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. RAMA BIJAPURKAR INDEPENDENT MARKET STRATEGY CONSULTANT


Vivacity Mall to host “Shopper’s Stop” and “Hyper City” as its Anchor tenants

Mumbai, June 30, 2010: Vivacity Mall, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sheth Developers, has signed with K Raheja Group— to set up Shoppers Stop; a family store, with value merchandise and Hyper City, the hypermarket chain stores within the upcoming Vivacity Mall at Thane.

Vivacity will be housing, ‘Hyper City’ and ‘Shoppers’ Stop,’ as its anchor tenants. The two format retailers belonging to K Raheja group have leased an area of 85,000 sq.ft and 65, 000 sq ft respectively spread across the ground floor and the first floor. In one of its earlier developments, Sheth developers also announced its tie up with Cinepolis to set up fourteen screen megaplex with a facility to showcase over 70 shows on a single day with a seating capacity of 2,400 people.

Speaking about the 2 large anchors coming on board with Vivacity Mall, Mr.JP.Biswas, VP Leasing & Marketing, Sheth Developers said, “Our tie-up with Shopper’s Stop and Hypercity is in line with our promise of getting top brands in to Vivacity. We look forward to give a world class shopping experience to our customers all under one roof. With all these brands pitching in at Vivacity, we feel our customers will rediscover the way they shop.”

Commenting on its strategic tie-up with Vivacity, Govind Shrikhande, Customer Care Associate & President & CEO, Shopper’s Stop Ltd, said, “We always wanted to have a large Shoppers Stop store in Thane. Vivacity has filled in the gap perfectly for us. In our opinion Vivacity will be a dominant retail property in the Central suburbs. The size and expanse of the mall combined with our ability to pull customers will be key to the success of both Shoppers Stop as well as Vivacity.”

Speaking further on being the anchor tenant of Vivacity, B.S.Nagesh, Customer Care Associate & Vice-Chairman, Hyper City Retail Pvt, Ltd said, “We feel that Thane and its adjacent catchment area has a lot of present potential, and when we take into account the upcoming projects, the outlook becomes one of the brightest in the country. In view of this we have signed up for our second Hypercity in Thane at Vivacity. The strategic location of Vivacity and its ease of access is ideal for a hypermarket.”

Vivacity will be located on the Eastern Express Highway, spread over an area on 1 million sq.ft. Vivacity is first retail venture of the Sheth Developers and happens to be one of the largest malls in the state, with one-of-its kind experience for its consumers. The mall has currently has 37% occupancy by retailers from the country and are hoping for a 100% occupancy by the end of the year. The Mall is slated to open its doors for its consumer in the mid of FY 2011 – 12

About Sheth Developers:

Sheth Developers is one of the trusted Real Estate and Property Company with major presence in Western India and UAE with over 20 years of experience in building large residential and commercial complexes and townships in Mumbai and the suburbs. Sheth Developers is one of the few real estate developers to have won the prestigious awards like Best Interior Design for Iris Bay Dubai, Best High Rise Development for Vasant Lawns Thane; Best Residential Building for BeauMonde , Mumbai and many more. Also, it is one of the few distinguished developers to have won the Best Developer Retail Project (Future) for designing Vivacity Mall, Thane; one of the largest Malls in India. Sheth Developers Pvt Ltd has earned consistent accolades for its notable projects in India and abroad.

About Vivacity

Sheth Developers has extended its real estate presence with its colossal retail development – Vivacity. One of the largest malls in the country with a GLA close to 1 million sq ft, Vivacity is set to raise the bar in the industry. With a team of best in the class professionals on the projects, marketing and leasing fronts, Vivacity will ensure that both the retailers’ and the consumers’ interests are well taken care of.

For further information please visit:

Media Contact for Vivacity:

Leon De Souza / Deepshri Iyer /

+91 9833581376 / +91 9987266410

Retailers pitch for loyalty in tough times.

LOYALTY pays, even during a slowdown. At a time when consumer spending is on a decline, leading retail chains are either expanding or restructuring their loyalty programmes. The retailers expect such a strategy will help them increase footfalls, conversion level and ultimately drive their topline growth.

While the likes of Future Group, Shoppers Stop, Westside and Reliance Retail are driving the focus on customer relationship management (CRM), restaurant chains like Speciality Restaurants (SRPL) are also gung-ho on the same. “The CRM programmes are important for any retail chain and they work, especially during a recessionary trend. They give customers some comfort and ensure that they keep coming back again and again,” SRPL chairman and MD Anjan Chatterjee told ET.

SRPL’s loyalty programme currently has 70,000-odd customers within its folds, who account for 30-35% of their sales. “We are now planning a marketing blitz to penetrate into 70% of our target audience by July-August,” said Mr Chatterjee.

Within six months, Future Group is planning to roll out a single loyalty programme that spans across formats. The group is currently investing heavily on the IT backbone. Currently, the group’s Green Card loyalty programme at Pantaloons accounts for 55% of sales.

“As the first step towards a uniform loyalty scheme, we have rolled out a prepaidcum-loyalty card in Pune and Kolkata. We’ve clocked nearly Rs 15 crore business out of this. Eventually, we expect 70% of our sales from lifestyle formats to be generated from loyalty scheme customers,” said Future Group president-customer strategies Sandip Tarkas.

