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May 26, 2007

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India’s retail revolution begins


May 15, 2007

Special Correspondent Raj Menon, Mumbai (From

With long-term experience in modern supply chains and provisioning, Hong Kong firms in the food and related products sectors – the likes of Heng Tai Consumables and ABS Procurement Co – are sure to be viewing the changing Indian retail scene with more than passing curiosity. Others, like ACM China, the greenhouse specialist, are already getting involved.

Recent news tells a fascinating story: Reliance Retail is to invest US$5.5 billion by 2010-2011, to create 100 million sq ft of retail space. Bharti-Wal-Mart is to invest US$2.5 billion by 2015, to create 10 million sq ft of retail space. Future Group (Pantaloon Retail) will invest US$260 million by 2008, to increase its retail space to 10 million sq ft. The list goes on.

Subhiksha, the US$73 million discount store will set up 1,000 stores in India by the year end, while Metro AG is investing US$400 million over the next three years to set up some 18 stores in the country.

Other giants of the mass provisioning industry are not out of the picture either. The ninth largest food retailer, France’s US$50 billion Auchan, is eyeing the Indian retail market, while Carrefour is in talks for tie-ups with some of the top Indian industrialists.

So also venture the UK’s Tesco and Home Retail – the latter signing an MoU with Shoppers’ Stop and HyperCity, the retail ventures of the K Raheja group to develop Argos Retail Format Stores.

Local groups are shaping up as well, with the Aditya Birla Group and Tata Group among those also finalising new and exciting retail plans.

These retailers have big ideas to speed up the revolution in the US$300 billion Indian retail industry. The sector is expected to increase to US$427 billion by 2010 and to US$637 billion by 2015. Organised retailing, which up to now has accounted for just 3% of the total retail market, will increase its share to up to 18% by 2015.

According to a study by ICICI Property Services-Technopak Advisors, most of the investments being planned are in the supermarket/hypermarket format, where food and other groceries with related household goods will attract maximum investment. Food and other groceries account for 70% of total retail sales in India.

The Indian food and grocery retail market is estimated at US$168 billion, of which foodgrains and unprocessed fruits and vegetables account for half of total food and grocery sales. Given the predominance of the sector, it is understandable that most international and domestic retailers are making a beeline for it. Apparel, home furnishings, furniture, electronics are other product segments of interest, if slightly less lucrative.

With almost all retailers moving into these segments, the need for differentiation, quality enhancement and value for money are all becoming increasingly pressing. Retailers are moving fast to set up supply chain infrastructure and lines with vendors, to spruce up sourcing operations.

Retailers estimate that total investment in supply chain infrastructure is to the tune of US$500 million. Backend operations are taking front seat. Until now, volumes in the organised retail sector were small, which did not require too much investment in supply chain management.

However, every big retailer today is investing in this crucial operation to control costs, improve efficiency, cut down inventories and source quality products.

Another reason for this is the entry of the international retail giant Wal-Mart, through a joint venture with Bharti Group, whereby Wal-Mart will manage the back end operation, and Bharti the front end.

Wal-Mart has stated that it would replicate its global supply chain model in India, while taking into account the unique features of the Indian market. Also, emphasis would be on local sourcing of goods, as far as possible. Wal-Mart officials, after a study of the Indian retail scene, are confident they can offer better prices to Indian consumers.

This has got other retailers moving too, to enhance efficiencies of their own supply chains and bring down costs, while offering consumers the lowest possible prices.

It is well known that Wal-Mart operates on volumes, and can buy the entire production of its vendor plants, thus lowering costs and passing on the benefits to consumers.

Wal-Mart, through its international operations is also in a position to source globally. The company is set to roll out its first set of stores by the first quarter of 2008, in cities that have a population of one million. The formats would be hypermarkets, supermarkets and also partnerships with some existing local stores through franchise.

Food and grocery is expected to account for up to 40% of the venture’s turnover, and the retailer would offer lower pricing on home products, clothing and kitchenware, which are globally sourced.

Wal-Mart claims it will take 35% of the Indian retail market by 2015.

