Tuesday, January 31, 2012

India: Starbucks Coffee–A Tata Alliance

 

SBUX

“We will look at expanding this partnership as a long-term relation... We are excited at building an enduring company that has a positive impact on India,” John Culver, President of Starbucks (China and Asia-Pacific), told reporters on Monday, 30th Jan 2012 at Mumbai, India. The company has signed a joint venture with the $ 80 Billion Tata Group, its first outing in India after waiting and watching the market for a long time now. Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) operates over 17,000 cafes across 57 countries, with over 30% of them being outside the US (home) market. China has over 400 cafes since it opened in 1999. For the Tata Group, this is their second outing in the coffee business – earlier, they bought a 34% stake in Barista Coffee in 2001 which was later sold (in 2004) to the Sterling Group which later sold it to Lavazza of Italy (2007). “The joint venture with Starbucks is in line with Tata Global Beverages’ strategy of growing through inorganic growth focusing on strategic alliances in addition to organic growth,” R.K. Krishna Kumar, vice-chairman of Tata Global Beverages, told reporters.

(Suggested Reading: National Coffee Day)

The Indian coffee market has been well sought after for the past decade or so. Homegrown café chain Café Coffee Day has over 1,200 cafes across 140 cities in India and also has a presence in Pakistan, Austria and Czech Republic. The company, founded by serial entrepreneur VG Siddhartha and backed by Sequoia Capital and KKR among others has a deep rooted coffee heritage spanning over 130 years. The Coffee Day Group manages thousands of acres of coffee plantation in Chikmaglur, the coffee belt of Karnataka in the south of India and consumes most of its production for self-consumption and very little for exports (which was the other way around a decade ago). Barista Coffee, owned and operated by Lavazza from Italy comes a distant second with over 250 cafes across the country while Costa Coffee from the UK,  which has a JV with Devyani International, a Delhi based business powerhouse comes close with over 140 cafes. Apart from this, there are several regional players who occupy a sweet spot for themselves in their respective markets.

So, what is in it for SBUX and for the Indian consumers?

Well, for SBUX it is a large play on an untapped burgeoning coffee market in India. With over one-third of the entire population of 1.20 billion under the age of 35, there is no better market than ours for a café chain. With increasing earning ability and higher disposable incomes, Indian consumers want nothing but the best and hence there has been a mad rush by various apparel brands in the premium and high-end spectrum of the organized Retail Market. From McDonalds to Pizza Hut, Dominos and KFC, they are all here and have even tweaked their global menu, mostly for the first time to suit the Indian palette. So Starbucks has a ready market which is waiting eagerly to lap it up immediately. For the Indian consumer, there is a lack of differentiation today; they have been used so much to the CCDs and Baristas that they are eagerly looking forward to a change. With more consumers undertaking International travel on work and leisure, they get exposed to various facets and hence are expecting similar standards and offering.

CCD Cup

Starbucks’ entry has been a dogma for many years now. There was an aborted attempt in 2006 when it planned a JV with The Future Group. And thereafter, it has been slow. This time, they seem to have got the JV right. Rest, as they say needs proof of the pudding. Well, you can’t really go wrong with the Tatas, given the way TRENT has managed its relationships with Woolworths, Tesco and Zara. However, they wouldn’t have an easy task to establish themselves, here’s why;

  • Scalability – Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore would contribute to over 1,200 cafes together, about three-fourths as many cafes in the country.To penetrate these markets wouldn’t be easy. And then to scale up. Well.
  • Real Estate – While more and more Malls are coming up in the top 10 cities, High Streets will continue to remain a favourite for SBUX and this is an area they will indeed find a huge challenge, in getting the best locations
  • Menu – While CCD has a more or less Indian menu (Read: suiting the local palette) no other café chain has done this – and would apply to SBUX as well
  • Pricing – This would remain the most important competitive advantage that CCD would score against SBUX and probably all others. Getting this right would be a key challenge, to say the least
  • People – To get high quality baristas and front-end staff is not going to be easy. With its rigorous process-driven approach, SBUX may find this as a problem but this is one that can be fixed sooner than the others above

(Suggested Reading: When Skill sets take over everything else!)

It’s now a matter of time that Starbucks would be all over, but probably not as ubiquitous as Café Coffee Day. There are neighborhoods, for example in Bangalore where CCD has half a dozen cafes within 3-4 sq. km. And this applies in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, etc. as well. SBUX would probably take half the time (or probably lesser than) it took CCD to get as many cafes, but that’s still a long way ahead. It was announced yesterday that the first few cafes would come up at Delhi and Mumbai, which is a disappointment for me (living in Bangalore) but also strange that Bangalore has not been given its importance. Anyway, look forward to having a large café latte soon!

