Future Group's key managers moving out: D Mall joins Reliance Retail

 Almost half of Future Group’s key mangers have moved out over the last one year when the group is realigning itself to sharpen focus on performance and execution.


Damodar Mall, president (foods strategy) and a long time Kishore Biyani loyalist has joined arch rival Reliance Retail to handle customer strategy and special projects. Mall will report to Mukesh Ambani's key aide ManojModi, officials in Reliance Retail said.

Almost half of Future Group's key managers have moved out over the last one year when the group is realigning itself to sharpen focus on performance and execution. Some have joined Reliance Retail. 

When contacted, Kishore Biyani said the group has disbanded management layers to focus on just three companies: Future Lifestyle Fashion, Future Foods and
Future Hypermarkets (Big Bazaar). "We don't want thinkers in the system; we want people focused on execution. We want to be the direct eyes and ears of the organisation and be in direct touch with the consumer," he said. Just last month, Sumit Dabriwala, managing director of Future Group's realty firm, Agre Developers BSE -2.37 %, quit. Both Mall and Dabriwala were in the eight-member executive committee board of Future Group. 


Upamanyu Bhattacharya CEO of Future Group's neighbourhood supermarket format KB's Fairprice, is also in exit mode and has been replaced by Arun Agarwal who was next in charge of operations. Officials said Biyani was impatient to scale up the format quickly through the franchisee route to 900 stores in the next two years from 300 odd stores. Bhattacharya is speculated to be moving out on an entrepreneurial venture. 

Some officials who quit recently found themselves distanced from Biyani in the last few months, according to two people close to the development. 

Before joining the Rs 12,000 crore Future Group, Mall, an IIT-Bombay and IIM-Bangalore alumnus, used to head Unilever's Sangam Direct, a home-delivery retail business. Mall was also a co-founder of D'Mart, a supermarket chain in Western India. 

Mall, president, integrated food strategy was responsible for future businesses apart from overseeing rural retailing venture Aadhaar, small neighbourhood supermarket format KB's Fair Price and integrated food parks. Vibha Rishi, who was the group strategy and consumer director, too, quit Future Group after a stint of two years to join insurance group Max India BSE 0.24 % in April last year. Almost at the same time, Human Resources head Sanjay Jog left to join Reliance Retail aftter spending nearly seven years with Biyani. B Anand, finance director, too, had quit in June 2012 to join Dutch commodity trading and logistics company, Trafigura. In recent months, Kishore Biyani has moved back into an operational role to lead Big Bazaar from the front. In fact, during the recent Republic Day- Sabse sasta week offer, Biyani travelled across 12 cities within a week to get a direct insight of consumer behaviour in several Big Bazaar stores. 

The demerger of Pantaloon retail BSE 0.65 % format (following the majority stake sale of Pantaloons deparment chain to Aditya Birla group) has come through and shareholder approval for the fashion lifestyle demerger has also come in at this month, officials said. 

The group's realignment into three separate entities is likely to be completed by September 2013. These developments are also expected to help the group reduce debt by Rs 2,800 crore. 

Abneesh Roy, director of Edelweiss BSE 2.04 % Securities, said: "Given the fact that the promoters are directly involved in operational roles, exit of management executives is not a real concern. The real issue is how successful is the company in reducing debt and inventory levels, both of which are very high in the group."