the retail industry, it was understood that pride in the retail associates was almost missing, as they saw retail as just another job. Thus the thought was to have a day dedicated to the hard work, long working hours, missing out on holidays and family time for the millions of Retail Associates across India and the world. It is a small gesture with a much deeper impact which gave form to Retail Employees Day. Thus, 12th December was announced as the day of and for the Retail Associates and Employees, when their efforts are celebrated by retail organizations not only in India, but in Turkey, UAE and other countries across the world, every year. Over the years we saw how this day has impacted the way the employees work and also the overall business.


  • 5 million retail associates celebrate RED across India, UAE and Turkey.
  • 700+ brands & 60+ malls celebrate RED in India.
  • One of the top 3 calendar events in the retail industry.


  • To see each and every retailer across the world celebrate this day for each of their retail associates.

RESPECT AND RECOGNITION: To have the retail associates recognised for their continuous contributions to the larger industry and their individual brands so that they feel respected and noticed in their profession.

TRRAIN RETAIL AWARDS: Very often a retail associate goes out of their way to make sure a customer gets what they want but these stories of exceptional conduct are never recognised and therefore, the associates do not feel like their contributions hold value. Celebrating an associates effort to serve the customer the best possible way is imperative but there was no such platform which would be ideal for this. Based on this, we designed TRRAIN Retail Awards where we gather stories of outstanding customer service instances and award the associates for their brilliant effort while showcasing their exceptional retail service to the world. The next awards will be held on the 27th February 2019 at the Renaissance Hotel, Powai. The recognition has over the years increased a brands value and contributing to the same has given brands a platform to showcase how customer centric they are as part of the larger industry.


  • Received more than 10,000 + stories from 120+ cities over 7 years.
  • Inspired by the TRRAIN Retail Awards, the World Department Store Forum launched an award to acknowledge the outstanding achievement of sales associates worldwide in 2015 & 2017.
  • In 2017, Mapic Awards in association with TRRAIN launched the Customer Service Excellence Award to recognize the most inspiring customer service stories of sales associates globally.


  • To honor retail associates for their contributions throughout the year and not just on a particular day in order to motivate them constantly

INCLUSION: To promote and spread awareness about the importance of diversity in the workplace especially retail since there are so many profiles where we need a lot of human intervention. Also, provide a platform for Persons with Disabilities (PwD) in order to become independent and self-sufficient thereby empowering them and creating a lasting impact in their lives and their families.

Despite permanent damage to her shoulder and hipbone, Ramya completed her education till the 9th grade. Even though her parents saw little hope, Ramya was determined to get a job. This led her to take up the Pankh 60 day training program, which fuelled her confidence to prove herself. Today, Ramya is employed with Reliance Fresh. Shes financially independent and even supports her family.
Ramya, Reliance Fresh


  1. Pankh Wings of Destiny: Through this program TRRAIN creates livelihood opportunities for PwDs across the country. Today retail acceptance towards the speech and hearing impaired (SHI) and persons with locomotor disabilities comes from longevity, their attention to detail and the fact that they deliver great customer service.

    The program works with NGO partners at regional levels and conducts its training through them. The 45-60 day training program provides spectrum of retail specific skills in an interactive format with focus on three key areas- Life Skills, English Language Skills and Retail Specific Skills.

    After the 45 day classroom training sessions, the trainees get on-the-job training for 10-15 days across various retail formats. On the completion of the training program, retail organizations are invited to evaluate the PwD youths for placements.

  2. TrainHer: This program is part of TRRAINs livelihood initiatives. TrainHer aims at training and creating livelihood opportunities for women in retail. It focuses on providing employment to those who want to join the retail industry. This is a carefully designed skills training program which incorporates retail skills, life skills as well as on-the-job training to the women.

    Its an intensive 30 day training program where relevant and updated training modules are used by qualified and competent trainers across centres in key cities and surrounding regions after which RASCI certification is given out to the trainees.

    The modules cover retail specific skills such as Cashiering, Customer Handling, Store Operations, Visual Merchandising, Retail Math and Understanding Latest retail trends. Also, On-the-job training which ensures that the trainees are ready to be placed and hired in retail.

