For your convenience: 7-Eleven, others adding stores

It might seem as if there’s a convenience store on every street corner in the Pikes Peak region. 7-Eleven dominates the market with dozens of stores, while Loaf ‘N Jug and Circle K are among chains with multiple stores.

Even so, more locations are on the way as convenience store chains see continued opportunities for expansion in high-growth areas of the region, and as time-strapped consumers continue to clamor for the quick, in-and-out service that convenience stores offer:

• Dallas-based 7-Eleven, which has roughly 50 area stores, says three to four more are planned this year and another five to six are coming in 2013. Among the new sites: A former Bennigan’s restaurant near Academy Boulevard and North Carefree Circle will be razed to make way for a store, while another location is targeted on Woodmen Road, west of Marksheffel Road.

• Loaf ‘N Jug, an arm of the Kroger grocery chain that owns Kings Soopers, has about 20 stores. Another store is planned southeast of Northgate Boulevard and Voyager Parkway on the Springs’ far north side.

• Circle K, based in suburban Phoenix and with about 20 locations in the area, plans a store on the city’s northeast side, at Tutt Boulevard and North Carefree.

• Midwest-based Kum & Go has aggressively entered Colorado Springs with plans to build 20 to 25 stores over five years. Its first location opened in May at Academy and Vickers Drive. Stores are under construction east of Interstate 25 and InterQuest Parkway, west of Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road and at Powers and North Carefree, among other locations.

• San Antonio-based Valero, which operates corner stores under the Valero and Diamond Shamrock names, has about 30 area locations. A spokesman said the company plans no additional stores in the area, but occasionally looks to remodel and expand existing locations.

“They sell time,” Jeff Lenard, a National Association of Convenience Stores spokesman in suburban Washington, D.C., said of the popularity of the stores. “When they started back in the 1920s, they sold staple items like milk and bread and eggs after the groceries closed at 5. Over time, what they have sold has changed, but they (continue) to sell time. It’s get them in, get them out, get them on their way, and do it without a hassle.

“We are becoming more time-stressed and time is money,” he added. “And people will give you money if you give them time.”

There are about 150,000 convenience stores nationwide, Lenard said. With a U.S. population of roughly 311 million, that means there’s one store for nearly every 2,100 people.
Using that ratio, the Springs-area’s 2010 population of about 634,000 could accommodate nearly 300 convenience stores — meaning there’s room for growth.

States such as Colorado and cities such as Colorado Springs — with rising populations of young people and outdoor enthusiasts — are prime targets for convenience store chains, Lenard said.

“You’re talking about people that just want an energy bar or a bottle of water or whatever,” he said. “Whether they’re in their car or on their bike, stores are where people are.”

That’s why several new convenience stores are going up in fast-growing parts of the Pikes Peak region that have been relatively under served up to now, said Mark Useman, a retail specialist with Sierra Commercial Real Estate in Colorado Springs who has represented Kum & Go in its local land acquisitions.

“We’ve had decent growth in our city, and there are areas of the city that haven’t seen the expansion or growth of these convenience stores in the last four or five years because of the slowdown of our economy,” Useman said.

Kum & Go evaluated several markets before deciding to enter Colorado Springs, Useman said. The family-owned chain, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, likes secondary cities where it believes it can have an impact, he said.

7-Eleven has sought to expand in markets where it already has large numbers of successful locations, while also acquiring existing stores in markets that are near areas where 7-Eleven operates, said spokeswoman Margaret Chabris.

The chain, a wholly owned subsidiary of a Japanese retail conglomerate, has nearly 48,000 stores worldwide, according to its website; 7-Eleven opened more than 600 stores last year in the U.S. and Canada, and expects to open another 630 this year, Chabris said.

“We’re on one of the biggest accelerated growth strategies I’ve seen in quite some time,” she said. “You will see more 7-Eleven stores. What we have found is that when there are more 7-Eleven stores in a geographic area or our market area, people are more comfortable. They know what you have to offer. They can count on you being open. It increases sales for all the stores because people just know what to expect.”

