More malls to indulge you in the New Year


December 31, 2013

Financial Chronicle

Mumbai, December 31, 2013

It’s holiday season. The Oberoi Mall, in a far-flung western suburb of Mumbai, is decked for the occasion: golden bells are strung in the eaves; cotton floss circles the huge Christmas tree like vanilla ice cream. The well-lit stores in the mall are buzzing with jittery shoppers who are crowding the aisles but not the billing counters.

As the year 2014 dawns, the images it brings in its wake — the dark facets of economy such as joblessness, decreasing disposable incomes and trickling foreign investment almost alter the very basics of consumerism. The economy is roiled with low gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.8 per cent, sharp depreciation of rupee, high inflation at around 10 per cent, merciless layoffs, less disposable income, rural slowdown and low consumer sentiment. Consumer spending fell to 1.6 per cent in the April-June first quarter of the current fiscal year, from 3.9 per cent in fiscal 2013 and an average of about 8 per cent in the five years to fiscal 2012, according to a report this month by property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

Arvind Singhal, CEO of Technopak, says, “Yes, the Indian economy definitely needs more private consumption in 2014. However, the reality will be another year of subdued consumerism on the back of high inflation and the overall economic scenario. Last quarter growth number was also not great. In the next one year, there is nothing that promises dramatic change.”

While retailers shut down stores, reduced number of categories, streamlined supply chain, FMCG and consumer durable players increased prices of their products, innovated, in an effort to become more efficient and attract elusive customers. Yet as the New Year tiptoes its presence, the retail experts and consultants are saying that the world would remain as ‘chaotic’ and ‘depressed’ with signs of subdued ‘consumerism’ in India looming high on the 2014 horizon.

Retail experts say, while the upper middle class, that account for at least 40 per cent of all spending, will step up consumption in the next one year, the rest will choose to lie low for a while. “I usually shop during the Christmas and New Year week, but this year, I find myself resisting any kind of purchases due to worries of home loan, rent, increasing cost of food and other sundry expenses. I don’t see things changing to a great extent over the next one year,” said Mark D’Souza, a Mumbai-based 25-year old student of Psychology in Mumbai University.

Govind Shrikhande, CEO of Shoppers Stop, says, “Given the current scenario, the consumerism scene for the next one year is not very optimistic. The uncertainty could persist over the next two-three years.” He said they are interested in tie-ups with foreign partners looking at the Tata-Tesco deal.

Santosh Desai, MD and CEO of Future Brands, part of Kishore Biyani’s Future Group, believes that the situation is still quite volatile and turbulent at this point of time. “Hence, we are looking at the future with cautious optimism. We will definitely see an improvement in 2014 over last year, but its unlikely to be anything dramatic,” he said.

Even as mayhem strikes the consumer market, the election campaign is drumming up excitement. India’s politicians are strategising new populist measures for the country. Both BJP and APP oppose FDI in retail. Analysts say a stable Narendra Modi-led BJP government could boost investor sentiment.

“Post election, the economy must see an upswing. While consumerism might not increase to a great extent, debit card usage will go up in the next one year, younger people will also cash in on purchases,” said Alpana Parida, president of DY Works, one of India’s leading brand design firms.

Consultants say industry outlook is muted by political outlook and policy led economic issues such as inflation. “Consumer spending is also governed by emotion. While some income segments are optimistic, some are not. All consumer players need to look at the way their businesses are done. There is enough potential for growth,” said Devangshu Dutta, CEO of Third Eyesight, a Delhi-based specialist-consulting organisation for retail and consumer goods sector.

Consumerism in India mainly started in the 1980s with the arrival of television sets in many households. After the economic liberalisation of 1991, consumerism took shape over the next two decades, on account of privatisation and the IT boom. The momentum increased manifold in the late ’90 with a high degree of consumer awareness, aspirations and very high disposable income in the hands of the middle class. In the times we are in now, we can see a clear demand-supply mismatch. Whereas there is a very high level of aspiration, there are not enough resources available to support those.


More dollars to flow in Indian retail post Tesco clearance


December 30, 2013

Raghavendra Kamath, Business Standard

Mumbai, December 30, 2013

More foreign investments could flow in $450 billion-worth Indian retail after Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) today gave approval to Tesco-Trent’s proposed JV.

According to retail industry executives, some of the top European, Japanese and Korean retailers are seriously pursuing Indian retail.