In response to this, India’s Future Group is sprucing up its vendor network. The company has identified up to 40 anchor vendors, each with turnovers of US$45 million, to achieve economies of scale.

The group is keen to ensure that its smaller vendors are able to reach turnovers of around US$1 million and a growth rate of 40% annually, to be able to pass on the benefits of scales. The company is also working towards bringing its 1,200 vendors online, like Wal-Mart.

Reliance Retail looks at the small picture

Reliance Retail has announced plans to set up one store for every 3,000 families within a radius of 2 km across all locations by 2011. The company is competing directly with the large number of traditional local provision stores. Reliance Retail is either going to set up new stores in the identified areas or take over existing stores. The company has already done that in Mumbai and other cities.

Of the four million sq ft of retail space to be created under the “Reliance Fresh” brand (for groceries), one million will be through acquisitions. The retailer is also moving into laundry, personal care and apparel product lines, in which it plans to launch private labels.

Reliance is planning to roll out its specialty format stores this year, beginning with consumer durables, for which it has struck sourcing deals with companies in Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and with Videocon in India.

To strengthen its links with farmers, the company is setting up integrated agri-retail business centres, which include three processing and distribution centres, 51 retail outlets for farmers and 75 rural business hubs, all with an investment of US$445 million.

Many companies, looking at the retail boom in food and grocery, are setting up ventures to help retailers source these goods.

Field Fresh, a joint venture between Bharti Group and NM Rothschild, is providing premium quality fresh produce to markets worldwide, has over 5,000 acres of land under cultivation all over the country producing many varieties of fruits and vegetables and is planning to double land under cultivation by the end of 2007.

The company is to supply fresh produce to the Bharti-Wal-Mart venture. To ensure best qualities and varieties, Field Fresh has engaged ACM China, an industry leader in building greenhouses, to set up state-of-the-art glass-based greenhouses at the FieldFresh Agri Centre of Excellence in the Punjab.

Field Fresh is also planning investments to the tune of US$220 million in the backend, including investments in cold chains and warehouses.

The Indian fresh produce marketing, till now controlled by state-owned Agriculture Produce Marketing Cooperatives (APMCs), is also changing with reforms in the APMC Act in many states. This has opened up the space for private players, and all major retailers are planning to set up private ‘mandis’ (marketplaces/bazaars), from where they can directly source their requirements of fresh foods.

Bharti’s Field Fresh will enter this segment within the next three months. A number of companies are also venturing into this segment to service the backend needs of retailers. For instance, DCM Shriram Consolidated Ltd (DSCL) finds that sourcing fresh foods for major retailers is big business and is in the process of tying up with them to source fruits and vegetables from farmers and supply to the retail chains.

DSCL is already doing this for Future Group’s Food Bazaar, south based Subhiksha and RPG’s Spencer. The new tie-ups would help the company to operate on economies of scale, and to operate all over the country.

Importers have a ramshackle infrastructure

Almost all retailers in the food and other groceries segment have a section for imported fresh fruits and vegetables from Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and some European countries. These are normally costlier than the Indian goods, and quality is almost always never good, because of lack of warehousing infrastructure on landing in India.

Being novelty products, however, these are finding a place in Indian kitchens. Realising this, Indian companies, through their contract manufacturing, have begun growing the same in Indian farms.

Brands such as Godrej Nature’s Basket are planning to begin global sourcing directly, to ensure better quality, product mix, handling, and continuity in supplies. Subhiksha, which is expanding its retail outlets very rapidly, has a separate team that continuously looks for best prices in groceries across the world. Reliance Retail has stated that it stocks over 100 international brands, which are not available in other formats.

The retail boom is creating a flurry in the other product segments too – apparel, furnishings and furniture, electronics. While global sourcing in these segments is only 5% of total merchandise, it is growing at a rate of 50% per annum.

According to Devangshu Dutta, a retail consultant with Third Eyesight: “most of the international retailers would prefer to have localised sourcing as quality, inventory, cost is better managed. However, there is the issue of whether Indian manufacturers can supply the volumes that Wal-Mart, Reliance Retail, and others will demand over the next few years.”

Almost all retailers, big and small, have some percentage of goods which are sourced mainly from Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Middle East and Europe.