At 7-Eleven, customers have come to expect familiar products, such as the popular frozen Slurpee drink that has its own website and Facebook page; 24/7 store hours; and promotional campaigns for products that are often tied into movies or television shows.

7-Eleven also prides itself on a sophisticated retail information system that lets store operators track inventory to determine what’s selling and what’s not — allowing them to stock particular items, and their quantity, to fit a particular store and its location, Chabris said.

“In the past decade or two, we have had a real laser-like focus on what the consumer and customer wants,” she said.

Kum & Go is hoping to grab some of those customers. Its Colorado Springs stores are 5,000 square feet each and built on 1.5-acre sites — buildings and parcels that are larger than its stores in other markets and its rivals in the Pikes Peak region. Stores have full kitchens, while fuel pumping areas have more room for motorists, Useman said.

“They cook fresh food,” he said of Kum & Go. “They are coming in with a different prototype and should take some of the pie away from the other stores.”

But even as convenience stores expand, they also face challenges.

Convenience stores fight a perception that their prices are much higher than their rivals. It’s true prices can be more, Lenard said, but convenience stores have high real estate costs to go along with big electricity bills that result from coolers and freezers for cold foods and drinks. Also, because their stores are smaller, they can’t buy products as cheaply as larger groceries, Lenard said.

Still, milk, soda fountain drinks and other items are competitively priced when compared with other retailers, he said. And price isn’t as much of an issue for some customers — even in a slumping economy — if they have a need they want to fill in a hurry.

“You don’t think about your stock portfolio when you’re thirsty, you get something to drink,” he said. “And when you’re hungry, you get something to eat, you don’t worry about the economy. So, it’s more impulse items. A few bucks here to solve a need or to reward yourself doesn’t seem so bad in the scheme of things.”

Meanwhile, convenience store chains aren’t just competing against each other; they’re also fighting larger groceries and, increasingly, Walgreens and other drug stores that sell milk, soda and food items, Lenard said. Even discount dollar stores in some parts of the south are selling cigarettes, he said.

Convenience stores also wrestle with changes in consumer buying habits when it comes to two longtime profit makers: gas and tobacco sales.

Soaring gas prices have driven motorists to seek the cheapest gas they can find, even if it means saving a penny or two. Not only do convenience stores compete with service stations, but with grocery chains whose loyalty programs reward consumers with additional savings on gas. Profits on gas sales are only 3 cents per gallon to begin with, Lenard said.

Meanwhile, tobacco sales are down because fewer people are smoking.

“Your two big traffic drivers are facing a tough road,” Lenard said.

That’s why Springs-area consumers are likely to see more and higher quality food prepared the way they want it, and expanded drink items; food accounts for 23 percent of convenience store sales, while beverages are another 30 percent, Lenard said.

Despite those challenges, the overall state of the convenience store industry has been healthy; three of the last four years have been the most profitable on record for the industry as a whole, Lenard said.

“There are huge challenges when it comes to the future of fuel, the future of tobacco and all of the issues related to credit card fees. And not to forget competition,” he said. “But if you can deliver what the customer wants and solve their needs, and do it fast, you can do very well.”

Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228 Twitter @richladen
Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/stores-144657-adding-convenience.html#ixzz26oDmrthG

FMCG cos bank on speed to win

Cut Time To Market Amid Downtrading Fears During Slowdown

Mumbai: Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are using speed as a competitive weapon to win in the market place, especially when talks of a slowdown bring the possibility of downtrading into sharp focus.

Growth in the FMCG Industry has not lost steam even as other sectors have slowed down, but there is concern about a possible impact considering a deficient monsoon this year. The industry believes there is one weapon which can help companies win, and that is speed.

