Decathlon FY23 sales shoot up 37% in India

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October 26, 2023

Sagar Malviya, Economic Times
26 October 2023

Surging demand for fitness wear and sports equipment for disciplines other than cricket and football helped Decathlon’s India unit expand sales 37% to Rs 3,955 crore in FY23. With more than 100 large, warehouse-like stores selling products catering to 85 sporting disciplines, the French company is bigger than Adidas, Nike and Asics all put together in India.

In FY22, sales were Rs 2,936 crore, according to its latest filings with the Registrar of Companies. The retailer, however, posted a net loss of Rs 18.6 crore during the year ended March 2023 compared to a net profit of Rs 36 crore a year ago.

Experts said a host of factors – from pricing products about 30-40% lower than competing products to selling everything from running shoes, athleisure wear to mountaineering equipment under its own brands – has worked in its favour. “They have an extremely powerful format across different sporting activities and have something for both active and casual wear shoppers. For them, the market is still under penetrated with the kind of comprehensive product range they sell for outdoor sports beyond shoes and clothing,” said Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight. “Even their front end staff seem to have a strong domain knowledge about products compared to rival brands.”

By selling only private labels, Decathlon, the world’s biggest sporting goods firm, controls almost every bit of operations, from pricing and design to distribution, and keeps costs and selling prices low.

Decathlon uses a combination of in-house manufacturing and outsourcing to stock its shelves. In fact, it sources nearly 15% of its global requirement from India across sporting goods. And nearly all of its cricket merchandise sold globally is designed and made in India.

(Published in Economic Times)

The Classic pivot: Charting ITC’s FMCG growth story

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October 13, 2023

Anand JC, Economic Times
13 October 2023

Once the butt of jokes in Dalal Street circles, 113-year-old ITC has turned a new leaf in recent years, as its strategy to derive higher revenue from its consumer business is bearing fruit, bit by bit.

Registered in Calcutta as the Imperial Tobacco Company, the FMCG major has always relied on its cigarettes and leaf tobacco business for a major chunk of its revenues. ITC’s true diversification move might have begun with the launch of its hotel in Chennai in 1975, including a failed attempt at the financial services business, but it wasn’t until August 2001 that the tale of the FMCG behemoth came to be.

Having relied on its cigarette business since 1910, ITC has increasingly sought to earn more from its ‘cleaner’ consumer goods products. In a 2018 interview, CEO Sanjiv Puri admitted that while the journey to diversify the company started a long time ago, it only got traction around 2008. Under Puri’s first term as the ITC chairman, the company embarked on the ‘ITC Next’ strategy. The first decade was focused on preparing the company for the transition, he said. ITC now can innovate products, create brands and allow “pro-neurs” or professional entrepreneurs to build businesses in FMCG.

The plan has worked

ITC, a darling of dividend-led investing lovers, has always been a long-term growth story in the making. Nearly two decades after entering the food business, the company holds a leadership position across categories.

As per the company’s latest annual report, it holds the leadership spot in the branded Atta market through Aashirvaad, cream biscuits segment via Sunfeast, bridges segment of snack foods via Bingo!, notebooks via Classmate and dhoop segment via Mangaldeep. Its Yippee noodles trails Nestle’s Maggi, as the latter continues to lead in a highly consolidated market. However, Yippee has managed to gobble up Maggi’s share at an enviable pace. Capturing these positions, this quickly is no easy feat either.

One of the things that worked for ITC is their understanding of the distribution of products, stemming from their strength in the tobacco business. ITC started exploring aggressively diversifying away from the tobacco business around the 90s, says Devangshu Dutta, head of retail consultancy Third Eyesight.

ITC’s foray into the food business was supported by its presence in the hotel business. “Some of the marquee products that used to be served in their hotel restaurants, packaged dal and so on, they packaged and sold but it was not a humungous success. It was marginal at best.”

“But they started understanding the distribution aspect because those were sold through traditional distribution channels,” Dutta says.