Future Group (formerly Pantaloon) has recently set up a sourcing office in Hong Kong as well as on the Chinese mainland. The main items sourced are apparel, fashion accessories, furniture and furnishings and electronics.

Meanwhile, almost every Indian apparel exporter has begun supplying to domestic retailers too. And most of these exporters – Orient Craft, Texport Syndicate, Leela Lace, Kaytee Corporation and Creative Outerwear – are set to increase their production for domestic supplies.

Of the non-food domestic products stocked by larger retailers, a lot of furniture is also being sourced internationally, again from China, Malaysia and Indonesia. Specialty stores such as Durian in India source almost 90% of their merchandise internationally.

Also, some Italian companies have entered the Indian market, and are retailing from some of the big retail chains such as Shoppers’ Stop. Tata Trent Ltd, which has set up Westside chain stores, sources a large part of its kitchenware and fashion accessories from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.

Industry circles feel as domestic retailers grow in size, more and more chains will look at the option of setting up overseas global sourcing hubs, mainly in Hong Kong and some selected centres on the Chinese mainland.

However, global sourcing would still remain small in Indian retail due to continued the high import duties in India. “The sourcing happening today is mainly to bring in variety that is not available within the country,” says Dutta.

Retailers rush to TEMPerate zone


May 10, 2007


The Economic Times

DELHI, 10 May 2007

If temping is passé, weekend temping is the new passport for retailers to tide over footfall pressure during the weekends. As families make a beeline for high streets and malls during the weekends, the normal workforce looks helpless.

So, retailers are increasingly training their eyes on droves of undergrads who’re willing to work for money, recognition or just the fun of hanging out. Heavyweight retailers like Shoppers’ Stop, Wills Lifestyle, Timex and Airtel to name a few, who see a sudden spike in footfalls over the weekends, are roping in agencies for outsourcing manpower for that short one-to-two-day duration.

With organised retail breaching the Rs 48,000-crore mark, there’s no telling where outsourced manpower can go, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. Temping agency TeamLease has witnessed a huge demand for workforce across the retailscape over the weekends, and aptly cashed in on the opportunity.

“The numbers (of outsourced manpower during weekends) fluctuate owing to seasons, festivals, launch of a movie or a product,” says Rituparna Chakraborty, vice-president, TeamLease. She cites the summer sun as a key driver for weekend temping.

“People also want to escape the summer heat and throng air-conditioned stores. Soaring footfalls call for more people to manage those footfalls,” she adds. TeamLease engages 500 people at Shoppers Stop through the weekend temping model.

Even retailers who have so far shied away from the weekend temping format, seem keen. Take the case of Kishore Biyani, managing director, Pantaloon Retail. For his mid-market retail chain, Big Bazaar, weekends account for as high as 45% of the business and that jacks up manpower requirement by almost 25%. “This is the real issue facing us today,” says Biyani.

“We are figuring out ways to address it and looking for firms that can feed us with temporary staff during the weekends.” For now Pantaloon and Big Bazaar are managing in-house, using the students who attend courses run by Future Group in 14-15 educational institutions across country. “While they get first-hand retailing experience, we get our spike in weekend manpower requirement fulfilled,” Biyani explains.

Acknowledging the crunch, ITC’s apparel chain Wills Lifestyle, recently signed on the dotted line with TeamLease. “During the weekends, footfall pressure on average is twice, and at times, thrice that of on normal days.

But since our requirement is very specific, even when we outsource talent, there’s substantial handholding from our end,” points out Chittaranjan Dar, CEO, Wills Lifestyle. Countrywide, Wills hires 40-50 people over weekends as temporary workers.

For Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight, a retail and fashion services firm, the retailers face real manpower issues during the weekends and this is bound to go up. “For Indians, shopping is more of an entertainment than just a plain utilitarian activity and that explains the chaos in malls during weekends. So retailers need staff reinforcement for basic functions such as attending to customers, restocking, etc,” he says.



May 9, 2007

By Rajiv Banerjee & Shuchi Vyas
9 May 2007

At the MTV head office in Mumbai, the channel’s seven CEOs troop in every month to report their observations. And just like their Mumbai counterparts, CEOs from six other Indian cities too mail in their reports diligently every month. Meet the campus executive officers — the eyes and ears of the music channel, which sweep colleges across India looking for what’s hot or cool.