Leading the pack is French retail giant Carrefour, which is expected to apply with the government by March next year, said sources in Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Carrefour has already spoken to Kishore Biyani’s Future group and Shoppers Stop owned Hypercity for possible alliance, sources in retail industry said.

Hypercity, and Aditya Birla have already said that they are open to getting foreign partners in their ventures. “It (approval) paves the way for others like us to look at possible partnerships to take it to next logical level,” said Govind Shrikhande, managing director of Shoppers Stop.

Retailers were keenly observing how approvals would be given to Tesco’s application to pick up 50% stake in Trent Hypermarkets run by Tatas. Though government talked about fresh investments in Indian ventures, Tesco was investing in existing chain of Trent, thereby triggering debate that whether it was a brownfield or greenfield venture.

“Earier, it was meant that FDI can come only in Greenfield projects. If the government has cleared this proposal, it means FDI is allowed in brownfield also,” Shrikhande said.

Said Kishore Biyani, founder chief executive and founder of Future group;” “We have to study the whole thing before coming to any conclusions.”

Some like Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight said the policy remains the same and the government is still talking about fresh investments.

“If any Indian retailer is looking at adding new facilities at back end and front end and looking for FDI, the policy will benefit them and not for the retailers who are looking to capitalise on existing facilities,” Dutta said.

According to a senior director of consulting firm, some activity in FDI in retail will happen between now and elections. “But most of the action will happen after elections.”

(Sourced from Business Standard .)

Trent’s Tesco edge can speed up profitability


December 23, 2013

Raghavendra Kamath, Business Standard

Mumbai, December 23, 2013

Tesco has been powering Star Bazaar, Trent’s hypermarket for a couple of years. The euro 72 billion Tesco was a back-end partner and provided sourcing and technical knowhow. While announcing the formal joint-venture with Tesco last week (following the easing of retail FDI norms), Noel Tata, vice-chairman of the Tata’s retail arm, had said that the company’s understanding of the market along with the UK-based retailer’s expertise would allow them to leverage the potential of the India’s retail scene.

“As a JV partner, Tesco’s motivation to bring in its systems and knowhow is higher,” says Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of retail consultant Third Eyesight. Dutta says that senior Tesco executives must have been involved in the Tata business earlier but Tesco’s management involvement can only go up. He reminds that Tesco partnered with Tata not just to remain a back-end player but also to study the retail front-end.

Both Tesco India and Trent did not respond to queries on the subject. Retail experts say that Tesco is known for three areas of expertise.

Knowing its customer

Tesco’s customer relationship management (CRM) is well documented. It has the popular loyalty card ‘Clubcard’. It also owns dunnhumby, one of the biggest data analytics companies in the world. “In the UK, depending on what customers have bought in the past, it sends customised mailers to shoppers, leveraging its database,” says Abheek Singhi, partner and director at management consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Adds Arvind Singhal, chairman of Technopak Advisors, “It is its strength to analyse every transaction and design pricing and promotions at each store that makes it successful.”

Tesco has not brought in its CRM and data analytics systems to India yet because of Star Bazaar’s limited scale of operations. Neither has it been able to introduce its good-better-best (value, premium and finest segments) approach.

However, it has helped the Indian chain across its 16 stores across the country. Tesco provides its proprietary “planogram” software to Star Bazaar, which helps the latter with a better display of products. For instance, Tesco told Star Bazaar that the retailer need not stock soaps and shampoos near the entrance to the stores. The customer will seek out these essential items wherever they are kept in the store. Rather, it advised Trent to use the vantage position to showcase products with a novelty element and hence, commanding a higher margin, for more profitable sale.

Private brands galore

Tesco has introduced hundreds of its SKUs (stock keeping units) in Star Bazaar stores from personalcare to packaged foods. While the contribution of private labels to Star Bazaar’s revenue is in single digits, Tesco sees 45 per cent of business from private labels.

According to executives in the know, Tesco has played a role in developing Star Bazaar’s own private labels. “In the UK and other countries, shoppers prefer Tesco’s private lablels over other international brands due to their quality and pricing. We need to see how they will do it in India,” says a director of an international management consultancy who did not wish to be quoted.

Formatting the market

According to the proposal sumitted to the government, the JV will operate in India through a chain of stores under various banners such as Star Bazaar, Star Daily, Star Market, branded as ‘A Tata and Tesco Enterprise’. The plan is to open three to five stores every financial year.

