Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Retail FDI - Letter from the Commerce Minister of India

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Last week, the Cabinet of the Indian Government allowed 100% FDI in Single Brand Retail and upto 51% FDI in Multi-Brand Retail - it was indeed a surprise move, given that the Winter session of the Parliament is on and the Ruling UPA is mired under various issues due to which the Upper House and the Lower House have seen continued agitation and adjournments. In the wake of this latest crisis, Union Minister (of India) for Commerce, Mr. Anand Sharma has written a letter to the leaders of all the leading political parties in India, explaining the reasoning behind the government's decision to allow FDI.

Here is the full text of the letter;

As you are aware, the Union Cabinet has taken a decision for liberalization of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy in Multi-Brand Retail, which holds the potential of transforming rural economy and unlocking the supply chain efficiencies in the agri-business.

The policy has evolved after a process of intense stakeholder consultation which commenced on 6 July 2010, when a discussion paper was floated by our Ministry. Comments from a wide cross section of stakeholders including farmers associations, industry bodies, consumer forums, academics, traders associations, international investors were analysed in depth before the matter was deliberated by the Committee of Secretaries on July 22, 2011.

The matter was finally discussed by the Cabinet on 25th November and a view was taken to allow liberalization in multi brand retail. In doing so, we have consciously adopted a model with a distinct Indian imprint, recognizing the complexity of Indian society and the competing demands of different stakeholders. Over the years, while we may have transformed into a service led economy, yet even today India primarily resides in the villages and an overwhelming majority of people are dependant of agriculture. It is a tribute to our farmers that India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world with an annual production of over 200 million tonnes. Yet, in absence of adequate cold chain infrastructure, logistics and transportation, our post-harvest losses remain unacceptably high. A large part of farmers produce perishes and never reaches the market. A complex chain of middlemen have a cascading impact on supply inefficiencies and prices as well. As a result, on the one hand farmers are unable to secure remunerative price for their produce, while consumer ends up paying more than 5 times the price secured by the farmers.

Opening up FDI in multi-brand retail will bring in much needed investments, technologies and efficiencies to unlock the true potential of the agricultural value chain.

The policy mandates minimum investment of $100 million with at least half going towards back end infrastructure including cold chains, refrigerated transportation, and logistics. We have also stipulated mandatory 30% sourcing from small industry, which will encourage local value addition and manufacturing. It will also unfold immense employment opportunities for rural youth and make them stakeholders in the entire agri-business chain from farm to fork.

I felt it my duty to dispel some apprehensions expressed by certain political parties. In formulating this policy we were conscious of the livelihood concerns of millions of small retailers.

Informed studies of global experience has revealed that even in developing economies like China, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, where FDI is permitted upto 100%, local retailers have found innovative ways to co-exist along with organized retail and are integral to the organized retail chain. In Indonesia, even after several years of emergence of supermarkets, 90% of the fresh food and 70% of all food continues to be controlled by traditional retailers.

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In any case organized retail through Indian corporate entities is permissible in India and the experience of the last one decade has borne the small retailers have flourished in harmony with the large retail outlets. Even then, we have therefore taken a view that in India we may permit FDI upto 51% equity and roll out the policy only in 53 cities with a population of more than a million. In the rest of the country the existing policy will continue, which will ensure that the small retailers are able to access high quality produce at better price from the wholesale cash and carry point.

We were also mindful of the imperative of ensuring food security for the poorest of the poor and have therefore retained the first right of procurement of food grains to rest with government for the public distribution system.

Concerns have been expressed that the multinational companies will resort to predatory pricing techniques to drive away small retail. You are aware that the Competition Commission has been established by law to ensure that such practices receive great scrutiny and I have specially discussed the matter with the Chairman of Competition Commission to build in regulatory capacities to ensure necessary checks and balances. In any case, you will appreciate that predatory pricing works in markets with high entry barriers, which is not the case in India.

The Indian consumer will undoubtedly gain significantly from this step as they will be afforded much greater choice, better quality and lower prices. In the medium term, even RBI governor feels that this step will have a salutary impact on inflation.

I have had occasion to discuss the matter with a wide cross section of all stakeholders, including farmer association, traders, consumer organizations, industry leaders, economists and there is an overwhelming case for introducing this policy. I am sure that being a political leader of long standing and experience, the benefits of this policy for the Indian citizens will find resonance with you. Policy initiatives taken in larger national interest demand political leadership to rise above partisan politics to create a healthy bipartisan consensus. This has been the strength of Indian democratic traditions.