ITC also put in a lot of financial muscle behind the brand building, given no dearth of resources, Dutta says. This helped them grow rapidly in product categories in which they didn’t have a presence earlier on.

“Starting from scratch, particularly on the foods side, ITC has been one of the most successful companies in the last 15-20 years. Their overall revenue this year has been roughly Rs 19,000 crore, out of which Rs 15,000-16,000 is purely from foods segment,” Amnish Aggarwal, Head of Research, Prabhudas Lilladher told ET Online.

“For a company which started this business, maybe, say, two decades back, this is a very big achievement,” he says.

Unlike its commanding position in its cigarette business, ITC’s ‘other-FMCG’ ambitions faced stiff competition from local and national companies in categories including soaps, shampoos, atta, snacks, biscuits, noodles and confectioneries.

Supporting ITC’s ‘other-FMCG’ ambitions is its core competency, the cigarette business. ITC’s consumer business’ growth has weathered storms, in part, thanks to the cash flows generated by its cigarette business which has helped it create stronger brands, an essential part of any consumer-centric business. Through its cigarette business, ITC also gets unparalleled access to a network of brick-and-mortar stores that have a diverse presence across India.

Also complimenting its growth is ITC’s agri-business, a segment which has also grown in strength over the years. From 10 per cent in FY14, the agri-business in FY23 contributed around 24 per cent to the company’s revenue from operations, as per ET Online’s calculations. ITC over the years has invested in building a competitive agri-commodity sourcing expertise. Some of these structural advantages have facilitated the company’s sourcing of agri raw materials for ITC’s branded packaged foods businesses, be it towards its atta, dairy or spices.

Like its peers, ITC too has given a fair deal of importance to its digital push, with more and more companies launching their D2C platforms. These platforms help customers buy products directly from the company website without the hassle of dealing with channel partners, and at the same time, the companies get their hands on first-party data. Such access can help the company market its offerings better. ITC, like some of its other peers, has also been investing in start-ups to diversify its product portfolio. It recently invested in Yoga Bar and Mother Sparsh.

The numbers behind ITC’s consumer business behemoth

Built to engage in the tobacco business, ITC got into cigarette packaging nearly 100 years ago. Another intent in recent decades has been to focus more on the non-cigarette business.

Puri saw it coming.

Upon being asked about the FMCG business overtaking cigarettes, Puri had said “We do not give guidance. But it will certainly happen because the other businesses are growing faster.”

After contributing nearly 62 per cent to the overall revenue in FY14, the cigarettes business in FY23 contributed only around 37 per cent.

ET Online calculations show that the other-FMCG business contributed 17 per cent to the overall revenue in FY14, which grew to 25 per cent in FY23.

Data confirms the claims made in the above segment. ITC’s non-cigarettes businesses have grown over 31-fold and currently form over two-thirds of its net segmental revenues. The company’s other-FMCG business didn’t start turning consistent profits up until FY14. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength.

ITC’s Other FMCG segment (the second largest contributor to sales) is also witnessing strong earnings and growth momentum, unlike most consumer staples peers.

The segment clocked a revenue of 19 per cent YoY while Nestle and Britannia saw 21 and 11 per cent growth each. FMCG EBITDA performance was even better, with the margin expanding by 430 bps YoY to 13.3 per cent & EBITDA growing 2.1x YoY.

Laughing stock no more

For years, the cigarette business has funded the growth of ITC’s other businesses like non-cigarette FMCG products, sometimes to the ire of shareholders who weren’t happy with the slow growth in financials and scrip value.

A slower growth in scrip value meant that for years ITC was also the laughing stock among social media circles. The stock often remained elusive during market rallies in the previous decade, offering poor returns in comparison to FMCG peers. Between 2014 and July 2022, ITC rose with dividends rose 53 per cent while Nifty50 rose 200 per cent, as per moneydhan.com, a SEBI RIA. ITC’s shares trailed the Sensex for five out of eight years through 2020.