As a boy from a small town with a hearing disability, Atul hoped to ease his familys financial burdens after completing 10th grade. He searched in vain for a company that would look beyond his disability and give him a job. Then he made his way to Pankh in Mumbai where he received training in a supportive environment. He landed a job as a cashier at Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd. In three years, his salary has doubled, hes completing his graduation and dreams of buying a home for his parents.
Atul Sakare, Hearing Impaired Cashier, Lifestyle, Mumbai


According to the National Skill Development Corporation, Indias retail sector will need around a workforce of around 56 million. The sector will have one of the highest incremental human resource requirements – of 17.35 million till the year 2022. (Excerpt from Economic Times)
Knowing this gap, TRRAIN Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India has taken an initiative to make a difference to the lives of people in the retail industry. TRRAIN works towards achieving immediate and lasting change in the lives of both Retailers and Retail Associates across India.

TRRAIN is solely committed to bringing about a lasting change in the lives of people in retail both at work and at home.

TRRAIN had conducted a very detailed research on retail associates both in organized and unorganized sector with respect to:

  • Their lives
  • Motivators
  • Desires

It brings to our notice the perceived imbalance what we think they are and what they are.

Their starting point is the need to be financially independent more importantly contributes to household income and family responsibilities. If we move more towards their personal then they believe that they are not equipped with higher education, specialized skills, desired personality. This comes from immense self-doubt and self-reservation.

Therefore, they perceive retail as stop gap arrangement which stems from a feeling that they are not capable of getting a job anywhere else owing to multiple reasons, hence retail is the best option for them to start off with.

The starting point for most is “I am not good enough”. Irrespective of whether they are from unorganized or organized retail most of them see it as a short-term career plan.

Some of the best practices in retail and their effects:

  • Retail is booming, the demand for people is high therefore developing them, grooming them, taking them to the next level is the key.

There are two perspectives to this, one from employer side and other how an employee can contribute to the overall business. As a HR professional or a retailer, what is being done differently to bring the best out of the associate?

Below are some examples of employee practices which affect employee motivation in a positive manner.

Below are 5 indicative ways of creating an aspirational retail workforce:

  1. Security: Today, we all want to be secure along with our families. Understanding this basic need to cater to the bottom of the pyramid will create a positive difference. Retailers have provided educational benefits, marriage loans, umbrella insurance and accidental policies to their employees. Many HR professionals are of a belief that giving partnerships to senior employees will create oneness and synergy at every level.
  2. Addressing physical and mental needs: One of the retailers offers Foot Massages to associates whose core job is to stand for hours on the shop floor, other have TV in their cafeteria for entertainment, yoga sessions every week, self- defence courses for women, health check-up camps, small area for playing indoor board games.
  3. Learning, Development and Recognition: There are employees who offer one-hour internet surfing time to read and learn on any topic associate finds interesting, books available to read in all languages, engagement through contests, competitions on a very large scale wherein one of the associates actually took up to professional singing after winning a All India Singing Competition.
  4. Inculcating Organizational Values: Gone are those days where the organizational values were pasted in one corner of the office, today as entrepreneurs we know how important it is to inculcate these values down the line, retailers have created anthems, culture-based programs, newsletters to bring together the essence of the organization.
  5. Work- Life Balance: The most important factor is, understanding their personal space and building a work culture which respects this personal space. One of the retailers shut their stores after 7.00 pm on the day of Diwali so that their associates can spend time with their families. This not only creates loyalty to the brand but an associate builds a strong bond with the company.

An industry so challenging yet exciting, everyday is different from another, every day a new customer a new person to interact with, therefore we do have highly motivated associates who go out of their way to serve our customers and make their own success stories.

Some of these stories are very heart-warming which will set an example or answer the question that retail is where I want to be, it will not only give me an enriching experience but also add value to my career growth.

Innovation at its best: Nitin and MohdIrfan from Titan Eye Plus specifically designed a pair of spectacles for a customer who was having trouble opening her eyes. They went out of their way and used their creativity to make the glasses with which the customer was able to see things comfortably.

The gift of happiness: Vikas from Manyavar who exclusively reopened the store for a Groom in distress whose wedding attire was stolen. They not only completed their entire shopping but to Vikass pleasant surprise the Baraat started right outside of the store!

Extraordinary in the ordinary: Bhavya from HyperCity who delivered a special organic multigrain flour to the customer who was at the clinic as she was not medically fit to travel, he borrowed money from his Store administrator to buy the product and travel with it and did not miss his shift while doing so.

Outshining with (this) ability: Dhruv Narayan has exceeded customer service expectations by bringing a lot of uniqueness to what he does. He uses sign language to identify barcodes and product MRPs and help clients enjoy a greatshopping experience.




