Seamless Customer Experience in an Omnichannel Retail World

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May 8, 2024

At the recent Phygital Retail Convention in Mumbai, Devangshu Dutta anchored an engaging “Fireside Chat” with Bhavana Jaiswal of IKEA India and Kapil Makhija of Unicommerce , on retailers engaging with their customers across channels and formats, and the opportunities as well as challenges in managing experiences seamlessly across online and offline interfaces.

Watch the video at this link:

Indian spice makers under heat in Asia for alleged contamination

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May 3, 2024

SAYAN CHAKRABORTY, Nikkei staff writer
Bengaluru, 2 May 2024

India’s packaged spice manufacturers MDH and Everest are under regulatory scrutiny in several countries after their products were allegedly found to contain carcinogenic elements, barely a year after cough syrups made in the South Asian nation were linked to the deaths of over 140 children in Africa.

Countries like Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. are weighing investigations into the packaged spices made by the companies after Hong Kong authorities raised a red flag over their quality. This isn’t the first time that the two — among the largest such companies in India — have faced these kinds of issues, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordering a recall of Everest spice mixes in 2023 and some MDH products in 2019, both due to salmonella contamination.

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) in Hong Kong said in a statement on April 5 that it found ethylene oxide (ETO), a pesticide that can cause cancer if consumed in large amounts, in three types of packaged spices manufactured by MDH and one made by Everest. The products were taken off the shelves and recalled, the CFS said.

Taking its cue from the Hong Kong authorities, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) a couple of weeks later recalled the Everest Fish Curry Masala product, saying in a statement that consumers who had purchased it were “advised not to consume it.”

The SFA also said, “As the implicated products [in Hong Kong] were imported into Singapore, the SFA has directed the importer to recall the products.” The agency clarified that “although there is no immediate risk to consumption of food contaminated with low levels of ethylene oxide, long-term exposure may lead to health issues.”

India’s Spice Board, a government agency that oversees spice exports, said that the limit for ETO varies between countries, from 0.02 milligram per kilogram of spices in places like the U.K. and Norway to 7 milligram per kilogram in Canada and the U.S.

Pesticides are widely used in agriculture in India, often leaving traces in food products. According to Indian government estimates, the cultivated area where chemical pesticide is used grew 33.4% from the fiscal year ending March 2019 to fiscal 2023, reaching 108,216 hectares. That was about seven times the area cultivated with biopesticides in 2023.

“We tend to look critically at the end product, but even more rigor is needed at the level of the ingredients,” said Devangshu Dutta, CEO at consultancy firm Third Eyesight, referring to the use of pesticides in cultivation. “Otherwise, we will end up kind of catching the product at the last point of control, which is not enough.”

Hong Kong and Singapore did not disclose the amount of ETO content in the recalled products. MDH and Everest had not responded to requests for comment by the time of publication.

Authorities elsewhere have also taken note of the allegations. “Food Standards Australia New Zealand is working with our international counterparts to understand the issue with federal, state and territory food enforcement agencies to determine if further action is required in Australia, e.g., a food recall,” the agency told Nikkei Asia in an email statement on Wednesday.

The regulatory scrutiny in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore, raises questions over an export market worth about $700 million, research firm Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) said in a report on Wednesday.

“Swift investigations and the publication of findings are essential to re-establish global trust in Indian spices,” GTRI said, adding that the “lack of clear communication [from government agencies] is disappointing.”

Indian food has been under scrutiny in Europe as well. The European Commission Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed estimates that since the beginning of 2023, Indian food products were deemed to pose “serious” risks in 166 instances. These included nine cases of ethylene oxide found in food supplements and spices in countries including Sweden, Greece and Italy.

Chinese food imports were found to pose serious risks on 115 occasions and those from the U.S. on 152 occasions.

The recalls come at a time when New Delhi is rolling out incentives to support local manufacturers and exporters in transforming India into a $5 trillion economy. India is the world’s largest exporter of spices with shipments worth $3.9 billion in 2023, followed by Vietnam and Mexico, according to data provider Tendata. Those figures give India a market share of 37.2%, with Vietnam at 28.1% and Mexico at 9.6%.