A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report, ‘Speed To Win’, says increased agility can solidify a competitive position, boost profitability and reduce risk. It says for standard new product development, a seven months time to market can separate the best in class from average players. But would it also work in a slowdown? “In slowdown situation it is even more important as the consumers typically start to change their consumption patterns and it is important to refine the offerings (in terms of price pack architecture, composition and packaging) to ensure alignment with the consumer requirements,” said Abheek Singhi, partner & director, BCG.

A company can outpace its rivals by increasing its market share, boosting its negotiating leverage towards trade and positioning itself as an innovator and the mantra is: standardize, prioritize and mechanize. Take the case of Nivea lipcare. Speed helped the company redefine this category with the trade in terms of merchandising and distribution. The category was treated like an “impulse confectionery” and not like a traditional skincare category. “Our actions have followed out thoughts and results are there to be seen. We have been quicker than most of competition in developing the premium lipcare category for Nivea. All our initiatives have hit before competition, be it variety/price points/distribution. This has given us leadership,” said Rakshit Hargave, MD, Nivea India.

With compressed product life cycles, especially in some of the newer categories, being quicker to the market is a great advantage. “Speed to market is important, not just with new product development but also with reaching out to the consumer and ensuring that even the remotest of corners of the country get the products in a short period of time,” said Sunil Duggal, CEO, Dabur India.

Dabur integrated its consumer care and consumer health businesses and this was the genesis of ‘Project Speed’, which was designed to help the firm cope up with challenges by leveraging the power of its combined product portfolio through a unified sales & distribution structure. Dabur has also put in place an initiative to double its rural reach. The company is hopeful that this would enable it to have a direct access to 3,000-population villages across 10 states that account for 72% ofthe rural FMCG potential.

Some other examples are brands from mid-sized companies like Paras and Emami which were successful in gaining share as their product development times were shorter than others in the sector. When Emami conceived the idea of a men’s fairness cream, it knew it had a winning concept. What was important, however, was to ensure that it was put into market at a speed before others. “We were able to go to market within just under a year from the time the idea was conceived. This requires great agility. It took our established competitors by surprise as elements of marketing were in place within the short time,” said N Krishna Mohan, CEO, sales, supply chain and human capital, Emami. As a result, Emami enjoys market leadership in the category.

“Empowered companies with flatter and decentralized decision making structures can outpace its rivals in speed to market. This, when accompanied by stronger local consumer insights can develop into a potent competitive advantage,” said Saugata Gupta, CEO, consumer products division, Marico.

Tech Drives Growth in Grocery E-tailing

Supply-chain tech helps to reduce cost & inventory and predict user behaviour

Everyday, I learn something new,” says R Rammurthy as he picks up a netbook, an Android tablet and a paper-clip file before climbing onto the driver’s seat of a white Maruti van loaded with four neatly packed baskets of grocery and vegetables. As he slips into first gear, he pointed to the netbook screen which displayed a map where the vehicle’s number flashed. The on-screen status of the vehicle changed from idle to moving and the address to which the baskets needs to be delivered popped up.

Rammurthy’s trip ended nearly twenty minutes later at the doorsteps of a customer– mother of a three-year-old who hates to spend the little spare time she gets during weekends at the supermarket. During the drive, the 28-year-old management graduate, who now handles a small team for online retailer Bigbasket.com, started explaining how his company manages to keep near-zero inventory and fulfils hundreds of orders everyday.

Online food and grocery retailing, fairly mature in the West and showing lot of potential in growth markets like China, has not been able to capture the fancy of Indian shoppers yet. Things, however, may be changing as a new generation of wellfunded online firms — Bigbasket.com is a key example — are using simple end-to-end technology solutions to offer deep discounts on grocery items, predict customer behaviour and keep a tight leash on expenses. With technology playing a key role, they are trying to make a dent in the estimated $343-billon food and grocery market in India.