Experts point out that Tesco’s calibre in running multiple formats would come in handy. Tesco runs over 6,700 stores across 12 markets and runs hypermarkets, supermarkets, compact hyperstores , express stores and an online venture.

Star Bazaar has tried another format besides hypermarkets, having launched a neighborhood store called Star Daily in Pune, which is supposed to be based on Tesco Express.

The chief executive of a national retail chain says Tesco’s best practices might just help Star Bazaar break even faster. Though Star Bazaar had set up its first store in 2004, it is yet to achieve profits. The chain registered a net loss of Rs 72 crore on net sales of Rs 785 crore in 2012-13.

Many consultants say Tesco could also bring in its renowned ‘Tesco in a Box’ – its supply chain systems that are deployed in a new country.

Dutta says, “When a retailer enters a new country, there is naturally an erosion in best practices and processes as markets are different from each other. Tesco’s standardised system in inventory management, supply chain and store operations prevents that erosion.”

Tesco already plays a key role in the supply chain of Star Bazaar. It manages three distribution centres, that ensure high availability and supply to the stores. Armed with its advanced demand forecast system, auto-ordering mechanism and advanced warehouse management system, Tesco has managed over 80 per cent fill-rate (the number of times shelves get filled correctly against the orders placed) at Star Bazaar stores. The industry average in modern retail hovers between 60 and 65 per cent, as against 90-95 per cent in Europe and the US.

(Sourced from Business Standard .)

Tesco plans cautious India entry after arm-twisting by politicians


December 19, 2013

Nandita Bose, Reuters

Mumbai, December 19, 2013

It took months of arm-twisting and assurances from New Delhi to persuade British retailer Tesco Plc to take the plunge and become the first foreign player to set up a chain of supermarkets in India.

Earlier this year, world No.1, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, walked away from India and few expected any of its rivals to step in before elections due by next May, which could bring to power a government that reverses the opening up of a $500 billion market long dominated by millions of mom-and-pop shops.

But on Tuesday, Tesco announced that it had applied to buy a 50 percent stake in Tata Group’s Trent Hypermarket Ltd to open stores in the western state of Maharashtra and neighbouring Karnataka,

The decision marked a victory for the ruling Congress party in securing its first foreign investment victory after staking its political survival on reforming the supermarket sector.

"We were under phenomenal pressure from the Indian government to apply and frankly phenomenal pressure is an understatement," said a senior Tesco official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The pressure was intense on a government-to-government level."

A Tesco spokesperson did not comment on the reasons behind the company’s decision to enter India now.

"We’ve always said we’d like to get more involved in this exciting market and having learnt a great deal through our agreement with Tata, we have taken the decision to make an application to develop a multi-brand retail business in India."

Tesco is in the middle of a big investment drive to reinvigorate its sales in the UK and despite closing loss-making businesses in Japan and the United States, its move to enter India shows the retailer’s continued ambitions to expand abroad.

Tesco, the world’s third-largest retailer, and Wal-Mart lobbied the Indian government for years to allow global brands into the country.

The door finally opened at the end of 2012 when the government, desperate to attract foreign investment as economic growth fell to its slowest pace in a decade, overrode stiff opposition from coalition allies and opposition parties.

But the government’s plans were dealt a heavy blow in October when Wal-Mart called off its Indian wholesale joint venture and postponed its entry plans, blaming unfriendly regulations and political uncertainty.

Sources at Tesco and Trent said they took a calculated risk by making their application before the elections, but it was a cautious one, deciding to invest only $100 million for now.

"Instead of waiting for another year we said ‘let’s go for it now’," said an official at Trent, who cannot be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

"We have been made to understand…that an approved investment plan will not be reversed as it will send a very wrong message to the international investor community."

Company sources said there had been numerous meetings with the government throughout the year, and talks intensified in recent weeks.

Two government sources said trade minister Anand Sharma met Tesco chairman Richard Broadbent at the Davos World Economic Forum in January and assured him there of "hand-holding" by the government if the company invested in India.

Sharma also had several meetings with Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke, who sought dilutions to the entry requirements.


Along with Wal-Mart and Carrefour, Tesco until recently maintained that India’s retail regulations, especially one that mandates 30 percent local sourcing from small and medium-sized enterprises, will be difficult to comply with.

But the small scale of Trent’s hypermarket business will help Tesco adhere to the regulations for now, sources said.

