Learning Retail The Religious Way


During visits to different religious places one thing which always amazes me is the food which is provided to the devotees visiting. As the food provided at such places is considered auspicious their dining hall is always crowded. The challenge such religious places face  is providing free food to a huge number of people with  high quality, maintaining the hygiene, the logistics involved, the cost factor , planning the menu( considering lot of people provide different food items e.g. rice, vegetables, pulses etc)  is truly a great learning for a passionate retailer. While such places might always have an advantage of free manpower (devotees who come to cooks, clean, serve) other challenges always remain which are similar in nature often faced by a retailer.

While the religious places have always come out victorious in their endeavor, the biggest of the retailers continue to struggle. In retail, logistics has been the biggest challenge especially in food business. Higher the control the retailer has on its logistics higher is the chances of it dominating the retail business. The retailers find it difficult to handle different products especially in the food while the religious products have handled all of them with ease

  • Perishables products- which have low shelf life- e.g. milk,
  • Fresh products- products which needs to look fresh and hence need frequent supply e.g. leafy vegetables
  • Temperature sensitive products- products which needs to maintained in specific temperature e.g. butter,
  • Seasonal products- products which are available only in particular season or have high demand during specific season e.g. mangoes
  • Regional /community products- products which are available in specific region or consumed by specific community e.g. different types of rice- black rice , sona masoori, gobind bhog, ponny rice, matta rice, kolam rice.

The food served to the devotees is cooked considering the easily available seasonal product which is mostly given by the devotees. The quantity is cooked considering the approximate devotees expected during the specific day. Considering the shortage of food in the country lot of importance is given to ensure zero wastage. Incase of shortage, a dish which can be easily prepared in short span of time is always made during such situations. A Plan B is always ready.

Certain religious places have millions of devotes who visit daily. The logistics of such places is definitely a herculean task. This would be a nightmare for any retailer. The number of utensils which are refilled and used for serving devotees (same concept as of the carton being opened and distributed to multiple stores), the manpower planned to serve different dishes, different queues (same as appropriate number of people designated for receiving stocks, stock allocation, stock dispatch) the quality & hygiene of food served (the quality of repacking and transporting to stores to avoid breakage, leakages), minimum wastage (no shrinkage or damages)

Infact one of such places had invested millions of rupees in procuring the utensils which could identify and remove even the smallest of the dirt, sand etc in the rice. The technology used by the religious place is far superior to those used by any commercial entity involved in food. This is the level of commitment.

The motto of every religious place is to ensure the utmost satisfaction of the devotees during their visit; the same should be the motto of every retailer. Can this code be cracked???