For example, these firms use a supplychain technology that allow customers to place orders through multiple channels and later predict what a customer is likely to order. Combined with applications that track everything from the time an order is placed to delivery and devices that help during procurement, technology is helping these firms to make a compelling and convenient offer to the tech-savvy shopper. For these online retailers, the most important tech application is the ability to predict customer behaviour which lets them reduce inventory and thereby, cut costs. For instance, while a traditional retailer might have to stock his monthly offtake of atta at least three weeks in advance, an online retailer ends up stocking it for less than two days. “That is mostly analytics,” says Ambuj Jhunjhunwala, the founder of Mygrahak.com which sells food and grocery online in Delhi. Predicting customer needs helps them to plan in advance and procure based on needs. Need-based procurement works ideally well with perishable goods like food not to talk about saving expenses on storage space, which is a large part of expenditure for a traditional retailer.
Analytics also involves knowing the customer better which helps retailers to make tailor-made offers for customers and increase sales. Online retailers can also eliminate a large part of their frontline staff because customers usually help themselves. Typically, large format brickand-mortar stores spend much of their attention to figure out customer behaviour on the shopping floor and arrange goods so that they catch customer attention. This can now be automated as the platform generates enough data about individual preferences. “You have complete control over knowing what your customer is buying and great level of predictability. The stickiness of forecasting can go up as you use technology to predict,” says Anand Ramanathan, Associate Director at KPMG.

Shoppers, whose experience of buying grocery online has been good, tend to very loyal. For example, Asha Liju, a clinical research professional from Bangalore buys her grocery online. “This is the second time I’m buying online because its simple and saves me nearly 10 kilometres of travel,” she says.
Here again, technology plays a key role. Grocery buying is mostly a repetitive task something technology is known to do well. For instance, when a shopper logs into the account, a history of previously bought items makes it easier to pick instead of going through the motion all over again. “At each step, simple technology is helping us save time and money,” says Abhinay Choudhary, co-founder of Bigbasket.com. Bigbasket.com, which now has 100 people on its rolls, will supply anything from milk products to fresh fruits among 7,000 other items at your doorstep at competitive prices within a few hours of placing an e-order. “Our delivery vans even have cold storage facilities. This is very new but if we do it right, it will be big,” says Choudhary. His earlier venture was shopasyoulike, a similar food and grocery store catering to residents in Whitefield, Bangalore.

25-year-old Jhunjhunwala’s Mygrahak.com now claims that they process nearly 15,000 orders a month. “The average order size is Rs 1,250- Rs 1,300 . We can at least grow 30 times in Delhi alone,” he said. He recently introduced “card on delivery,” where a customer can swipe their cards at the time of delivery to pay for the order. Jhunjhunwala comes from a family of entrepreneurs and returned to India after graduation learning how to do business from his family, the promoters of BSE listed REI Agro.Chennaionlinegrocery.com, Town Essentials and Atmydoorsteps.com also operate in this space. Scale might not be an issue as demand from a large working population, which finds frequenting supermarkets an irritant, grows.
Investors also seem to be buying into the grocery e-tailing story. Last month, private equity firm Ascent Capital invested $10 million when Bigbasket.com co-founded by a team of eight which includes Fab-Mall co-founders Hari Menon, VS Sudhakar, Vipul Parekh, VS Ramesh and Abhinay Choudhary, raised its first round of institutional funding.

The food and grocery market accounts for over two thirds of the $505 billion Indian retail market. According to retail consultancy Technopak, the retail market is projected to touch $725 billion by 2017. The organised food and grocery retail market in India is estimated at $ 12 billion in 2012 and grow at a compounded rate of 30% over next the five years. “Though e-tailing is still a very small part of retail in India it is projected to grow at a fast pace and over the next decade its presence will be significant,” said Pragya Singh, Principal Consultant, Retail & Consumer Products, Technopak. Headroom for growth comes from the fact that that e-tailing accounts for a measly. 2% or $1 billion of the overall retail market and it is expected to reach $13 billion by 2017.
But retailing food and grocery online is not an easy task. Though there are success stories, the monumental failure of Webvan in the United States back in 2000 is enough to act as a damperner.