I look forward to your personal support and understanding in the roll out of this policy for the larger public good.

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It is anybody’s guess if this letter would make any difference though in the current situation. India has been witnessing a rare camaraderie cutting across  political parties which have taken a united stance against the Government urging it to roll back the decision to allow FDI in Retail, which looks unlikely though. In the given scenario, atleast 25 cities out of the 53 which qualify for the criteria that has been set (above 1 million population) are covered under those states that have not welcomed FDI. India INC however has voiced its opinions, most of which is pro-FDI to say the least. For the next few days, if not a few weeks the entire world (read: Business houses) would be watching how things turn out here.

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Watch this space for more!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

FDI in Retail–the saga continues!

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It was a much-awaited, welcome move by the Cabinet of the Indian Parliament to allow 100% FDI in Single Brand Retail and up to 51% FDI in multi-brand retail on 24th Nov. 2011. A surprise announcement, given that the winter session of the Parliament is under progress, which hasn’t been functioning fully due to various issues in the fore. The announcement comes after two decades of reforms that started in 1991 and over 10 years of strong growth by the Organized players of the Retail Industry in India. The Left parties along with the main opposition party in the Parliament, viz., the BJP have been publicly protesting against the decision. One senior member of the party has announced that she will burn the Wal-Mart store if it opens anywhere and she is ready to court arrest for the same! Such has been the tensions on this topic for many years now. Even the general public (read: Consumers) have been left confused due to various approaches proposed by those who are for- and against allowing FDI in retail. The issue has been politicized more than it is, by a section of those who claim that allowing foreign retailers will harm the livelihood of small kiranas (mom and pop retailers) while another view is that it would create millions of jobs and would bring down food inflation.

(Suggested Reading: Kirans and Retailers)

Background of the Indian Retail Industry

India’s largest retailer, The Future Group is close to $3 Billion in Revenues through its various formats such as Big Bazaar (hypermarket), Food Bazaar (supermarket), Pantaloon and Central Malls (lifestyle retailing), EZone (electronics) and Home Town (home improvement) and many other brands that it has created as well as through a license to operate. The $82 Billion TATA Group has been in the consumer lifestyle business through the TITAN watch brand for over 2 decades now while its premium jewellery chain Tanishq is the biggest among its peers. India’s largest company by market capitalisation, The Reliance Industries also operates various formats through its subsidiary Reliance Retail. Shoppers Stop (India’s largest Department store chain) and Hypercity (Hypermarkets) along with Home Stop and the Crossword book store chain is expected to reach a Billion Dollars in Revenue in the next 2-3 years with aggressive expansion and brisk business. UAE based Landmark Group which operates the Lifestyle stores along with SPAR supermarkets and MAX hypermarkets along with a few licensed brands will also be Billion dollar company soon (in its India operations). The world’s largest Retailer Wal-Mart has a JV with Bharti enterprises for operating supermarkets and hypermakets while has its own 100% subsidiary for operating the Cash-&-Carry format; Carrefour from France and Metro AG from Germany have similar models as well. Many other international retailers have been peeping into the Indian economy for want a small share of its vast business potential. And then there are a number of regional players across various geographies focussing in specific verticals who have aggressive expansion plans coupled with ambitious growth plans. Most of their funding has been through internal accruals while some of the large national players are public limited companies.

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FDI – For and Against

While its fair to say that a few kiranas will face the heat due to the presence of large Retailers in their vicinity, I wonder why is the threat perception only against the international players. I would disagree that we need dollar funding for our growth – we have enough money in the economy (white, black, red, whatever) and some of the Indian business houses have more collective intellectual ability than compared with those abroad – the Indian conglomerate buying out a premier automobile company in the UK and turning it around in less than 2 years is a great example. Indian Hypermarkets, all of over 100 in number have been given a tuff fight in turn by the local kiranas, whose biggest advantage is convenience and home delivery coupled with short-term credit. The large retailers have been grappling with the single biggest problem of attrition (of staff) followed by shrinkage (or pilferage – wastages/stolen goods) which is amongst the highest in the world. India has over 12 million retail touch points and growing. While it is fashionable for some rich-kids to venture into retailing, it is indeed the livelihood of many million families that they are highly self-dependent on their own trade. in my view their threat is from anyone who ventures into the same business in their locality, big or small, domestic or international. If any, what we have to learn from International retailers is their strict adherence to processes and procedures which we tend to take easy at times. I remember, during my days at Foodworld a decade back, we used to have check-lists to be filled in my store managers and their deputies every hour to ensure the store is looking perfect at all times. Needless to say, the check-list was drafted by Dairy Farm International – DFI (incidentally, an anagram of FDI) and was shared with its then Indian JV partner, the RPG Spencers Group. Actually, there are many other things including best practices that we could learn a thing or two from International partners.

