Raghu Pillai, the CEO of Future Value Retail, a part of Kishore Biyani's Future Group died of a heart attack early on Sunday morning. A stalwart of the Indian retail industry, he pioneered the concept of modern retail in India in the ’90s. Pillai had joined the Future Group last October and was also a member of the group executive board. He had dreamt of and developed the 20-20 vision for the Group to achieve a $20-billion turnover. Pillai had joined the Future Group after quitting Reliance Retail as the chief executive and president of its operations and strategy. He was among the earliest professionals Reliance hired in 2006 for its retail entry. In a career spanning more than two decades, Pillai worked across different divisions, including early stints in sales, marketing and product management positions, and leadership roles for the last 15 years in diverse industries like consumer goods, IT, entertainment and retail. Before joining Reliance, Pillai served as the president and chief executive officer of RPG Enterprises-Retail, where he was responsible for building from inception four companies that include: Food World Super Markets, Music World, Health & Glow and Spencer Giant Hyper Markets for seven years. In fact, Pillai was earlier with Pantaloon Retail but had quit as its MD (home solutions) five years ago to join Reliance Retail. He was handpicked by Mukesh Ambani in 2006 to spearhead Reliance's retail foray. He spent a considerable amount of time to establish Reliance as a brand in the retail industry.
Future Group is still trying to cope with his sudden death. As Future Group Chairman Kishore Biyani says, "Raghu entered modern retail industry even before me, making him almost a father figure of modern retail. He was a people's person and one of the most emotionally matured leader in the group." Biyani says the organization is coming to terms with this huge loss. “I had known him for the last 15-20 years. It was not only at the professional level but our families are friends too. I remember we went to the US together while he was at Spencer's for a retail study trip. Since then, we have known each other. It is shocking because Raghu was a people's person and so warm as a human being. He was in the executive board and leading new business strategies for the group. His leadership will be missed thoroughly,” Biyani adds. Pillai was not only providing leadership to the multiple businesses of the group in value retailing but also in rural retailing.
Agrees Bijou Kurien, President, Reliance Retail Lifestyle who avers Pillai was a complete go getter and extremely positive about his attitude in all aspect of life, be it business or any personal engagement. Pillai was a firm believer in the Indian story. He often said that customers were ready for new experiments, a belief that was translated into action, given the manner in which companies like Future Group and Reliance have expanded their horizon.