The above video has been shared from www.starbucks.com

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Retail Store Opening Time

clock

I recently received an email from Reliance Mart that they would opening their stores at 8am! The email newsletter was a bit incomplete in most respects – it doesn’t talk of its existing store timing (including opening and closing) and the list of all stores or a contact number such as a Customer Care number or a Toll Free number. It is anybody’s guess why this particular retailer would want to open so early – given that it is a Hypermarket format. In the footer of the communication, the cities where they operate is mentioned, most of which are non-Metro cities, which I guess could be the main reason for this move. In metro cities, people (Read: consumers) leave to work by 8am and return back around 8pm, hence most of the modern shopping environments including Malls, Supermarkets, Hypermarkets and Specialty Retailers open their stores only by 11am. Also, this is a huge cost-saving for retailers – lower usage of electricity and other utilities; staff can work in a single shift; most importantly, it provides time to set-up the store in the mornings – stock fulfillments, “facings” of products on the shelves and a sound briefing session to the staff.

At Foodworld, (a Supermaket chain part of the erstwhile RPG Retail) when I used to work in Chennai 10 years ago, we experimented opening the store at 7am – really early by Organized Retail standards. But what we realised was that we built a strong loyalty among the local residents and the neighborhood. Customers started coming in early to pick up vegetables that would have landed fresh at the store; and along with bought a packet of bread and some milk. And a few other daily use things too! I remember, we used to interact with regular customers and they would feel happy to be at the store so early! I guess this is one area where Kiranas cleverly take a lead amongst Organized Retailers. A typical kirana store opens by 7am and starts brisk business early. And closes as late as 10.30 or even 11pm at times.

The Government’s rules and regulations are not helping Organized Retailers either. Law states that women employees (who contribute to a significant percentage of the work force in the front-end of Organized Retail in India) cannot work beyond 9pm and should be escorted back home by the employer. Almost no one follows this though, thanks to lax overseeing by the respective agencies and authorities. The retail stores cannot function beyond a certain timeline, which is 8.30pm in Kolkata, 9.30 pm in Chennai and so on. Recently, Star Bazaar, part of TRENT Retail (owned by the TATAs) and Total Hypermarkets, part of Jubilant Retail based out of Bangalore extended their store closing time to 12.00 midnight, a welcome move by regular customers who heaved a sigh of relief since they could comfortably shop during the late hours! Mustafa, a local retail giant in Singapore, for example, is open all night and sees regular customer flow all through! I was told that the contribution of business between 9pm and 8am is almost 20% since tourists hop by after the city closes down.

Mustafa Singapore

With FDI in single brand retail already in place, it is anybody’s guess if more and more Retailers would want to keep the stores open late night or open early since the International Giants might want to pump in more money and experiment if customers walk in late at night. While this may work for certain categories such as grocery, household, furniture, etc. it may be obvious that fashion is not something that could work. After all, that category of customers would we wining, dining and partying late night than shopping! Café chains such as Café Coffee Day, Barista, Costa, etc. keep their outlets open until late in the night while book store chains such as Crossword and Odyssey usually wind up early. The case may be a bit different at Airports, where a majority of International Travel happens during the night and therefore, most of the Retailers are open all through the day and night.

There are a few advantages for Retailers to have extended store opening time;

  • Customer Service – During the lean hours, Retailers can provide better customer service, a typical measure to increase conversions
  • Loyalty – Retailers could offer bonus loyalty points (if they are operating such a program) to those who shop during such a stipulated time
  • Understanding Consumer Behavior – Since customers would be shopping under a more relaxed environment, they may tend to show a better behavioral pattern which may be useful to Retailers
  • Targeted Promotions – Retailers and Brands could run specific promotions during such times to increase penetration of certain SKUs

The drawbacks though, would be;

  • Increased Operating Costs – Retailers would have to shell out additional salaries to staff who work during such extended times as well as incur other overheads
  • Sustenance – Such a move, if it is experimental only for a short while can dent the brand image of the retailer among customers, leaving them confused
  • Managing the network – If the Retailer has stores across multiple cities, then it may be forced to maintain uniformity across all locations

Having said that, I believe there are hardly few Retailers who would want to try this venture. For, success is not something that comes without repeated attempts!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

100% FDI in Single Brand Retail. So?!?

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The Government of India officially announced allowing 100% FDI in Single Brand Retail on 9 Jan 2012. “We have now allowed foreign investment up to 100 percent with the stipulation that in respect of proposals involving FDI beyond 51 percent, there will be mandatory sourcing of atleast 30 percent of the total value of the products sold…from Indian small industries/village and cottage industries and craftsmen,” Commerce and Industry minister of India, Mr. Anand Sharma said in a statement.