(Suggested Reading – How Odyssey gained International acclaim)

Inflation

It is a myth that allowing FDI would reduce food inflation. Certainly not in the short-term. What we lack, and very badly at that is the back-end infrastructure including logistics and supply chain. This is one area where international retailers with their vast experience in other markets such as the US, Europe, China and Brazil could bring in their expertise. Factually, it begins with the interaction with the farmer who grows the produce. What is popularly known as Farm-to-Fork. This area needs huge investments and conviction by the humble farmer that his efforts would indeed make a difference to the country, to the end user – the consumer. Let’s agree that this takes time. Maybe five years. Or more. But to convince people that allowing Wal-Mart and its ilk to open new stores would bring down inflation is a story that no one who is in the know will buy!

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Execution – the key to FDI success

The cabinet has clearly indicated a few conditions which make FDI rules difficult for execution. Firstly, it says that the matter is a state subject which means each state can decide whether it wants to allow FDI or not. Secondly, it allows foreign retailers to enter cities only with a million or more population (and we have only 53 cities such as this as of Nov. 2011). In a way it is good, that only evolved, mature markets are open for FDI investment, but in hindsight it is the Tier II & below cities that need more investments. so, these two points make it extremely cumbersome to operate. If an Indian Retailers wants to share its “board” with a foreign retailer, it is only for one of the two reasons – either it wants to reduce its debt by offloading stake (which the banks are not willing to, anymore) or to learn international best practices.

(Also Read: Low-Cost – its all about the perception)

The draft is yet to be tabled in the parliament as this column is being written and some high-voltage drama is expected over the next few days. Whichever way, these are exciting times ahead. For Retailers, its a new ray of hope to perform better for the sake of its shareholders & for itself; For Retail professionals like me, it opens up our employability & professional success; and for Consumers, it means more options & competitive environment between existing retailers and better prices for them.

All summed up in one word – Hope.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Retailers can learn from Kingfisher Airlines

The past few weeks would have been one of the most tumultuous for India’s five star Airline, Kingfisher! The Airline and its promoter Dr. Vijay Mallya were in the news (and continue to be) for all the wrong reasons. The India Media which I personally respect a lot were making some scathing remarks and reports all of a sudden about the airline’s business health although it knew about it for many years now being a public limited company. With a debt exceeding Rs. 7,000 Crores (USD 1.80 Billion), Cash-and-carry of Fuel at airports and a few flights grounded for reconfiguration of seats, the Airline was abused by one and all including those who otherwise held it in high esteem. It was common to see many passengers at airport lounges discussing their wisdom and advising how the Airline should be run and how the promoter and the Management can do better. These were some of those who earlier yearned to be seen in the Kingfisher Lounges at airports! In fact, some subscribed for the Kingfisher-Amex credit card so they would get free and immediate access to these Lounges (obviously not for Kingfisher parties which were for the most elite). And some would go any length to get a Kingfisher calendar (in the same lines of a Pirelli calendar). Serious. No Kidding. Anybody who is somebody had a word of advice for the airline. They should do this; they shouldn’t have done that and so on. Naturally (sic).

I am not an Aviation Expert or one who shares Management Consulting for free. I have my own thoughts about the airline, and those are my views. Running a USD 2 Billion empire and being the second largest liquor company in the world (UB is expected to reach the number one position sometime in 2012), I believe Mr. Mallya and Co. knows their business best despite the unconventional ways of how entrepreneurs run their business (rare to see them plunge in Horse & Car Racing or hosting the most enviable parties at Monaco & Monte Carlo). The airline is going through some turbulence and I am sure they would come out of it sooner than later. Whether someone picks up a stake in the airline or if the Banks bail them out is one thing, but the exemplary five-star service which Kingfisher introduced is something that is worth living for. As eminent scholar Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar said in his recent article, “Kingfisher is worth saving!”

