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)

CCD get some respite as bankruptcy proceedings stayed for now

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August 28, 2023

Viveat Susan Pinto, Financial Express

August 28, 2023

Coffee Day Global, which operates the Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) chain, has been given a temporary relief against bankruptcy proceedings initiated by lender IndusInd Bank last month. The Chennai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLAT) last week halted admission of IndusInd Bank’s plea against Coffee Day Global, a subsidiary of the listed Coffee Day Enterprises (CDEL), by the NCLT Bengaluru, till September 20.

What this means for CCD is that it get some more time at a time when it has swung into the black after struggling for the last few years, since the tragic demise of its founder VG Siddhartha in 2019. Coffee Day Global posted a net profit of Rs 24.57 crore for the June quarter of 2023-24 (FY24) versus a net loss of Rs 11.73 crore reported in the same period last year.

Revenue from operations stood at Rs 223.20 crore in the quarter under review, a growth of nearly 18% versus the year-ago period, CDEL results for Coffee Day Global showed.

More importantly, CCD outlets are down to 467 in the June quarter of FY24 from a peak of 1,752 stores in FY19, indicating that the company is shutting down unprofitable operations as it looks to manage its debt and other expenses. Group debt is down to Rs 1,711 crore, according to its latest annual report for FY23, versus Rs 7,214 crore reported in FY19.

“While the coffee retail market in India is growing, in CCD‘s case the need to downsize has to do with internal issues. Sometimes a smaller footprint just helps to manage operations better especially when you are dealing with larger problems such as a debt overhang,” says Devangshu Dutta, chief executive officer of retail consultancy Third Eyesight.

CCD’s financial health is critical for CDEL, which derives close to 94% of its group turnover from the coffee retail business, according to its FY23 annual report. In FY22, the contribution of the coffee retail business to group turnover was 85%. Losses of Coffee Day Global in FY23 narrowed to Rs 69.62 crore from Rs 112.48 crore in FY22. In FY19, the company had a net profit of Rs 10 crore.

Apart from cafes, CCD also has kiosks and vending machines installed in corporate offices, institutions and business hubs. While the number of kiosks has fallen over the last few years and is at around 265 now from a peak of 537 in FY19, the number of vending machines have been growing after briefly slowing down over the last few years. From a peak of 58,697 crore in FY20, it is now at 50,870 in number, the company’s latest results show.

CCD is also expected to fight the insolvency proceedings against it aggressively, according to industry sources. IndusInd Bank has claimed that Coffee Day Global defaulted on a loan of Rs 94 crore, which occurred on February 28, 2020. The company has disputed this in court.

(Published in Financial Express)

One Ring That Rules Them All

Devangshu Dutta

January 10, 2017

In this piece I’ll just focus on one aspect of technology – artificial intelligence or AI – that is likely to shape many aspects of the retail business and the consumer’s experience over the coming years.

To be able to see the scope of its potential all-pervasive impact we need to go beyond our expectations of humanoid robots. We also need to understand that artificial intelligence works on a cycle of several mutually supportive elements that enable learning and adaptation. The terms “big data” and “analytics” have been bandied about a lot, but have had limited impact so far in the retail business because it usually only touches the first two, at most three, of the necessary elements.

Elements in Operationalizing Big Data and AI

“Big data” models still depend on individuals in the business taking decisions and acting based on what is recommended or suggested by the analytics outputs, and these tend to be weak links which break the learning-adaptation chain. Of course, each of these elements can also have AI built in, for refinement over time.

Certainly retailers with a digital (web or mobile) presence are in a better position to use and benefit from AI, but that is no excuse for others to “roll over and die”. I’ll list just a few aspects of the business already being impacted and others that are likely to be in the future.

