Young, English speaking? Try Bangalore shops for job!

October 12th, 2008 - 1:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Oct 12 (IANS) The growing number of shopping malls, coffee outlets and pubs-cum-restaurants in India’s tech hub is creating a huge demand for smart, English speaking youths who can serve as shop assistants.With a mall or multiplex opening or being planned in Bangalore every few months and also dozens of high-end coffee outlets and pubs dotting the city’s popular hangouts, the retail sector estimates that around 100,000 shop assistants would be needed in the coming years.

“The demand is so huge that we have to hunt for smart shop assistants in institutes that are offering courses in spoken English. As Bangalore has a large number of expatriates, we prefer to have English speaking shop assistants,” said Bharat, an executive at the popular Forum Shopping Mall in upscale Koramangala.

There are around 20 malls and multiplexes in the city and almost an equal number is expected to come up within two years. The malls and multiplexes attract an average of 30,000 footfalls on a weekday which nearly doubles on weekends and holidays.

Since the expensive coffee outlets usually attract well-heeled college goers and young bankers, techies and other well-paid professionals, an English speaking ‘butler’ is preferred to non-English ’server’, as the boys in traditional eateries are called.

“Shop assistants form an important link between the business and the public. They are agents for the shop where they work. Their performance will determine if the customer will return to the store again or not,” Bharat told IANS.

The rising demand for efficient shop assistants with decent pay packages has meant that many youngsters prefer to take up such jobs instead of pursuing a degree course.

All shopping centres and malls in Bangalore, be it popular youth hangout joints like those on M G Road, Brigade Road and Commercial Street or the ever-crowded middle-income shopping paradises such as Kempegowda Road, all central business districts, and Jayanagar Shopping Complex in south Bangalore, have a bunch of smartly-dressed young shop assistants in the age group of 18 to 35 years.

“Shop assistants are an integral part of our marketing exercise. English-speaking youngsters with a panache to serve customers are in great demand,” said an official of the customer care unit at Big Bazaar on Hosur Road, which is home to several IT companies.

A shop assistant starts at Rs.5,000 per month. Experienced ones get up to Rs.12,000 per month.

“After completing my high school, I decided to work as a shop assistant for a year before taking a final decision on my career,” said Sanjana Nair, who works at Brand Factory, a shopping mall at Marathall, around 12 km east of the city centre, where huge, multi-storeyed residential complexes are coming up.

“My job offers me a decent salary and I am no more dependent on my parents. Moreover, I enjoy my job, as I have to interact a lot with the customers and helping them gives me a high,” Sanjana smiled.

The increasing demand for English-speaking shop assistants has spawned a number of ’schools’ conducting spoken English and personality development programmes.

Many of these ’schools’ have put up stickers in city buses, on electric poles, trees, and compound walls of commercial and residential buildings announcing ‘Learn to speak English fluently in six months and be smart shop assitant’; or ‘MNC franchisee hiring English speaking youth, join our course and land the job’.

Dorothy David from Kerala, who conducts a spoken English and personality development course at her residence at Doddabomasandra, said many of her students end up being assistants at leading shopping centres.

“As the malls and shopping centres are offering good job prospects for the young brigade, many of my students prefer to take training courses in English and personality development. Training definitely helps them get jobs easily. In the last six months, I have trained around 20 students to be shop assistants,” said David.

Many shopping centres have also started in-house training to help the new recruits sharpen their skills.

There is a flip side to the story though. Many teachers and parents are not happy with the trend of youngsters choosing to become shop assistants instead of pursuing further studies.

“Being a shop assistant cannot be a career option. Many youngsters, in the hope of earning money, are leaving their studies mid-way, not completing their graduation. Moreover, shop assistants are not paid well at shopping centres even after putting 10-12 hours of work a day, though on paper the package looks decent for an undergraduate,” said the principal of a leading school in Bangalore on condition of anonymity.

Janaki Sundaram, the mother of a teenage son, said her son wished to work as a shop assistant during his vacation period this year after his matriculation exams. “But I strictly refused. I feared that after earning money he would lose interest in continuing studies.

“Being a shop assistant does not give job security, so why waste time in such jobs?”

But those in the retail sector feel it holds good promise. “The job of a shop assistant provides hands-on training about the retail industry. With the right approach and skills, one can work his way from being a salesperson to a store manager and scale up to retail management,” said Bharat.

India’s total retail market is estimated at Rs.9.3 trillion (over $190 billion) with the potential to employ over two million people in the next four to five years.

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