  • Created livelihood for more than 10,000 Persons with Disabilities.
  • Over 38 centres pan India
  • Over 160 retailers recruit PwDs trained by Pankh
  • Over 16 partner NGO organizations


  • Research shows PwDs have a lower attrition rate which leads to savings.
  • Our trainees saw a 3x increase in their average salaries after their Pankh training.
  • 11% of our trainees shifted from a kuccha house to a pucca house.
  • Retailers witnessed 17% annual savings as a fraction of average salary for employing PwDS.


  • To create livelihood for 10,000 PwD every year.



  • Created livelihood for over 224 women in retail
  • Some of the recruiters Ikea, W, Fossil, Starbucks, Fabindia among others

Impact of TrainHer:

Hiring women brings extra value to the organisation as it promotes gender equality and inclusiveness. At a sales position women have been proved to be the ideal face of a retail brand. Hence, at every step, recruiting women in customer centric roles only emphasises on the brand and its image. Empowering women benefits the society at large thereby improving on the overall retail experience for customers and garnering a healthy space.


  • To create livelihood for 20,000 women every year


SKILLING AND DEVELOPMENT: Developing associates to be technologically and digitally competent and to upgrade and enhance skills through relevant education and training.

TRRAIN also has two underlying objectives of while impacting the lives of retail associates they also focus on their health and social security.

With respect to skill development, they looked at innovative ways to bring together classroom learning, easy convenient training and a way to enrich the lives of the associates at home and at work. This gave way to their bespoke training programs specially designed for brands and retailers.

Retail associates are the all-important last mile in the retail value chain. They need to be empowered through training that goes beyond product knowledge and addresses their personal development, communication and soft skills. More than 40,000 trained through their physical training programs and now aiming at training more through digitation and learning.

The primary objective of this project is to help traditional Indian Kirana retailers modernize by adopting the open and self-service format, technology and science of retailing to become more productive, profitable and sustainable; thereby enhancing the value they bring to distribution, consumption, and employment at a much larger level.

Additionally, an extension to their efforts towards this objective is the new initiative along with Mr.Damodar Mall, CEO of Reliance Retail Be A Supermarketwala.

The primary objective of this project is to help traditional Indian Kirana retailers modernize by adopting the open and self-service format, technology and science of retailing to become more productive, profitable and sustainable; thereby enhancing the value they bring to distribution, consumption, and employment at a much larger level.

It is a nation-building project which will set off millions of traditional retailers on a never before seen transformation journey of getting more efficient and organized, impacting the economy and the society and providing the customers the opportunity to shop the way they like.


  • Awarded best “Innovation in Vocational education & Skills Training” by World Education Summit
  • More than 16000 employees trained in over 80+ cities.
  • Total training solutions partner for retail & hospitality industry.

The initiative made by TRRAIN including capacity building, training and motivation of retail employees, the backbone of the industry, social inclusion through PwDs and Women, apart from creation of respectable employment. The Retail awards created by TRRAIN are making a huge impact on the key stake-holders of the Retail Industry that are the employers and the employees.


Founder, TRRAIN Trusts, Chairman, Shoppers Stop

Question: After a path breaking career in Shoppers Stop and building the company from the beginning in 1999 and leading it to the top, what are the important lessons you learnt, relevant for the growth of Retail Industry in India?

Answer: I am a very fortunate professional who got a chance to start a new brand in a new business vertical as the first employee in the year 1991. I joined the K.Raheja Corp to start a department store business in the vacant property at Andheri. My journey of the last 27 years has been very enriching. Starting the journey as a first employee leading a team of 13 employees to being the Non-Executive Chairman of a publicly listed entity with more than 6000 employees and a market cap of 600 million US$.

During the journey, 15 years back I also started the Retailers Association of India with Late Ved Prakash Arya. RAI is the biggest representative organisation for modern retailers in India.I continue to be the Chairman of RAI.

I had the fortune of starting multiple businesses like Hypercity from scratch to divesting 100% of stake last year to the Future Group.

I was involved in the Acquisition of Crossword, setting up of joint ventures with LAI of Australia for Timezone and Nuance of Switzerland for Duty free retailing at the airports. Last year we have divested our stakes back to our partners.