  1. Know the customer: The most obvious building block is the collection of customer data and teasing out patterns from it. This has been around so long that it is surprising what a small fraction of retailers have an effective customer database. While we live in a world that is increasingly drowning in information, most retailers continue to collect and look at very few data points, and are essentially institutionally “blind” about the customers they are serving.
    However, with digital transactions increasing, and compute and analytical capability steadily become less expensive and more flexible via the cloud, information streams from not only the retailers’ own transactions but multiple sources can be tied together to achieve an ever-better view of the customer’s behaviour.
  2. Prediction and Response: Not only do we expect “intelligence” to identify, categorise and analyse information streaming in from the world better, but to be able to anticipate what might happen and also to respond appropriately.
    Predictive analytics have been around in the retail world for more than a decade, but are still used by remarkably few retailers. At the most basic level, this can take the form of unidirectional reminders and prompts which help to drive sales. Remember the anecdote of Target (USA) sending maternity promotions based on analytics to a young lady whose family was unaware of her pregnancy?
    However, even automated service bots are becoming more common online, that can interact with customers who have queries or problems to address, and will get steadily more sophisticated with time. We are already having conversations with Siri, Google, Alexa and Cortana – why not with the retail store?
  3. Visual and descriptive recognition: We can describe to another human being a shirt or dress that we want or call for something to match an existing garment. Now imagine doing the same with a virtual sales assistant which, powered by image recognition and deep learning, brings forward the appropriate suggestions. Wouldn’t that reduce shopping time and the frustration that goes with the fruitless trawling through hundreds of items?
  4. Augmented and virtual reality: Retailers and brands are already taking tiny steps in this area which I described in another piece a year ago (“Retail Integrated”) so I won’t repeat myself. Augmented reality, supported by AI, can help retail retain its power as an immersive and experiential activity, rather than becoming purely transaction-driven.

On the consumer-side, AI can deliver a far higher degree of personalisation of the experience than has been feasible in the last few decades. While I’ve described different aspects, now see them as layers one built on the other, and imagine the shopping experience you might have as a consumer. If the scenario seems as if it might be from a sci-fi movie, just give it a few years. After all, moving staircases and remote viewing were also fantasy once.

On the business end it potentially offers both flexibility and efficiency, rather than one at the cost of the other. But we’ll have to tackle that area in a separate piece.

(Also published in the Business Standard.)

Big bang later, hyperlocal companies losing steam

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February 21, 2016

Shinmin Bali, Financial Express

Mumbai, 21 February 2016

Having created quite a stir at the time of their launch, hyperlocal companies are now witnessing a dampened mood. While several have folded up operations in some cities, others have downsized staff, tweaked the services they offer and even made alterations to their business models. A recent example is Grofers shutting down operations in Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Coimbatore, Kochi, Ludhiana, Mysuru, Nashik, Rajkot and Visakhapatnam.

TinyOwl last year was in the news for a poorly-handled downsizing operation in Pune, with a dramatic hostage situation involving its co-founder Gaurav Choudhary. PepperTap also recently shut down operations in six cities.

Ironically, giants like Amazon have not only aggressively entered the hyperlocal space, they are building on it. Amazon is currently offering the service in Bengaluru, Amazon Now, after running a pilot project, Kirana Now, in 2015.

The investor sentiment in India is also on a decline, as was reported earlier this year. Investments by venture capitalists have dropped from $2.12 billion (October-December 2014) to $1.15 billion (October-December 2015), according to a report by CB Insights and KPMG International. This leaves an even shorter window of opportunity for players to retain investor interest.

Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder, Grofers, states that differing levels of technology literacy among the majority of merchants and consumer adaptation to the online platform are concern areas for the company. In 2016, the company is looking to bring over one lakh merchants aboard and ensure that turnaround time stays under an hour. Grofers delivers more than 35,000 orders per day on average. In Q4 2015, the firm acquired teams of SpoonJoy and Townrush to bring dynamic learning to the table.

For Swiggy’s co-founder Nandan Reddy, the focus is currently to grow the market, while catering to a wide demographic of consumers. He admits that in the early stages, the brand had trouble educating even its partners. Furthermore, operating a delivery fleet in an on-demand service offering sub-40 minute deliveries is a challenging task, given that there are at least 15 points of failure in an average order. Swiggy currently owns a delivery fleet of 3,800 delivery executives. The brand’s repeat consumers contribute to over 80% of orders.