Interestingly, Reliance Retail already operates its ‘RelianceOne’ loyalty programme across formats with four million customers. “We see a significant percentage of our sales coming from our loyalty card holders,” said a Reliance Retail spokesperson.

Shoppers Stop has just launched a new loyalty scheme for its hypermarket ‘Hypercity’. “The loyalty programme is a long-term strategic initiative, which drives repeated purchases. We add nearly three lakh customers under loyalty every year,” said Shoppers Stop MD BS Nagesh. As of end-2008, the retailer had more than 11.8 lakh loyalty members.

Westside has relaxed the entry norms for its loyalty programme ‘Clubwest’ to cash in on the large footfalls the store is witnessing due to Nano bookings. Earlier, to become a silver member, one had to shop for Rs 2,000 on one occasion and register. “Now, a customer can enrol for the programme even by shopping for Rs 500 and subsequently get upgraded, if he completes Rs 2,000 billing within three months,” said Westside marketing-head Smeeta Neogi. The chain currently has over eight lakh members, who generate over 50% of sales.

Reliance Retail ties up with UK’s Wincanton for back-end biz

NEW DELHI: After having signed up at least half-a-dozen partnerships for specialty formats, Reliance Retail is now entering into a joint venture with leading European supply chain specialist Wincanton for its food and grocery and hypermarket businesses.

The synergy would enable Reliance to efficiently run its critical back-end operations, which essentially include warehousing of goods and transporting them to stores on time.

The latest move by India’s largest corporate house, which jumped on the retail bandwagon two years ago by promising to do everything on its own, seems to suggest that it now needs a partner for almost every retail initiative.

Industry observers believe that the company has expanded very fast and has managed to set up over 600 stores across various retail formats in less than two years, but its supply chain is in a mess. “How to get the right merchandise to the stores on time has been its biggest problem. You’d often not find the goods you want in Reliance’s food and grocery outlets,” said a source.

Wincanton, the UK-based $4-billion supply chain solution provider, has been roped in precisely to tackle this problem. It is expected to completely take over the supply chain, find the right warehouses for goods and transport them in time and in the right quantity to Reliance Retail stores.

Supply chain solution providers, Wincanton, for example, have IT systems in place to update them with regular data on inventory level in stores.

So, even without a store manager calling up, the warehouse manager would know the stores’ requirements. Wincanton serves several companies across industries, from FMCG to retail, automotive and oil. Its client list includes retail giants Tesco and Woolworths, auto companies Ford and DaimlerChrysler, and consumer goods firms P&G, Nestle, SAB Miller and GSK.

For Reliance, an alliance such as this means a major shift in its strategy. The season of alliances has begun at Reliance with specialty stores and is now fast extending to almost everything. Two years ago, when India’s largest private telecom operator, the Bharti Group, announced a tie-up with the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, many thought it had got a headstart over other Indian corporate biggies foraying into retail.

But unlike Bharti, Reliance had decided to go solo. It made the ambitious announcement, not unusual from the house of the Ambanis, that Reliance Industries had earmarked Rs 25,000 crore for its retail business. Reliance had evaluated the options of partnering with a foreign retailer as well as buying out an existing Indian retailer, but had not found it very exciting.

True to its form, Reliance built scale fairly rapidly, spreading from one city to another. The growth was achieved through a team of professionals poached from existing Indian retailers, but the pace of execution dwarfed rivals’ achievements.

Reliance, however, realised it needed to do a lot more on the back-end to continue the pace of expansion and return early profits, which its shareholders usually expect.

“It didn’t take Reliance long to realise that retail was a different ballgame altogether. It’s not just about some long-term government policy or certain business competency, which it’s known to manage well. The variables in retail business are far too many. There could be a number of factors such as general economic downturn, terror scare, shorter wedding season, cricket season like an IPL or a political protest, which can affect store sales. You need to be able to manage that,” said a source close to Reliance.

The company has entered into alliances with foreign companies for several specialty stores, including opticals (Pearle Europe), toys (Hamleys) and apparel (M&S).

In most cases, the foreign retailer has the majority stake. This model, however, can’t be extended to front-end retail in food and grocery or hypermarkets as Indian laws don’t allow FDI in multi-brand retail. But it could be done in the cash and carry segment or retail back-end, an area where Reliance is in urgent need of help.

Vester opens second supermarket in Minsk

Grocery operator Vester launched its second outlet in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. Investments in the supermarket, taking up 2,400 m2, comprised some $2m. The store features 10,000 SKUs.

Overall, Vester is to open three new hypermarkets in Ukraine by the end of 2008, Interfax reported. Vester Hyper outlets will appear in Khmelnitsky, Kharkov and Severodonetsk. The store in Khmelnitsky will be opened in Q3 2008 on an area of over 4,500 m2. The investments in this outlet will exceed $3.2m.

In addition, this year Vester is to start projects on the opening of hypermarkets in Borispol and Sevastopol, Interfax reported. Overall, the company aims to invest some $41m in the launch of 13 outlets, jointly covering over 45,000 m2 in Kharkov, Mariupol, Sevastopol, Khmelnitsky as well as in Lvov and Dnipropetrovsk Provinces. By 2011 Vester is to open 50 hypermarkets and 24 supermarkets, taking up 307,000 m2 in 35 Ukrainian cities. Currently, Vester operates a chain of 52 outlets in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

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