My journey of the last 36 years including 27 years in Shoppers Stop has been full of learnings, many successes and some not so successful. Like my ex-colleague Ajoy Krishnamurthy used to say “Many good days and many bad days but never a boring day at Shoppers Stop”.

B. S. Nagesh (popularly called as BSN) has been with Shoppers Stop Ltd since its inception in 1991 till 2009 as the MD of the company. In 2009 BSN stepped out of his operating roles and is now the Chairman of the board. He was also responsible for the setting up Hypercity and the acquisition of Crossword.

BSN is recognized as the pioneer of the retail boom in India, he was voted by Business India as one of the top 50 managers in India who will influence the Indian business scenario in the 21st century. Ernst & Young nominated him for the Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2005 as one of the top 30 finalists.

Nagesh is the first Asian to be inducted into the “World Retail Hall of Fame” 2008 at the World Retail Congress 2008 conducted in Barcelona. Retail industry leaders and experts from across the Globe selected him in recognition of his supreme industry achievements.

He has now set up a charitable trust called Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India (TRRAIN). This trusts objective is to empower people in retail so that they can have a better life at work and home.

I have had much learning during the last 36 years of my career. I would like to out them under various heads so that it is easy for readers to understand and apply in their business.

  1. India is a diverse country. Brands and retailers who want to do business have to look at India as a continent like Europe and plan every step in every city and state as if they are launching the business for the first time. It is better for brands and retailers to first become dominant in one state rather than become marginal in many states.
  2. Retail is a customer centric business. Every policy, process and decision should revolve around the customer. I would attribute the success of Shoppers Stop to the customer centric approach of the company. To the extent that all of us changed our designation and adopted a common designation “Customer Care Associate”. My recommendation to all retail companies is that they should have a full size cut out picture of their customer in their board/meeting rooms so that every time they take a decision they are reminded that their business is for the customers benefit. In the early days I would spend the whole evening on the shop floor interacting with the customers. In fact the genesis of our First Citizen Club has its beginning to my meetings with customers and taking their name and numbers on a piece of paper.
  3. Retail has a very large workforce and 95% of the people are in the front end of the business at the last mile serving the customers. Successful retail organisations are the ones who take great care of their employees so that the employees can take care of their customers.
  4. Leadership in retail have to walk the talk. Unlike many businesses retail happens on the shop floor. Every action of yours is visible to the customer as well as the retail associate. They emulate your actions and carefully observe and listen to what you say and do. Since the customer facing retail requires entrepreneurship and the back end of the business requires professionalism and processes, all retailers should build competency and capabilities of scaling up at the back end.
  5. Since retailers end up doing millions of transactions with millions of customers and thousands of SKU, the business becomes very complicated. Therefore the need to be on the cutting edge of technology is critical. Lot of success of Shoppers Stop is attributed to the early adoption of global technology and bringing in best practises from the global retail industry.
  6. Innovation is one of the few differentiators which can make a difference to the business. However it is important that there is organisation buy in to new initiatives. Since retail is all about execution at the front end, every innovation has to reach the customer when the rubber hits the road.Whenever I was able to get the buyin of the team the project succeeded. Many a times I tried to push my way with my ideas, but the same did not work as nobody believed in my idea.
  7. Compliance and Governance. Many start-ups believe that you require good governance only when you become big or go public. In my opinion it is part of the organisational culture and therefore it needs to be imbibed in every individual at the earliest.
  8. Retail is also a very tough business. It requires a lot of patience and perseverance apart from huge capital. The capital is required not only for investments and assets but to cover up initial losses which needs to be funded by the equity.

Question: What is the relationship between the traditional unrecognised retail industry in India (neighbourhood shops) and the professionally managed retail companies like Shoppers Stop or Gucci etc?

Answer: India is a nation of shopkeepers. Modern retail contributes to around 15% of the overall business. Traditional retailers are the back bone of the nation. They employ close to 40 million Indians in the retail business. Modern retail has more than 3 million employees and growing at a faster rate than traditional retailers.

Traditional retailers are true entrepreneurs and they are very customer centric and very high on service. Modern retailers have to learn this aspect from them.

Modern retailers are process oriented, tech savvy and know how to scale. Traditional retailers have to align with start-ups and modern brands that can help them scale. India is already seeing a huge number of franchise stores as well as alignment of small and traditional retailers working with technology companies.

Question: How do you compare the online retailing and the offline retailing; present status and future trends?