There are some interesting learning that our Retail Industry could take from the state of affairs of Kingfisher, which I have listed as below;

Scale-Up but at what cost

The airline was founded six years ago and has hence scaled up reasonably well, in fact started flying international since 2009 after acquiring Air Deccan (which was seen as the main reason for buying out). However, some of the routes it was operating were just not profitable. A Few were as per govt. Regulations such as flying to the North East of India, but there were some routes that could have been avoided. I guess this applies to Retailers as well. In a quest to expand their presence some Retailers like those in the F&B business such as cafes, speciality restaurants, etc. enter new cities and towns although they would just not be profitable ever! For Ex., the number of staff who are required to manage an outlet, a region & a territory would just not make sense unless the number of stores are reasonably big.

Being Everything for Everybody

At the India Retail Forum in 2010, Mr. Kishore Biyani of The Future Group made a statement which many of us in the industry vouched for – “A Retailer cannot be everything for everybody!”. Such powerful words. And makes so much sense. This applies a lot especially for Luxury Retailers. One thing that Kingfisher did was to position itself for the fashionable few with all its flamboyance and exclusivity. Later, when it bought out Air Deccan, it created a platform in the low-cost segment with “Kingfisher Red” which was recently scrapped off. In the meanwhile, Kingfisher was offering differential service patterns across its flights – some were served hot food on the house while some had to pay exorbitant prices for cold sandwiches!

Price Matters – Discounts don’t work all the time

In tune with many other airlines offering everyday low fares, Kingfisher was also pricing its fares accordingly. This, I believe was one of the earliest and biggest mistakes the airline did although it had an option not to do so. Many Retailers, to gain easy and quick market share especially Hypermarkets and Supermarkets work aggressively on their pricing and create hundreds of loss-leaders. That way, they attract footfalls in the initial stages although they would never be able to lift prices in future. This is a dangerous strategy that Retailers should keep monitoring constantly. Although it is fine to change the market positioning once in a while, one has to be careful in the long-term.

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Competition – Creating a Niche for oneself

Over time, Competition will increase, irrespective of which business one is operating in. For Kingfisher, it was initially the low cost Indian counterparts and over time, International airlines were also competing for market share. This applies to Retailers such as those in the Fashion segment. It is but natural that international brands would enter India eventually, given the potential the 10 million plus affluent households we have which is their main target segment. This should be part of the Strategy and not a knee-jerk reaction.

Managing the Media

Most importantly, Media should be well-managed – always. To say the least, lesser the better. Kingfisher has been the darling of the Media, with all the red short skirts, the sexy parties and those PYTs who are partying. Every move of the airline has been well covered and captured right from the first page, the Page 3 as well as in the last pages of the newspapers (the sports pages, usually). TV Channels have never missed covering its important times, and there is even a channel dedicated to the Good Times! Most Retailers fail to engage the Media well – either they are over exposed or under-exposed. Well, its worth discussing the business priorities and problems from time to time to- and with the media, rather than bringing it all at once. The recent discussions and view points on allowing FDI in Retail is a great example. Many Retailers, who were initially reluctant on the subject have now done a volte-face because they are cash-strapped by agreeing to bring in foreign retailers in to the fray! This stance will affect them sooner than later, with the media as well as their consumers.

Life’s lessons come from various quarters all the while and this time it is in the form of Kingfisher airlines. It is up to us to make good use of wisdom, irrespective where it comes from.

Friday, November 18, 2011

UnHate the campaign, atleast for the Consumer’s sake!

 

What does UNHATE mean? UN-hate. Stop hating, if you were hating. Unhate is a message that invites us to consider that hate and love are not as far away from each other as we think. Actually, the two opposing sentiments are often in a delicate and unstable balance. Our campaign promotes a shift in the balance: don’t hate, Unhate.