"We have decided to tweak our current business model to comply with this," said the Tesco official. "Make no mistake, it’s going to be tough and the challenge will keep increasing as we grow, and so, as you see, our immediate growth plans for India are not very aggressive."

Since 2008, Tesco has had a franchise agreement with Trent Hypermarkets, which runs the Star Bazaar chain of stores and provides sourcing and technical help to its partner.

Star Bazaar runs 16 stores in the country and if Tesco’s investment is approved, they will open only 3-4 stores a year under the partnership, a very slow expansion plan designed to meet the sourcing regulations, find a model that works and fix the loss-making hypermarket chain, retail consultants said.

Tesco’s investment in India is widely expected to be cleared without much political opposition, thanks to its decision to keep a low profile before, consultants said. Wal-Mart, by contrast, had blazed the Indian retail trail, earning the ire of political parties and trade unions. An investigation into whether it broke India’s foreign investment rules and an internal bribery probe also delayed its plans.

"Wal-Mart decided to be aggressive, but Tesco decided to be discreet and its worked well for them," said Devangshu Dutta who heads retail consultancy Third Eyesight. "But whether they will be able to make use of the first-mover advantage and eventually lead the race remains to be seen."

(Additional reporting by Manoj Kumar in NEW DELHI and James Davey in LONDON; Editing by John Chalmers, Matt Driskill and Mark Potter)

(Sourced from Reuters.)

UK’s Tesco eyes 50:50 supermarket JV with Tata


December 18, 2013

Nupur Anand, DNA (Daily News & Analysis)

Mumbai, December 18, 2013

More than a year after the government allowed 51% foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, Britain’s Tesco, the world’s third largest retailer, is set to become the first foreign supermarket to foray into India’s Rs 31 lakh crore ($500 billion) retail sector.

On Tuesday, Tesco announced it had applied to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to buy a 50% stake in Tata group’s Trent Hypermarket, thus confirming months-long speculation about a possible multi-brand joint venture (JV) between the two.

Trent operates the supermarket chain Star Bazaar. Subject to mandatory approvals, the Tata-Tesco joint venture would focus on Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Tesco, reports said, wants to invest $110 million (around Rs 682 crore) on its India foray, well above the stipulated minimum multi-brand retail FDI of $100 million.

In a blog on Tesco’s website, Trevor Masters, CEO of the company’s Asia operations, said “We have been working with the Tata group in India for over five years, supporting the development of their Star Bazaar and Star Daily multi-brand retail stores via the provision of wholesale and franchise agreements. We have always said we’d like to get more involved in this exciting market and we are submitting an application to the government which, if successful, would allow us to enter into a joint venture with Trent Hypermarket.”

Tesco had formed an alliance with the Tata group in 2008 for providing back-end support and for wholesale and franchise agreements.

The British retailer now supplies around 80% of the goods to Tata’s 16 Star Bazaar and Star Daily stores.

Sources said Noel Tata, vice-chairman of Trent, was instrumental in bringing about the deal. Tata said, “The (Tesco) application (to the FIPB) is a positive step forward… We believe that our understanding of the Indian market coupled with Tesco’s unparalleled global retail expertise will allow us to leverage the tremendous potential of the market to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

A Trent Spokesperson told DNA, “It is too early to speculate on other plans relating to the venture.”

Tesco’s application is expected to offer succour to the government after the snub it received recently in the form of Wal-Mart’s decision to call off its deal with Bharti and put its multi-brand retail plans on hold.

Tesco CEO Philip Clarke and Noel Tata had met commerce minister Anand Sharma in May. The government had clarified that the 30% sourcing from medium- and small-scale enterprises would not cover fruits and vegetables (which account for 85% of Tesco’s offerings). This may well have expedited the deal, experts said.

Devangshu Dutta of Third Eyesight, a retail consultancy, said that even though Tesco’s entry is a positive development, several other brands will likely remain in the wait-and-watch mode before investing.

2013 – when Tatas wooed global majors
The year has been a busy one for the Tata group led by Cyrus Mistry (pictured) what with partnerships with three global players. Apart from the latest one with Tesco, Tata had inked a deal with Malaysia’s low-cost carrier AirAsia in February and the two are all set to launch a budget airline come 2014. In September, Tata tied up with Singapore Airlines for a 51:49 $49 million (to be scaled up to $100 million) JV to launch a full-service airline in India.

(This article appeared in DNA.)