Answer:Online retailing has made a big impact in the shopping behaviour of the youngsters in India.Although their contribution in the overall business is miniscule, their rate of growth is 5 to 8 times that of offline stores.

We need to understand that Indians of all strata have adapted to the mobile and internet and are using data in a big way. This brings in an opportunity for merchants to create great products and put it on marketplace to reach consumers.

Online retail is also making huge investments to change habits of customers shopping, but eventually the customers are shopping both online and offline, therefore all retailers have to adopt both channels to fully satisfy their customers. Dont forget when the retail shops are closed in the night our customers are still shopping. We will lose our business if we do not participate in our customers lives.

Question: What is your plan of action for coming 10 years?

Answer:My dream is to make Retail an inclusive industry with the help of all fellow retailers. Indians should aspire to join the retail industry both in modern, traditional as well as omni channel.

TRRAIN wants to build pride through the celebration of Retail Employees Day. Today all modern retailers and malls celebrate the day. We are so pleased that our idea is being recognised and retailers are celebrating the day in India, UAE, and Turkey and hopefully in Philippines this year.

Through our awards for customer service excellence we want to bring in the respect for the foot soldiers of the industry who are serving billions of customers across the globe every day. We are happy that a global department store association has adopted the award globally inspired by our initiative. The award ceremony happened in 2015 in Rome, 2017 in Toronto and will happen in 2019 in Tokyo.

I am so proud of Ameesha our CEO, Nancy our director for livelihood creation and the team as we have been able to bring in inclusion in the retail industry through our “Pankh” initiative. We have in the last 7 years trained 10000+ PWDs and provided livelihood to more than 70% of the youth. Our dream is to create a platform where every year 10000 PWD youth are skilled and provided with livelihood in the retail industry.
Our new project “TRRAINHer” has received very good response and we would like to scale the same by empowering women from the underprivileged section of our society by skilling them and getting them jobs in the retail industry.

Our latest initiative of creating a job portal for the PWDs recruitment will be soft launched on the 3rd of December. A unique project which will help match supply and demand in the PWD sector. To begin with the portal will be used for the “Pankh” and “TRRAINHer” project before we scale it up for the benefit of the industry.

We are also piloting a community platform called “TRRAINCircle” which will help retail associates get access to various products and services.

Question: How do you assess and compare the skill level of Indian retail industry with the global standards?

Answer: Indian retails and retail employees are ahead of the global fraternity in terms of empathy and service. However we have a long way to go in terms of skills, efficiency and productivity.

As an industry we still do not value the skilled employee compared to the unskilled. Even after training the candidates do not get a differential compensation or roles, thus not getting encouraged to apply for skilling development programs.

Question: What are the various options available for training and skill building for retail industry?

Answer: GOI skill missions have created a great platform for developing various programs for skilling of the youth. Many training organisations have come up in the last few years. However the big gap is the linkage between the training institutions and the industry and therefore youth are getting trained and assessed however a majority of them are not getting placed.

Question: What is your comment on the employment potential of retail industry in India?

Answer: As of today retail employs 43 million people with modern retail taking up 3 million. I believe this employment potential can go to 60 million plus with the growth of online and omnichannel business, expansion of modern retail and the transformation of traditional retail. However this requires large vision from the GOI and the participation of all constituents of the retail industry.

Question: How do you plan to connect the welfare of the retail industry workers with CSR activities of CSR eligible companies?

Answer: Since retail is still in its infancy and not many retailers are large and profitable, therefore the pool of CSR fund is very small. Even within the pool retailers have their own CSR agenda.

I believe retail will create a large livelihood creation opportunity and the CSR funds of many private and public sector can be mobilised towards providing benefits for the Indian youth to get into this sector.

Question: Anything you would like to share with the readers of CSR VISION?

Answer: A few of my personal learnings during my 27 years of Shoppers Stop journey and 7 years of setting up of TRRAIN.

  1. We have to be driven by purpose which is larger than chasing revenues and profits.
  2. The purpose has to be inclusive and we should be able to impact the lives of many fellow human beings.
  3. We cannot do everything on our own. We need to ensure that as leaders we carry our team with us in our journey.
  4. We should have the ability to “let Go at every stage of our career and see our colleagues and juniors grow ahead. Only when people and organisation below you grow you can think of your personal growth.
  5. If you chase your purpose Fame and Financial gains come, however if you chase Fame and money you never get functional satisfaction and happiness.

About the author

CSR VISION is India's (probably World's) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.