The issue with food products follows an outcry over the quality of medicines manufactured in India. Since 2022, the World Health Organization has linked the deaths of at least 141 children in Gambia, Uzbekistan and Cameroon to cough syrups made by India’s Maiden Pharmaceuticals, Marion Biotech and Riemann Labs that it alleged contained toxins.

But while the pharma companies are small local players, MDH and Everest made revenues of $260 million and $360 million respectively, in the fiscal year ended March 2023.

Poor food quality in India stems from a general lack of awareness about food safety and insufficient resources to track ingredients, among other reasons, said U.S.-based food and beverage consultancy AIB International in a report in October.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India found 16,582 samples unsafe in the fiscal year 2022, the latest such data available. That was a threefold jump from the previous year.

“Most of the food and beverage manufacturers in India are focused on reducing costs to make their product affordable to the public,” the report said. “As a result, many cannot prioritize food safety as a pillar of their business because it could prevent them from meeting their profit margins.”

“Food manufacturing and processing facilities can lack the resources to maintain proper hygiene,” it noted, adding that food-borne illnesses in India is estimated to top 100 million every year.

(Published on Nikkei)

Flipkart wants a bite of India’s Q-commerce growth

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March 18, 2024

Christina Moniz, Financial Express

March 18, 2024

It is not difficult to understand why e-commerce firm Flipkart wants a bite of the Q-commerce pie.

India’s quick commerce market has been growing year-on-year at 77% to reach $2.8 billion in GMV (gross merchandise value) in 2023, according to a Redseer report. In comparison, e-commerce has been growing at 14-15% year-on-year. No one would dispute that with instant deliveries of products and groceries in 10-20 minutes, quick commerce firms like the Zomato-owned Blinkit, Zepto and Swiggy Instamart have changed the face of e-commerce and retail over the past few years.

While quick commerce thrives, none of the players in this ring are profitable yet. According to Devangshu Dutta, CEO at Third Eyesight, most quick commerce firms are in an expensive market acquisition phase and are at least a year away from profitability — perhaps longer. He expects that the unit economics for these companies will improve. “Some of the quick commerce players have created a substantial consumer base, which is growing in the frequency of transactions, moving to higher order values and transacting more products with potentially better margins,” says Dutta.

Both Zepto and Blinkit expect to turn profitable in FY25, as per their public statements.

So what are the primary challenges? “Traditional large e-commerce players face obstacles in facilitating last-mile deliveries, establishing dark stores, managing supply chains effectively, and navigating fierce market competition,” says Anshul Garg, managing partner & head, Publicis Commerce India.

The other key challenge for the late entrants is that customers seldom switch platforms. This is different from the way customers shop for products like electronics on e-commerce, where they compare prices/ deals across multiple e-commerce marketplaces. Brands like Flipkart need to define their playbook by maybe exploring categories other than grocery if they are to make a dent in this market.

As things stand, quick commerce has a mere 7% of the potential market. The total addressable market is estimated at $45 billion, higher than food delivery, as per JM Financial. Blinkit leads the market with a 46% share, followed by Swiggy Instamart at 27%, and Zepto at 21%.

Growing-up pangs

Kushal Bhatnagar, associate partner at Redseer Strategy Consultants, explains that there are broadly three ways that Q-commerce firms are working towards profitability. The first is by pushing higher priced items on their platforms and bumping up higher average order values. They’re also foraying into non-grocery segments such as cosmetics and headphones.

The other lever is ensuring dark store efficiencies. “While dark stores are an added cost, most platforms have a solid understanding of the demand across micro markets and are able to extract better profitability from each dark store. So the trend is positive, even if profitability is still to be achieved,” explains Bhatnagar.

For a dark store to deliver ROI and become profitable, it needs to cross 1,200-1,300 daily orders.

Some players like Zepto are also experimenting with a nominal platform fee of Rs. 2 per order, which they sometimes increase during peak times — by up to Rs. 10 — to gain from a surge in demand. Some are also implementing 12-15% fees for orders under Rs. 500, nudging customers to spend more.