The challenges include being able to give consumers a large number of products to choose from, achieving consistency in quality especially when it comes to perishable goods and the cost of logistics. For instance, Mygrahak’s Jhunjhunwala has already invested $1 milllon in the firm and anticipates an expense of $4 million to $5 million every time it moves to a new city. While critics often cite the example of Webvan, the story may not repeat in India. Webvan may not be the best benchmark, argues Singh. “It is an example of a company that grew too fast in middle of the dotcom boom, rapid expansion to multiple cities, gigantic infrastructure including warehouses but not enough sales to back the same,” she said.

Even as its spends Rs 150- Rs 400 to acquire each customer, Mygrahak.com will break even this Diwali, claims Jhunjunwala. Despite the rosy numbers, e-tailers looking to sell food and grocery might have to expand cautiously, suggests Technopak’s Singh.
The Challenges 

* Achieving standardisation in quality and quantity when a large part of grocery items are still sold loose in India

* Having a comprehensive product range that covers all possible variations

* Delivery across large parts of urban and semi-urban areas

* Sensory needs of consumers are not satisfied through online channels
Fulfilment and logistics costs

IBM and Huawei hook up to start Chinese takeaway

MWC 2012 IBM’s enterprise consultancy, IBM Global Business Service, has joined up with Huawei to create enterprise solutions, initially for Chinese companies but with global aspirations.

Huawei wants its smartphones embedded into businesses, and to give those businesses a reason to buy its tablets too. IBM wants to push its Chinese presence and tap into the expediently expanding market, which it hopes to do with Huawei’s help, but to Huawei this is just another step on the road to global domination.

The jointly developed platform is called “Smart Workspace@Mobile” though at the moment it is little more than slideware and aspirational statements. It will involve Huawei’s device management systems, and apply IBM’s experience with enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management, to create a combined solution to be pushed heavily into the energy and retail industries.

Both companies reckon enterprises are posed to make greater use of mobile workers and want to be ready to exploit that market in China and beyond. Huawei pins its plans to a projection which sees a 80 per cent of businesses making their staff work on the move by the end of next year.

But this alliance with IBM is also important in painting Huawei as a full-service company, not just a manufacturer of networking kit and Android handsets. There are dozens of high-volume-low-price manufacturers in China and Huawei is desperate not to be lumped in with them. Launching a quad-core Android handset is one part of that – the Ascend D being anything but low-cost – but sitting on stage alongside IBM is equally important. ®

Rural India Laps up Diapers, Colognes, Sanitary napkins.

Rural consumers are buying diapers, salty snacks, colognes and even contraceptives other than condoms like never before, despite signs of falling demand for traditional FMCG categories such as shampoos and soaps in hinterlands due to unabated inflation. Data from Nielsen, a global provider of insights and analytics, shows that tens of contemporary and indulgent product categories including sanitary napkins and chocolates are growing at high double-digit rates in Indian villages (see graphic).

