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Bombay Store aims to grow younger

The Hindu, BusinessLine
Purvita Chatterjee, January 20, 2012

The Bombay ‘Swadeshi’ Store at Fort in Mumbai may have patriotic leanings (it was started in 1906 by Indian patriot Bal Gangadhar Tilak and businessman Munmohandas Ramji) but today the home décor and gift retailer does not want to be perceived as an old-fashioned store brand catering primarily to NRIs.

It is hoping to attract youth with its new brand, The Elephant Company, a young, quirky brand with products ranging from magnets and key chains to more expensive offerings such as wall clocks, at prices between Rs 200 and Rs 4,000.

Bombay Swadeshi Store, the parent company, has already spun off its Bombay Store brand as an independent subsidiary under the Bombay Store Retail Company.

It is now planning to add two new subsidiaries for its new brand of The Elephant Company and the e-commerce business, which are expected to serve as growth engines.

Speaking to Business Line, Mr Asim Dalal, Managing Director, The Bombay Store, said, “While Bombay Store is a serious brand, The Elephant Company is a colourful brand with youthful flavour. We are looking at more aggressive growth for this brand vis-a-vis the Bombay Store brand. We expect to take this brand to tier 2 & 3 cities and also intend selling it at other retail stores.”

The Elephant Company has a host of colourful products with graphics from India. “It’s all about the unique things in India which are put on plain vanilla products such as T-shirts and mugs to bags, cushion covers and clocks. The brand is not premium and we also intend selling it through the e-commerce route,” explains Mr Dalal.

There are already counters of The Elephant Company within the premises of retailers such as Crosswords and WH Smith and there are plans to launch stand-alone stores in the future. “We would be setting up smaller stores ranging between 170 sq. ft. and 250 sq. ft. in malls for The Elephant Company. Consumer insight tells us that people are not looking to buy the same old things which Bombay Store is already selling at its 17 outlets,” added Mr Anaggh Desai, CEO, The Bombay Store.

According to Mr Devangshu Dutta, of Third Eyesight, a retail consultancy, “Bombay Store had more generic products which could be replicated. But now with The Elephant Company, the store has products marked with its own brand where it can also command healthier margins.” Besides, the store has also created private labels such as Ishstyle (for fashion) and Chai Patti (for tea), which could lead to better margins.

The Bombay Store is also tapping into the overseas markets and has identified places such as Singapore, Dubai, London and Sri Lanka, which have considerable tourist attraction. It has already tied up with franchising solutions company Francorp International to make a foray into these new markets. “While franchising is an option, we may also form joint ventures in the markets which allow FDI,” added Mr Dalal.

The Rs 33-crore Bombay Swadeshi Store has already sold 14.9 per cent of its equity to investment company Fidelity Investrade to raise money for expansions in the past. “We need about Rs 30-odd-crore for funding the operations of the new subsidiaries like The Elephant Company and the e-commerce operations and may approach our existing investors for it,” said Mr. Dalal.

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