There is so much brouhaha about the most recent campaign of United Colors of Benetton, the marquee fashion brand from Europe’s fashion capital, Italy. Benetton’s in-house design agency Fabrica has created the recent campaign among many others over the years, particularly the one which showed a blood smeared baby still attached to its umbilical cord which was also a much talked about one. Benetton also had campaigns which showed a nun kissing a priest, three hearts declaring “white, yellow and black” and so on. Over the years, Fabrica has attracted global talent to work in its think tank and has been a darling of the creative minds. The recent Unhate website has this to say;

What does UNHATE mean? UN-hate. Stop hating, if you were hating. Unhate is a message that invites us to consider that hate and love are not as far away from each other as we think. Actually, the two opposing sentiments are often in a delicate and unstable balance. Our campaign promotes a shift in the balance: don’t hate, Unhate.

The UNHATE Foundation, desired and founded by the Benetton Group, seeks to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance, to combat hatred, building on Benetton’s underpinning values. It is another important step in the group’s social responsibility strategy: not a cosmetic exercise, but a contribution that will have a real impact on the international community, especially through the vehicle of communication, which can reach social players in different areas.

The Foundation will organise initiatives involving different stakeholders, from the new generations to the institutions, international organisations and NGOs, through to civil society.

The Foundation also aims to be a think tank, attracting personalities and talents from the fields of culture, economy, law and politics, and people who have gone from simple citizens to leaders of movements, distinguishing themselves through their ideas and actions against the causes and effects of hatred.

UnHate Video campaign from benetton.com

The Media frenzy, as always makes it more sensational that it seems and there is enough outrage in the internet world and the real world about this. Industry leaders from the advertising world (in India) have commented on the afaqs! website, which is as follows;

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Piyush Pandey
Executive chairperson and national creative director, Ogilvy India

I think the entire campaign is sensational and unnecessary. It is certainly edgy, but being edgy does not mean that you cross limits. A lot of people will say that it is a fantastic way of doing things, but I feel there are other fantastic ways of doing things.

K V Sridhar
National creative director, Leo Burnett

The participants of Bigg Boss are supposed to behave in a certain way. Similarly, Benetton as a brand is supposed to behave in a particular way, too. If it does not behave in that manner, then it would be unique.

One other campaign of the brand showed a blood-smeared baby still attached to its umbilical cord. As a brand, it has done several such campaigns in the past. But, this time, I feel that it has done it intelligently. The message that nations/religions should not hate each other has been conveyed effectively through the best form of expression of adore - a kiss. Leaders are representatives of the masses. If they would have shown Barrack Obama hugging Hu Jintao, then it would not have been as interesting. But, this one works and is brilliantly executed.

What does UNHATE mean? UN-hate. Stop hating, if you were hating. Unhate is a message that invites us to consider that hate and love are not as far away from each other as we think. Actually, the two opposing sentiments are often in a delicate and unstable balance. Our campaign promotes a shift in the balance: don’t hate, Unhate.

Arun Iyer
National creative director, Lowe Lintas

It is a controversial ad. But, that is what it is supposed to do -- create controversy. Fifty per cent of the people will feel that it is in bad taste, while the other 50 per cent will find it interesting. However, despite the like or dislike, it will induce talk-ability. I think visually, it is supposed to be debatable, but at a thought level, it is not at all a debate.

The fact that this campaign has been successful in creating a debate is by itself a success of the brand and its objective. However, it is also trying to push too far.

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Well, the big question is, Does this campaign really solve the purpose of Love, or rather, Unhate? Oh, am not sure. Does this campaign appeal to the younger generation who is the intended customer base for "Brand Benetton”? Absolutely. Over the years, Benetton has seen stiff competition from Spanish fashion giant Zara (which apparently changes the design/range at its stores every few weeks) and several other brands such as Mango, Esprit and many other local brands in several markets (Benetton has over 6,000 stores across 120 countries and clocked over 2 Billion Euros in Sales in the year 2010). In India, the brand has done well in itself, thanks to its aggressive growth strategy and plans since its turnaround in 2005 under the new leadership led by its Indian division. The campaign has just gone viral and the company plans to spend over half of its less than advertising budget of 10 Million Euros  in digital media and the balance in traditional media. Like many I too wonder if this campaign will go public in the US, China, Korea and the Middle-east – the leaders of whose countries are mentioned in the said campaign. For obvious reasons, I am sure the campaign will not feature in India as well and they dare not even dream of having Indian Politicians (sic).

All said and done, it is indeed a wonderful attention-seeking opportunity for Benetton, although it is anybody’s guess if such (unwanted) publicity would necessarily translate into Sales!