“In the last ten years, HUL has done far, far better than ITC. And if you look at other companies in the same universe, say Dabur, it has also given superior performance. ITC has actually underperformed many of the large consumer names,” Aggarwal said.

But fast forward to 2023, not only is it among the best performers within the benchmark index, ITC has even trumped it. While Nifty50 has gained around 17 per cent in the last year, ITC has grown nearly 40 per cent. The ITC scrip in July crossed a market capitalization of Rs 6 lakh crore, beating HUL to become the largest FMCG company.

Sin stock

Prompting a move away to other segments is the nature of the cigarettes business. Tobacco is toxic, and investors are increasingly recognising it as such. Sin stocks are shares of companies engaged in a business or industry that is considered unethical or immoral.

While Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing may be at a nascent stage in India, it is a serious parameter for global investors. Asia’s largest cigarette maker ITC cannot ignore it.

“The company sustained its ‘AA’ rating by MSCI-ESG –the highest amongst global tobacco companies– and was also included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Emerging Markets Index,” Puri noted in the company’s 2022 sustainability report.

Cigarettes, a bitter but essential overhang

For all the accolades for its gains in its other-FMCG business, ITC is nowhere close to ending its love for cigarettes, not that we are claiming it wants to. The Gold Flake-maker currently controls nearly 80% of the cigarette market.

The numbers in recent years suggest that the segment is flourishing more than ever before.

On an annualized basis, the return on depreciated cigarette assets is approaching a staggering 240%, three times the level two decades ago, as per a Bloomberg report. The entire legal cigarette industry was bleeding in the recent past due to punitive and discriminatory taxation on cigarettes. Taxes on cigarettes in India are multiple times higher than in developed countries viz. 17x of USA, 10x of Japan, 7x of Germany and so on, data shows.

But, companies are now recovering due to stable taxation. ITC’s three four-year cigarette sales CAGR are at their best levels since FY15 despite the company not taking material price increases over the last 13-14 months, as per a Motilal Oswal report.

ITC, which accounts for three out of every four cigarettes sold in the white market in the country, is currently seeing its best growth levels in over a decade, and is far superior to the flattish volumes of the past ten and twenty years.

(Published in Economic Times)

After cola, Reliance begins price war in home and personal care space

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March 23, 2023

Sharleen D’Souza, Business Standard

Mumbai, March 23, 2023

After sparking a price war in the carbonated beverages market through Campa Cola, Reliance Consumer Products has taken the pricing battle to the other segments in the fast-moving consumer goods market.

For instance, in soaps, it has priced its product lower than the market leader in the segment at Rs. 25 for 100 gms across its three brands – Glimmer, Get Real and Puric.

With Glimmer, Reliance Consumer competes with Lux, which sells a 100-gm soap bar at Rs. 36, while Get Real is similar to Hindustan Unilever’s Pears soap bar, which is priced at Rs. 54 for 100 gms. In the hygiene space, Reliance has taken on Reckitt Benckiser’s Dettol, priced at Rs. 40 for 75 gms. Godrej Consumer Products, one of the leaders in soaps sells its Godrej No 1 45 gms (each) pack of 4 for Rs. 40.

In the dish wash category, it captured the main price points of Rs. 5 for 75 gms, Rs. 10 for 145 gms, and Rs. 15 for 200 gms in bars, and Rs. 10 for 65 ml pouch, Rs. 20 for around 140 ml pouch, and Rs. 30 for 200 ml pouch in liquids. HUL’s Vim bar is priced at Rs. 5 for a 60-gm pack and Rs. 10 for a 125-gm pack, while a 300-gm pack retails at Rs. 30.

But Reliance has also moved a step further into the sachet space and is retailing a 5 ml sachet of dish wash liquid at Rs. 1. Other brands do not sell sachets.