It’s the kind of information which enables MTV to get deep into its target audience’s minds. “The insights may not lead to a radical overhaul in our offerings, but we do incorporate elements into our shows — in the style and packaging — to make it contemporary and in tune with our target audience,” says Aditya Swamy, vice-president – marketing, MTV Networks India.

While MTV keeps its antennae tuned to the latest fads, Sanjay Luthra, MD, Mattel, bemoans a missed opportunity. The Pixar ‘Cars’ phenomenon isn’t even a whimper in India, even though Mattel factories across Europe and America are falling behind on orders. “In India, it didn’t work as well as expected,” admits Luthra.

The reason, in all probability, could be traced to the fact that Cars (the movie) wasn’t as big a hit in India. “A fad has to be identified and supported by more than one party. Today, when a fad emerges, it has a high-intensity, high-velocity impact, whereas earlier it was a gradual build up. The potential return is high, but there are risks as well,” Luthra adds.

It’s a conundrum which marketers today are grappling with. A fad today has a faster build-up and a shorter lifespan than ever before. He-Man moved from a fad to a trend with a life long enough for marketers of every stripe to ride on it.

Today, it’s Pokemon to Yu-Gi-Oh to Pixar, re-mixes to Brit-Asian to hip-hop — all flashing by on fast forward. While some do last long enough to become more durable phenomena, others have a very short shelf life. Time it and you ride the wave; miss it and you come crashing down.

The question that begs an answer: are fads worth all the effort? BS Nagesh, MD of Shoppers’ Stop, says that the fashion and lifestyle format no longer counts on short-term spikes. “We learnt this lesson during the days when Valentine’s Day was a hit. We used to work towards giving the occasion a spike. Now it’s just faded away. So unless it’s a product which creates a fad, which still has to be well planned, we don’t look at short-term waves,” he says.

Some of the fads that Titan’s FastTrack has seen are the neon collection in the watches category, and the amber-coloured and mirror effect range in sunglasses. “We see that when a campaign is taken off air, the demand drops. When put on air the second time, it revives interest only for a small segment,” says Simeran Bhasin, marketing manger, FastTrack, referring to the interchangable range launched for women, which did not pick up after the first few months.

But Bhasin also sees comebacks after a three-to-four year lull — in sunglasses, ‘avaitors’ and ‘bug eyes’. Trendspotter Robyn Waters, who’s written a best-seller called The Hummer and the Mini: The Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape, believes that today, as soon as something becomes commonplace, the early adopters move on to the next thing. “That makes it even trickier for marketers to capitalise on fickle fads.

It’s easier to identify because it’s so ubiquitous, but harder to capitalise on because the product lifecycle is so compressed,” she says. Dharen Chadha, MD, Momentum Strategy Consultants, says that fads are an example of downstream marketing. “They have their importance in certain categories like children-oriented ones in which you need to keep the stimulus fresh.

Brands should be about the eternal rather than the ephemeral,” he warns. And even in a kids’ category like toys, for players like Mattel, knowing what fad will catch children’s fancy in the future is crucial. For instance, Luthra has to be ready when kids go on holidays in April 2008.

“Even as children are more globalised today, they are ‘getting older younger’ (GOY), which means a move away from interest in sustained medium-intensity activity to short-term high-intensity fads,” he explains.

The shortened time line for fads owes to the faster dissemination of information through media like the internet and mobiles. Social networking sites and blogs allow anyone to propagate what he or she thinks is cool. “Earlier, a customer was exposed to a fad through a marketer.

Today, as the exposure is so large, sustaining a fad is becoming very difficult,” says Nagesh. Adds Santosh Desai, CEO of Future Brands: “Today, we are able to forget very easily. It’s a hallmark of media-based society. We grew up at a time where everything was given and stable. Today, it is based on change. What’s changing is growing.”