Ad revenue is another important lever driving growth for these platforms, especially as D2C brands hop on board and advertise on them to reach GenZ and millennial consumers in metros and tier-I markets. Advertising revenue is around 3% of a platform’s GMV, and it is expected to keep growing.

FMCG and F&B are the top advertising categories on quick commerce currently but that can change as platforms move into higher value categories. “Quick commerce is also venturing into unconventional categories such as electronics, mobile and large appliances. If all goes according to plan, we can anticipate a significant shift in advertising contribution, given that these categories boast higher average selling prices, prompting advertisers to adopt a slightly more aggressive stance,” says Shashank Rathore, vice-president, e-commerce at Interactive Avenues (IPG Mediabrands India).

(Published in Financial Express)

Reliance Industries in talks to bring British fashion retailer Primark to India

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February 29, 2024

Sagar Malviya & Faizan Haidar, Economic Times

New Delhi, 28 February 2024

Reliance is in exploratory talks with British fashion retailer Primark to bring the label to India, a move that will pit it against Tata’s Zudio, Landmark Group-owned Max and Shoppers Stop’s new value format InTune.

The 55-year-old brand, popular for its moderately priced clothing and shoes, has been evaluating the Indian market for the past few years and may partner Reliance through the joint venture or licensing route, said two people aware of the development.

Most of their stores will be on the high street due to its big box format, unlike other global retailers, which prioritise malls, the executives added.

Primark has been a successful value-priced retailer and its global revenue has exploded in the last few years, aside from two Covid-hit years. Average prices are even cheaper than retailers such as H&M and Uniqlo. While China is the largest source country for Primark, India is second in the number of small to large factories that supply the company. Nearshoring is already embedded in Primark’s supply chain strategy, and it can deliver goods from Indian suppliers directly to a local retail unit for cost control and flexibility while being responsive to local market needs.

As the largest retailer in India and with its portfolio of multiple international brand partnerships, Reliance can provide a significant edge with real estate and operational synergies, said Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight.

“India is an obvious growth market choice for large brands and retailers such as Primark,” he said. “In the end, though, it will come down to how effective the merchandise and the marketing is in connecting with the diverse needs of Indian consumers across the country.”

Primark is owned by London-listed Associated British Foods and has over 400 stores globally with a stated ambition to expand across new and existing markets to reach 530 outlets by the end of 2026. In the lower-priced segment, Reliance has Trends and recently launched fashion and lifestyle store Yousta, which competes directly with fast-fashion brands Zara and H&M in India. Reliance currently has over 18,774 stores-these include supermarkets as well as electronics, jewellery and apparel outlets. It has also either partnered with or acquired over 80 global brands for local sales.

Reliance didn’t respond to queries. A Primark spokesperson said, “As a growing international business, we’re always open to new opportunities. However, we don’t comment on speculation about where we might expand to next.”

Experts said India’s consumption structure has been skewed in the past over a narrow base of richer consumers accounting for a large chunk of market. However, now the opportunity for value-brands is expanding.

(Published in Economic Times)

Fashion 2024 & Beyond: Adapting to Changing Innovation Dynamics (VIDEO)

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February 21, 2024

The ability of fashion businesses to endure and thrive in the face of stiff competition and changing market dynamics is all about adapting to innovation, customer-centricity, and strategic planning. The correlation between high performing fashion business and product innovation is undeniable.

This panel discussion brings Design and Business Heads together to brainstorm on how fashion companies can devise strategies to drive innovation to remain competitive, meet evolving consumer expectations, and stay ahead of the race.

Moderator: Devangshu Dutta, Founder & Chief Executive, Third Eyesight

Panelists:

  • Anshu Grover Bhogra, CBO, Forever New
  • Diksha Bhatia, Founder, Gioia Co
  • Mansi Lohia, CEO, Black Watermelon
  • Rohit Aneja, Director- Grapevine Designs, CEO be-blu! Lake Como
  • Sean Ashby, Founder & CEO, Aussiebum
  • Swikruti Pradhan, Founder, Rustic Hue
  • Yogesh Kakar, Chief Product Officer – Tommy Hilfiger & Calvin Klein, PVH Arvind Fashion