On JioMart, the price of RCPL’s Enzo two-litre front-load liquid detergent is Rs. 250, a 43 per cent discount to the maximum retail price (MRP) of Rs. 440; the topload two-litre liquid detergent is available at a 35 per cent discount and now priced at Rs. 250. Its compact detergent powder one kg pack is priced at Rs. 149, after a 12 per cent discount on its MRP of Rs. 170. HUL’s Surf Excel Easy Wash detergent powder is priced at Rs. 150 and Quick Wash at Rs. 240 for a kilogram. But Rin detergent powder is priced for Rs. 103 and Wheel detergent powder at Rs. 73 for 1 kg. Surf Excel’s front load two-litre pack is priced at Rs. 390 and top load at Rs. 370. Tide’s 1.5 kg detergent powder sells for Rs. 225.

In detergents, Reliance has not disclosed which segment it intends to cater to and what price points it will offer in general trade.

Reliance is following the challenger strategy like in the telecom space, said Devangshu Dutta, founder at Third Eyesight. He said this is the fastest way to acquire market share, and since Reliance has deep pockets, it can easily fund market share acquisition by launching its products at a significant price difference compared to rivals.

“Customers will move at least to try the product and if they end up liking the product they will stick to it. This strategy is best suited for market share acquisition,” Dutta explained.

An executive from a top FMCG firm said on the condition of anonymity that there will eventually be a price war in whichever segment Reliance enters. He explained that while Reliance was still setting up its distribution network, over time due to its B2B supply chain, it will be able to push its products into retail
stores.

Some distributors who spoke on the condition of anonymity said it would not be easy to move the leaders in the segment as these companies have a fixed customer base and it might be difficult to topple brands that have been in the market for a while.

Reliance followed the same strategy with its carbonated beverage, Campa Cola. It relaunched Campa at a price point of Rs. 10 for 200 ml, Rs. 20 for 500 ml, Rs. 30 for 600 ml, Rs. 40 for one litre, and Rs. 80 for two
litres.

(Published in Business Standard)

Reliance to launch British sandwich outlet Pret A Manger in India

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June 30, 2022

Written By Aditya Kalra & Abhirup Roy

MUMBAI, June 30 (Reuters) – Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) said on Thursday it would open outlets of Pret A Manger in India under a franchise deal with the British sandwich and coffee chain, a first foray by the Indian firm in the country’s growing food and beverage industry.

Reliance Brands Ltd (RBL), a unit of the conglomerate that also runs India’s biggest retail chain, would start by opening branches of Pret, as the brand is known in Britain, in big Indian cities, both companies said.

RBL Chief Executive Darshan Mehta said in joint statement the partnership was “rooted in the strong growth potential” of the Pret brand, known for its organic coffee and upmarket sandwiches, and the Indian food and beverage industry.

The first outlet would open in Mumbai before March 2023 and India was expected to become one of Pret’s top three markets in three years, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Pret A Manger, whose name means “ready to eat” in French, first opened in London in 1986. It now has 550 outlets globally, including in the United States and several European states. It is owned by investment group JAB and founder Sinclair Beecham.

In India, the brand will compete with Starbucks (SBUX.O), which has a joint venture with India’s Tata, and Costa Coffee, which is owned by Coca-Cola (KO.N).

Mukesh Ambani, one India’s richest men, runs Reliance, which has more than 2,000 supermarkets and grocery stores in India. Reliance also has partnerships with luxury brands, such as Burberry and Jimmy Choo.

“Reliance wants to look at retail in all its shapes and forms. Over time, they’ve realised partnerships are the way for business formats that may be difficult or slower to crack,” said Devangshu Dutta, head of retail consultancy firm Third Eyesight.

Source: reuters

With ‘house of brands’ model, ABFRL eyes foray into D2C market

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June 24, 2022

Written By Christina Moniz

Prashanth Aluru, a former Facebook and Bain hand, will be behind the steering wheel for this venture

The Aditya Birla Group has just announced the launch of its ‘house of brands’ business entity, TMRW, to support digital fashion and lifestyle brands. TMRW, which will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail (ABFRL), aims to build and buy over 30 brands in the next three years, the company said in a statement.