Debadutta Upadhyaya, co-founder, Timesaverz, says some of the major challenges in a hyperlocal market are optimum resource utilisation and matching locations, price points, and other specific requirements to customer needs. Timesaverz currently has a service range spread across 40 categories, aided by a network of over 2,500 service partners across five metros. Its revenue model is commission based, where 80% of earnings from consumers are shared with service partners.

Vinod Murali, MD, Innoven Capital, points out that as the hyperlocal industry is in its nascent stages, it needs a fair amount of time to grow. “One aspect to keep in mind is that a large sized equity cheque does not imply that a company has achieved operational maturity or robust business metrics, especially in this segment,” he notes.

Given the recent consolidation in this category, the survivors have the opportunity and time to focus on improving unit economics and demonstrate that their businesses are viable and valuable.

Devangshu Dutta, CEO, Third Eyesight, is of the opinion that hyperlocals make the mistake of borrowing business models and terminologies from Silicon Valley, without adequately understanding the real context of the Indian market. “Is there an existing or even potential demand for the service claimed to be provided? Or are you just going to introduce an intermediary and an additional link in the chain, with additional costs and unnecessary administration involved?” he asks.

(Published in Financial Express)

Hyperlocals may not have it so easy, after all

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September 8, 2015

Devina Joshi, Financial Express

Mumbai, 8 September 2015

Recently, there was news of restaurant reservation site EazyDiner expanding operations to Mumbai from the National Capital Region, having secured Series A funding worth $3 million led by existing investor DSG Consumer Partners, and Saamna Capital.

As per a PwC analyst, investors have pumped more than $150 million into companies like Grofers, TinyOwl, Swiggy, LocalOye, Spoonjoy, Zimmber and HolaChef, among others. Judging by the patronage showered upon them by customers and investors alike, it would appear that hyperlocal start-ups are all set to create the next big boom in the Indian retail sector. But is it really all that rosy? Probably not, as can be amply witnessed by acquisitions taking place in the nascent yet already overcrowded market.

Between November 2014 and February 2015, the Rocket Internet-backed Foodpanda acquired rivals TastyKhana and JustEat.in, and is rumoured to be in acquisition mode with TinyOwl. Restaurant search app Zomato, which recently got into the food ordering space, is also reportedly looking to acquire minority stakes in food-ordering firms.

While investors are attracted to hyperlocal start-ups, controlling logistics well is key to sustained growth for these businesses — all of these will definitely go through a constraint in the supply of delivery boys, for example. In India, organising fragmented labour is a challenge and, hence, a services-based hyperlocal needs to figure out the mechanics of human capital even more than a traditional, product-based e-commerce firm.

For services, another challenge is customer stickiness. If a user uses an app to obtain the services of a plumber, for example, he may not go through the app to contact the plumber next time if his services are found satisfactory. Discounting can induce trials, but just like in any other business, prove fatal in the long run. Like what led to the end of HomeJoy in the US — excessive discounts to dissuade direct contact between servicemen and customers.

Even for product-based start-ups, maintaining data quality is a big hurdle as stock and prices may not be updated by retailers in real time, making it difficult to track offline sales.

Since the game is hyperlocal, you need to be physically present in the city to bring retailers aboard. For that, you need a city team. Other challenges include retailer verification and assessment, given that hyperlocals deal with small city retailers.

Stickiness is needed on both sides, and each locality will certainly evolve into having a market leader and a follower, with other players falling far behind. “So the critical success factor for a hyperlocal is being able to rapidly create a viable model in each location it targets, and then—to build overall scale and continued attractiveness for investors—quickly move on to replicate the model in another location, and then another,” says retail consultant Devangshu Dutta of Third Eyesight. As they do that, they will become potential acquisition targets for larger ecommerce companies, which could use acquisition to not only take out potential competition but also to imbibe the learning and capabilities needed to deal with microcosms of consumer demand.

(Published in Financial Express.)