Devangshu Dutta, Chief Executive of Third Eyesight, a retail and fashion services firm, said. “Retailing in India is set for the next big leap – what began as forward integration for manufacturers such as Bombay Dyeing and Raymond in the 1960s, has almost suddenly reached a stage where even smaller companies, individual entrepreneurs and real estate owners are willing to build organisation and structure into their businesses.
“The availability of quality real estate in the form of shopping malls is probably the biggest enabler of the organisation of retail business. From small 300-400 sq. ft. outlets in disorganised high streets, one now has the option of opening a well-furnished store in the well-equipped environment of a mall.
Highlighting the challenges ahead, he pointed out that, “The biggest challenge for the mall owners is going to be to find enough different brands to fill the space, so that the differentiation between the malls is maintained. Otherwise the 35-40 million sq. ft. that is coming up will end up looking the same all over, and one can foresee a bloodbath in the mall business. The challenge for retailers, on the other hand is to develop people at all levels, from frontline sales staff to middle-rung and senior managers to run the retail business. Their skills need to be of global-best standards, to allow indigenous retailers to not only compete with foreign retailers in India, but also to enter markets outside the country.
“Indians have a long history of being merchants of fashion, and moreover, of being able to build powerful brands informally – we need to combine these capabilities to create a truly vibrant fashion and retail industry where innovative and uniquely Indian brands are created, that are world-class and globally accepted. Outsiders have long appreciated the Indian industry’s strengths – the industry now needs to realise these itself.
Speaking about malls presenting competition to high street retailing, he commented, “High streets need to reinvent themselves quickly. Unlike European high streets which had a lot of protection from urban planners, and some lead time to develop a competitive strategy against out-of-town shopping, Indian high streets are faced with the prospect of sudden demise with the entry of huge malls in their own vicinity. Local market associations must rush to making sure their members work together and recreate a vibrant and different shopping environment to retain their customers – otherwise independent shop-owners will fall prey to Indian organised retailers much before foreign retailers even hit Indian shores!”