“The rural mindset is open to consumption of newer, more contemporary categories, as a result driving consistent growth,” says Nielsen India VP Prashant Singh.
Nielsen categorises rural markets as those with population of less than 5,000, but there could be some exceptions. It estimates that the country’s rural FMCG market will grow to $100 billion by 2025 from $12 billion in 2011.
For MNCs like Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, it’s an achievement of sorts to have broken ground in rural markets, by initiating consumers into newer categories such as diapers and salty snacks and upgrading them from unbranded or regional products to branded ones like in the case of cooking oils.
So, how did they achieve this?
P&G adopted the classic and tested strategy of betting on low-volume, lowpriced packages — sachets in the case of detergents and shampoo, and, for diapers, a pack of two at Rs. 15.  The move has paid off.
“We have seen a near doubling of the diaper category in rural India over the last two years,” says P&G Brand Manager (Pampers) Girish Kalyanaraman.
P&G launched the country’s first lowpriced trial pack of two Pamper diapers two years ago, educated people in rural areas about the benefits of uninterrupted overnight sleep for babies; and ran an awareness campaign on Doordarshan and satellite channels. Result: Demand for diapers has grown 90% a year in the last couple of years.
American snacks and beverages maker PepsiCo is another company that achieved tremendous growth in rural areas. Besides using fixed low price points such as Rs. 2, 3 and 5, PepsiCo has been using innovation, backward linkages for procurement and expanded distribution to drive growth in the hinterlands, a PepsiCo spokesman said.
“There’s a massive under-served demand for hygienic packaged snacks; we are expanding our manufacturing footprint and investing heavily in expanding distribution,” he said.
The company has moved away from centralised manufacturing and, instead, partners with local entrepreneurs across the country to cater to regional preferences and tastes, using locally grown ingredients. Examples for this include the extension of Kurkure brand to three local variants — Mumbai Usal, Bengali Jhaal and South India Spice—and testing of Lehar Iron Chusti puffs and biscuits at Rs. 2 in Andhra Pradesh. Kolkata-based Emami—maker of Boroplus anti-septic cream and Zandu Balm pain reliever—broke into the rural cooking oil market with a Rs. 5 pack of its edible oil Healthy & Tasty. “Rural consumers are used to buying unbranded or loose oil from local kirana shops for Rs. 5 or 10,” says Emami Group of Companies Director Aditya Agarwal, explaining the idea behind the low-cost edible oil packet.

The small-store owner is too important, nimble and innovative to be bumped off by big-box retailers in India.

Kirana RIP? Not Yet.

The arguments for and against FDI in retail are, at a generic level, valid on both sides. However, since the devil is usually in the detail, the facts about India’s small retailers and suppliers, the conditions stipulated for FDI, and recent experience with the effects of domestic modern retail need to be viewed together before the likely outcome pronounced. The big fight is about whether this new policy will kill small shops, massively destroy livelihoods and take away GenNext’s opportunities. Facts suggest otherwise. Consider the kirana, the one most feared to be at risk. About 5-6 million of the 8 million FMCG-stocking kiranas are in rural India, and are totally safe, as the new ones can only come into the top 53 cities.

R Sriram, founder of Crossword and retail expert, tables two insights. One, in many big cities, kiranas are already not participating in the growth offered by the newer settlements like Gurgaon or Powai, because without their advantage of historically-priced real estate, they are not viable. Two, increasingly, small shopkeepers’ children are getting better educated and want to exit ‘sitting in the shop’ as soon as possible, just as small farmers’ children are exiting farming. Sadly, the country’s retail density has been increasing in recent years, not driven by passion or profit, but because of lack of options — hopefully that will change. It is true that traditional income streams of small shops in the vicinity of a large supermarket plummet; but we have seen that they soon recast their business model, exploiting the inherent advantages they have that the supermarket cannot emulate: free, prompt and no-conditions home delivery, superior and customised customer relationship management, khaata- credit and willingness to stock small quantities of something used by only a few people in their catchment — a classic ‘long-tail’ strategy. Notice two more things: even in upper-class areas in large cities, despite large retail chains in the vicinity, the small vegetable vendor and kirana continue to find a place in the household’s shopping basket. The kirana also continuously morphs, and is already moving to a more specialised and selective portfolio. We will find them variously choosing to become more of a convenience store (7-Eleven-type), or fresh-food store, a home-delivery store, maybe even express-format franchisees of large retail, and so on.