One outcome of the global information exchange is that Indian customers now see hardly any lag before a fad that takes shape in another country reaches India. Devangshu Dutta, chief executive, Third Eyesight, a Delhi-based consultancy, points out that this market is still very different from Japan and the US, where the electronic media is more dominant and specific market segments are smaller.

“There is still a significant ripple creating power in India. Fashion has more of a pan-India effect, while fads trickle up, down and sometimes across,” he says. Citing the example of an international retailer that he worked with, Dutta says two years ago, the retailer noticed there was an increase in demand for ‘ponchos’ and so they made 25 varieties of ‘ponchos’ for the UK market.

“They sold large volumes, but when other companies tried it just six weeks down the line, no one really bought them, and within two-and-a-half months, almost no customers picked them up,” he says. Even when it comes to fashion, Bina Mirchandani, head – category management, Future Group, believes time spans are coming down, even in India.

Two years ago, Pantaloons introduced Seven Seasons, with each season lasting around two months, which according to Mirchandani, proves that the timeframe for trends is decreasing. “We see that silhouettes last for a longer period of time compared to colours.

Also, comfort level is a factor that determines whether a fad goes on to becoming a trend. For instance, kurtis started out as a fad, but because people found that it is a comfort outfit, its lifespan has increased.”

So marketers are looking increasingly at capturing trends, rather than going after short-term fads. Ashwin Rajgopal, GM – marketing, L’Oreal, explains: “We are in the business of science and technology. Fashion is just a part of the entire spectrum.” Explaining the emphasis on creating trends rather than riding fads, Rajgopal says that considering the size of the country, if it’s just a fad, it may get restricted to major metros like Mumbai.

This also explains why the company does not indulge in limited editions — barring the recent Aishwarya Rai lipstick shade — dismissing it as a short-term game. “The challenge for us is to appeal to a large cross-section of people, especially when others join the bandwagon soon after we’ve introduced something in the market,” explains Rajgopal.

Most marketers believe that identifying fads is part scientific and part gut feel. While enormous amounts of time is spent researching consumer behaviour, preferences, media habits and language, whether tapping a fad will rake in the moolah for marketers is a matter of chance — and timing. To know what the target audience would be interested in the future, Mattel depends on Play Plus, a research which combines both internal and external sources.

“The idea is to service the play needs of a child, whether he wants a toy or internet or games. The list we have seen is getting more and more crowded,” Luthra says. One insight which came from the Play Plus research was children spending more time with mobile cameras.

So Mattel came out with a digital camera which, according to Luthra, is gaining popularity all over the world. Mattel has launched this in India too, but it remains to be seen whether kids here will latch onto what is a rage in other markets. “At the end, Play Plus will identify five properties — three may do well and two won’t. But it’s a continuous bet,” he says.

Ashish Patil, VP – creative & content, MTV Networks, admits that it’s a combination of research and going by the gut. “But what we bank on is our experience of what’s worked in the past, and whether something will work or not. That understanding gives us the confidence of saying this will work the minute we see it or hear it,” he says, adding that there are some broader trends like Bollywood.

But even within that there are fads like a ‘John Abraham’ from Dhoom 1 to a ‘Hrithik Roshan’ in Dhoom 2. “Today humour is big, but the kind of humour where you have fun at someone else’s expense is a fad.”

It’s not always easy predicting fads — they can be sparked by just about anything. Take, for example, the Motorola Pink Razr, which the company launched in a market dominated by black and grey coloured handsets. Lloyd Mathias, head – marketing, Motorola, says the initial reaction to the idea was met with skepticism.

“People thought it was bizarre. But we decided to go ahead with it and see the reaction,” he says. Within a fortnight, the company was inundated with calls from all over India with youngsters, particularly girls, asking for the Pink Razr. “We thought it would be temporary, but it went on to become a trend.

We took a gut call and decided to break the clutter. It worked for us,” says Mathias.

Interestingly, Dutta of Third Eyesight points out that mobile caller tunes have moved from being a fad to a permanent feature. “When the application was first introduced, youngsters used to change the caller tunes almost everyday,” says Dutta.

Marketing is rife with examples of trends that were mistaken for fads and vice versa. And while fad creators almost always gain disproportionately, cashing in is invariably a function of knowing when the end is nigh.