Written By MONEYCONTROL NEWS
The biggest winner in terms of sales was BigBasket, which accounted for 50 percent of the sales growth followed by DMart, Grofers, Spencer’s Retail and StarQuick (Tata)
Representative Image (Reuters)
Online grocery sales for the largest online and offline retailers grew by a combined 65 percent to Rs 6,820 crore in FY20, while collective losses measured Rs 1,175 crore.
The biggest winner in terms of sales was BigBasket, which accounted for 50 percent of the sales growth, followed by DMart, Grofers, Spencer’s Retail and StarQuick (Tata), a report by The Economic Times said.
Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.
BigBasket owner Innovative Retail Concepts clocked a net sales growth of 43 percent, or Rs 3,418 crore, while losses rose to Rs 424 crore, as per data with the Registrar of Companies and business intelligence platform Tofler, the report said.
Most executives and experts credit the growth jump to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, which pushed consumers towards online options for grocery and other purchases, it added.
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A spokesperson for Grofers told the newspaper that the value of goods the company sold in FY20 vaulted 88 percent to Rs 3,000 crore, with losses at Rs 637 crore, largely due to investments for strengthening delivery services and building awareness.
Among offline retail chains, DMart’s e-commerce business saw sales zoom to Rs 345 crore, with losses at Rs 79 crore. StarQuick operator Fiora Online saw revenue of Rs 33 crore against a loss of Rs 21 crore and Spencer’s owner Omnipresent Retail reported Rs 15 crore sales with a loss at Rs 14 crore.
Devangshu Dutta, CEO of consulting firm Third Eyesight, said that the customer shift to online propelled investments to enhance capabilities in the space, while a concurrent rise in the average order values would likely benefit companies with a “healthier bottom line”.
Nielsen noted that online sales in the FMCG segment were notable, accounting for 3.1 percent of the India market value–in metros this surged to 8.6 percent as of the September quarter.
Remember the year 2000? After Y2K passed safely, that year some optimistic analysts predicted that India’s modern retail chains would reach 20 per cent market share by 2015. Two years after that supposed watershed, another firm declared that modern retail will be at around that level in 2020 – but wait! – only in the top 9 cities in the country. Don’t hold your breath: India surprises; constantly. As many have noted, “predictions are tough, especially about the future!” What we can do is reflect on some of this year’s developments that could play out over the coming year.
In many minds 2019 may be the Year of the Recession, plagued by discounting, but that demand slowdown has brewing for some time now. However, there’s another under-appreciated factor that has been playing out: while small, independent retailers can flex their business investments with variations in demand, modern retail chains need to spread the business throughout the year in order to meet fixed expenses and to manage margins more consistently.
To reduce dependence on festive demand, retailers like Big Bazaar and Reliance have been inventing shopping events like Sabse Sasta Din (Cheapest Day), Sabse Sachi Sale (Most Authentic Sale), Republic Day / 3-Day sale, Independence Day shopping and more for the last few years. In ecommerce, there’s the Amazon’s Freedom Sale, Prime Day, and Great India Festival, and Flipkart’s Big Billion Day Sale. This year retailers and brands went overboard with Black Friday sale, a shopping-event concept from the 1950s in the USA linked to a harvest celebration marked by European colonisers of North America. (The fact that Black Friday has a totally different connotation in India since the terrorist bombings in Bombay in 1993 seems to have completely escaped the attention of brands, retailers and advertising agencies.) Be that as it may, we can only expect more such invented and imported events to pepper the retail calendar, to drive footfall and sales. The consumer has been successfully converted to a value-seeking man-eater fed on a diet of deals and discounts. With no big-bang economic stimuli domestically and a sputtering global economy, we should just get used to the idea of not fireworks but slow-burning oil lamps and sprinklings of flowers and colour through the year. Retailers will just have to work that much harder to keep the lamps from sputtering.
Ecommerce companies have been in operating for 20 years now, but the Indian consumer still mostly prefers a hands-on experience. The lack of trust is a huge factor, built on the back of inconsistency of products and services. The one segment that has been receiving a lot of love, attention and money this year (and will grow in 2020) is food and grocery, since it is the largest chunk of the consumption basket. Beyond the incumbents – Grofers, Big Basket, MilkBasket and the likes – now Walmart-Flipkart and Amazon are going hard at it, and Reliance has also jumped in. Remember, though, that selling groceries online is as old as the first dot-com boom in India. E-grocers still struggle to create a habit among their customers that would give them regular and remunerative transactions, and they also need to tackle supply-side challenges. Average transactions remain small, demand remains fragmented, and supply chain issues continue to be troublesome. Most e-grocers are ending up depending on a relatively narrow band of consumers in a handful of cities. The generation that is comfortable with an ever-present screen is not yet large enough to tilt the scales towards non-store shopping and convenience isn’t the biggest driver for the rest, so, for a while it’ll remain a bumpy, painful, unprofitable road.
Where we will see rapid pick-up is social commerce, both in terms of referral networks as well as using social networks to create niche entrepreneurial businesses – 2020 should be a good year for social commerce, including a mix of online platforms, social media apps as well as offline community markets. However, western or East Asia models won’t be replicated as the Indian market is significantly lower in average incomes, and way more fragmented.
As a closing thought, I’ll mention a sector that I’ve been involved with (for far too long): fashion. In the last 8-10 decades, globally fashion has become an industry living off artificially-generated expiry dates. A challenge that I have extended to many in the industry, and this year publicly at a conference: if consumption falls to half in the next five years, and you still have to run a profitable business (obviously!), how would you do it? Plenty of clues lie in India – we epitomise the future consumers; frugal, value-seeking, wanting the latest and the best but not fearful about missing out the newest design, because it will just be there a few weeks later at a discount. If you can crack that customer base and turn a profit, you would be well set for the next decade or so.
(Published as a year-end perspective in the Financial Express.)