What does UNHATE mean? UN-hate. Stop hating, if you were hating. Unhate is a message that invites us to consider that hate and love are not as far away from each other as we think. Actually, the two opposing sentiments are often in a delicate and unstable balance. Our campaign promotes a shift in the balance: don’t hate, Unhate.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Customer Service - by Trial & Error!


My only claim to understanding or appreciating an Apple product is my iPod Nano, which my buddy had gifted me 6 years ago. A 4 GB nano, I didn't know actually how to even switch it off when I first laid my hands on it. Since 2005, it has been one of my favourite companions, accompanying me in my life's journey. The voice clarity on the iPod was one of the best I've ever heard in my life - even the Nakamichi headphones that were kept for sampling CDs at Musicworld (where I started by professional career a decade ago) weren't as great in terms of audio quality and clarity as the original apple (white-colored) ear phones. Over the years, I have added so many other devices to my kitty for listening music but none like the iPod nano. So, when it stopped working abruptly, I was worried. I logged online and tried some trouble-shooting methods although none of them came in handy. And finally I heeded the advice of one such post - which was to visit the nearest Apple store! Which I did. Only to be disappointed by the approach of the staff out there! The discussion ended in less than two minutes - yes, just two minutes. The staff heard my problem, connected it in his Mac and came back to me and said that it was working perfectly well. And he glanced as though I should just move on with my old monumental piece for a new swanky one... Well, he didn't say it out loud, but I could make it.

iPod Nano
I walked off in disgust but came back to the store again, this time to propose an alternative - switch off and switch on in "Disk utility mode" which he attempted. And said that the scroller wasn't working and the only alternative would be to replace it which would cost about a hundred dollars! And again, he was referring indirectly that I give up! He also suggested to erase all the data, format the device and then I try at home, which wasn't the best route possible. But I agreed since I had all the music backed-up so I would be fine as long as the device was working well again. When I tried connecting the iPod later on my laptop, it wasn't working either. So, his "customer service" methods were just by trial and error. Try this. Oh, if that doesn't work, then try that. And so on. A day later, I installed some Microsoft updates on my system and... pronto... the iPod was working!! Strange as it may sound, the issue was not with the device at all - just that some new updates were required for it to work. And all this from a so called "Apple Support Team member". Ufff. Thank God, Steve is no more to see all this, I mumbled.

(Suggested Reading: Retail Staffing)

So, why this kind of an approach to "Customer Service"? I ain't an Apple basher nor am I a die-hard fan. I love electronic devices as they make our life easy. And they make it simpler to use them for the purposes they were intended and invented for. Unlike many other electronic products / brands, Apple doesn't have a designated service center. The Retail store also doubles up as a service center where users can bring their devices for any kind of trouble-shooting, including migration from MS to Mac.While the technically-abled are behind the scenes fiddling with the devices, the young boys ( and girls) who attend to customers are not as strong in their technical skills as are expected to be. I see this issue is common across various other retail formats too. 

Apple Imagine Store, UB City, Bangalore

While I agree that the staff attitude and behavior in this case may not be intended to be the way it was, it does send wrong signals to present and potential customers. And this was the second time with me. In an earlier instance, when we had walked into the same store, the staff failed to provide us a proper demo of the iPhone 4, which led us to change our mind to another store and eventually, Samsung (Galaxy S4) benefited, I would say! The staff were already profiling their customers (mentally) even before knowing the intended reason for their visit. Too bad. This is common across many other premium and luxury brands. For example, If a customer asks for the price of a product at an upmarket watch retail store, then the staff begin to think that he/she is merely there to appreciate the product and not necessarily buy them. At a premium apparel store in Bangalore which houses many brands such as Versace, Armani, Boss and so on, the sales manager doesn't walk up and greet customers whom she thinks may have come window-shopping. The higher the value of the product, the lower is the importance given to visitors and potential customers. 

(Suggested Reading: Luxury Retailing in India)

Retail Staff, who start their careers in the front-end at the beginning of their careers slowly make headway to higher roles and positions and during the course of this journey, forget the basics, at times. Retail Training Managers and the Business Management also fail to train their staff to keep them competent all the time. Unfortunately, Customer Service has become, as I mentioned earlier, by Trial and Error many times! And all this in the country which chants "Athithi Devo Bhava", a sanskrit slogan which means to say guests should be treated like god. Pity the Guests. Amen! 

(Suggested Reading: Customer Service)