With this move, the company expects to make its entry into the D2C market, which is expected to be reach $100 billion by 2025. “What a brand like Shoppers’ Stop does in brick and mortar, ABFRL is doing online. While in the past, the company was known for certain brands, it is now pivoting itself towards a wider pitch with bigger variety of brands that could potentially appeal to a wider range of consumers,” said Ankur Bisen, senior partner and head, food and retail, Technopak Advisors. The launch could be ABFRL’s next step in positioning itself as a fashion major, he said.

Prashanth Aluru, a former Facebook and Bain hand, will be behind the steering wheel for this venture.

ABFRL will compete with start-ups like the Good Glamm Group and Mensa Brands, among others. The number of D2C brands and online sellers in the country have grown over the last couple of years, and experts believe that TMRW could be the company’s endeavour to become relevant to new-age consumers. Brands like Reliance Retail and Myntra are going down the same path, says Bisen.

The opportunity is immense; according to a report by IMARC Group, the Indian textile and apparel segment reached $151.2 billion in 2021 and is set to grow at a CAGR of 14.8% between 2022 and 2027.

ABFRL, which has a network of over 3,300 stores across India, is home to brands like Pantaloons, Van Heusen, Louis Philippe and Allen Solly, and has partnerships with labels like Forever 21, American Eagle and more recently, Reebok. The retail company has also forayed into the ethnic wear business and has forged strategic partnerships with designers such as Sabyasachi, Masaba and Shantanu & Nikhil.

Having reported losses for the last three years, the company narrowed its losses to `108.72 crore in FY22 on the back of revenues of `8,136.22 crore. The company reported a 55% surge in revenues during the last fiscal. While Madura Fashion & Lifestyle contributed 68.4% to the company’s FY22 revenue, the remainder 31.6% came from Pantaloons, according to Bloomberg data.

Ambi Parameswaran, author and founder of Brand-Building.com, said ABFRL has already built a good retail presence for the brands in its portfolio. “There must be significant synergies at the back end, but the brands are managed separately,” he said. “I suppose the new venture, TMRW, will offer all these brands as well as all the other ethnic brands that ABFRL has acquired in the last three years.”

He said the synergies will probably lie at the back end with supply chain, logistics, finance and HR. However, the brands will most likely be given the space to build strong individual identities.

This is not the company’s first foray into the e-commerce space. ABFRL shut down its e-commerce venture, ABOF (All About Fashion) in 2017, though in August last year, it said the brand would be made available on Flipkart and Myntra.

A concept like ‘house of brands’ is potentially beneficial to both — the large conglomerates and also to the smaller, emerging brands that are acquired. In a D2C framework, niche brands that would otherwise find it difficult to navigate the established multi-layered distribution and retail channels see greater feasibility in connecting with their customers directly through digital channels.

According to Devangshu Dutta, CEO of retail consultancy Third Eyesight, this makes it viable to launch a product range, which would not be immediately entertained in established channels, and allows them to retain their distinctiveness. With the passage of time and with their growth, some of these brands could also expand into established modern retail and traditional retail formats and to a more mainstream audience.

“Large companies, on the other hand, can find it difficult to grow their existing brands beyond a certain pace, and often may not be able to break new ground in terms of product development and customer experience. At some point, inorganic growth by acquiring other businesses and brands becomes an important element of their strategy,” Dutta said.

The house of brands model, to be sure, comes with its fair share of challenges. Angshuman Bhattacharya, EY India partner and national leader – consumer products and retail, said the strategy must have clear synergies from an operations and distribution perspective. “Possible challenges could emanate out of the non-compatibility of categories with the distribution. Another potential challenge could be in supporting multiple brands with marketing investments, failing which the realisable value envisaged during acquisition could stay unfulfilled,” Bhattacharya said.

The other downside, as Dutta pointed out, is that over time there is consolidation of market power within a handful of companies. This has happened across the globe and across sectors, and can negatively impact consumer choice, supplier dynamics and pricing.

Source: financialexpress