Another reality check: how much consumption capacity do even the top 50 cities have? Seriously, how many more Ikea, Zara, Walmart, Tesco and Best Buy can a Surat, Kanpur or Indore absorb, in addition to more Big Bazaar, Megamart and Croma? Further, foreign specialty retailers targeting the rich consumer will create never-before custom, and not at the expense of existing shops. Two decades ago, we had the same hue and cry that Indian brands would be wiped out; but they got better and bigger than they would have had they been left unchallenged. Now for the suppliers. Large suppliers will lose the pricing power they had with small retailers and nobody on any side of the FDI debate is grieving for them. Small suppliers, even without FDI, are being mercilessly squeezed by middlemen. The hope is that large retail chains, unlike the broker middleman, have more incentive to pay more because they have customer loyalty and a brand to build; in exchange for steady, loyal, consistent quality supply, they will pay more, guarantee offtake, improve product and production efficiency. The FDI norm of at least 30% sourcing from small scale pushes this further. Walmart potentially could kill the small suppliers of anything by importing 70% from China cheaper; but loads of small traders are already doing the same, flooding our markets with Ganesh murtis, chappals, clothes, watches, etc.

The Achilles’ heel for a lot of skilled artisans, specialised producers, grass roots innovators, etc, is market orientation and marketing. Producer collectives have managed to organise themselves on the supply side using government assistance schemes, but they struggle to manage the demand side. That is the missing link that large retailers in vendor development mode can provide, just as the auto industry has done to ancillary suppliers. Both sides agree that customers will gain because large chain retailers can provide better for cheaper, given the discounts they get through buying large quantities and sourcing smartly. Customers will also get a wider range, more innovative products and more comfortable, truthful and informed shopping environment. Poor customers won’t get discriminated against, because the hypermarket is anonymous, transactional, classless and nonjudgemental. They may not get better service because the small Indian retailer is the champion of good service, from atta to electrical, the likes of which we haven’t yet seen any big retailer match, anywhere in the world. That’s another reason why he will always survive.

Before we fight further, consider this. This network of commercially-savvy supplychain linked small retailers is an invaluable asset: as one report said, they are not ‘unorganised’ by any stretch of imagination; we agree and have refrained from using this phrase in this article! It is unlikely that Indian jugaad will let this network disintegrate. Perhaps in rural India, where they would have been more hard hit had the big-box retailers been allowed, they would have been garnered by banks as new extension counters for financial inclusion.

economictimes.com: RAMA BIJAPURKAR INDEPENDENT MARKET STRATEGY CONSULTANT

Bringing Innovation to Your Business Model for Success

When Zipcar launched in 2000, the American car-rental company tried something different. It replaced the traditional daily-car-rental model with hourly rentals as an alternative for short-distance travel. It went on to earn a much higher hourly rate than its competitors, and today the company’s annual revenues are approaching $200 million. Another example is the service provider Live Ops, a company which manages customer-service agents. Instead of employing and training a large work force in a low-cost location such as India, the company built up a pool of loosely affiliated freelancers who work remotely and are paid only for the time they actually spend on calls.

What Zipcar and Live Ops share in their achievements, Girotra and Netessine say, is not some breakthrough in their services but rather innovation within their business and operating models. These companies differentiated themselves from their competitors through innovative business models, instead of focusing purely on product or technology innovation. They offered existing services to existing customers using existing technologies, but using a different operating model.

“There’s creativity in coming up with new products and there’s creativity in coming up with new business models,” Girotra says. “You can invent new products, but to really realize the value it is important to organize and create the right business model around that.”

Two popular companies did exactly that: The Spanish clothing retailer Zara designed a hyper-fast supply chain to deliver new lines of clothing in two to four weeks, allowing the company to keep abreast of evolving, arguably fickle consumer preferences. Technology superstar Apple created an ecosystem that included not only technology and product innovations but also a whole range of complementary software services. The challenge with business-model innovation lies in identifying where and how to make changes. Too often companies focus on improving revenues, costs and resource utilization, but completely ignore the risks associated with the business.

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