(Suggested Reading: FDI in Retail – the saga continues)

The Indian Industry seems to be equally upbeat;

In an interview to ET, Future Group's CEO Mr. Kishore Biyani said, "I believe both single and multi brand retail together can bring in an investment of $10 billion in the front-end alone. I think this is a significant investment in the next four to five years, and the journey has just begun." The announcement of single brand retail has come sooner than we had expected, though. It is a good move, and a precursor to the bigger one now - the multi-brand retail announcement, added Biyani.

“We hope the initiative is a precursor to further liberalisation in the sector in the days to come,” Rajan Bharti Mittal, managing director at Bharti Enterprises, Wal-Mart’s India partner for wholesale stores, told Bloomberg.

"The notification was expected because single-brand is less controversial, as the brand will not compete with a local retailer," said Bijou Kurien, who heads the lifestyle division of Reliance Retail, which runs department stores, hyper-markets and supermarkets.

“The opening of India’s single-brand retail sector sends a crystal clear signal that India is open for business at a time when economic opportunity is certainly welcome amidst global uncertainty,” said Ron Somers, president of US-India Business Council (USIBC).

We believe that further opening up of the single brand retail clearly shows the government`s positive intent towards bringing about reforms. We see this as an important step towards further reforms in the multi-brand sector as well said broking house ICICIDirect

“Globally, single-brand retail follows a business model of 100 percent ownership and global majors have been reluctant to establish their presence in a restrictive policy environment,” the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP), said in a statement.

SBUX

(Suggested Reading: Luxury Retailing in India)

100 percent ownership would be permitted in single brand product retail trading under the government approval route, subject to the following conditions:

  • Products to be sold should be of a single brand only
  • Products should be sold under the same brand internationally (i.e. products should be sold under the same brand in one or more countries other than in India)
  • Single brand product-retail trading would cover only products which are branded during manufacturing
  • The foreign investor should be the owner of the brand
  • In respect of proposals involving FDI beyond 51 percent, mandatory sourcing of at least 30 percent of the value of products sold would have to be done from Indian “small industries/village and cottage industries, artisans and craftsmen”
  • Application should be submitted seeking permission from the Indian government for FDI in retail trade of single brand products to the Secretariat for Industrial Assistance in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion
  • The application will specifically indicate the product/product categories which are proposed to be sold under a single brand
  • Any addition to the product/product categories to be sold under single brand would require fresh approval from the government
  • Applications would be processed in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to determine whether the products proposed to be sold satisfy the notified guidelines, before being considered by the FIPB for government approval

(Suggested Reading: “UnHate” by Benetton)

Mono Brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Pepe, Mont Blanc, Rolex, Pizza Hut, Costa Coffee and many others through a JV with Indian partners have been operating in India over the past years. Some like Benetton and Nike have been operating on their own, using manufacturing/marketing as their modus operandi through a predominantly franchisee model. Over the past few years, we have seen even luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Diesel, Tumi, Armani and Versace enter the Indian Retail market through respectable JVs with the likes of Reliance Retail, DLF Brands, etc. and all of them seem to be doing well in their own way. Indian business houses such as the Tatas, Jubilant Organosys and Dabur have been happy to partner with international brands such as Zara, Dominos and Subway (respectively) and operate large franchise operations. But the fuss over 100% FDI in single brand retail seems surprising, if not confusing. Louis Vuitton, for example expects a sale of over USD 100 million from a 550 sqm outle from its only airport store in the world at Incheon International Airport, Korea. It would take LV a few years to achieve a similar number in the Indian market. In such a scenario, I wonder why would international brands invest and fund their expansion and growth in India all by their own, while there are so many Indian business houses/partners who wish to do so.

Video Courtesy: The Moodie Report

Indian and International Retailers are eagerly looking forward to the approval of 100% FDI in Multi-Brand Retail, which is not expected until the elections are over in key states such as Uttar Pradesh. Major action is expected only when the big boys of multi-brand retailing are allowed to enter India and operate directly and service end-users/customers. And that doesn’t seem to happen soon, certainly not in 2012. Hopefully, the next year – if the world doesn’t end. That is.

(Suggested Reading: Borders – a book in itself)

Friday, January 6, 2012

End of Season! End of Party time?!?

Late 2009 was the time when one could see the slow down of the 2008 Economic slowdown in India. While rest of the world including America, Japan and parts of Europe were down with Recession (read: 2 Quarters of continued negative economic growth), India was seeing its GDP grow at a modest 7%. As Kishore Biyani, CEO Future Group once said in 2008, “Consumers are sitting on the fence, not really knowing when and what to spend”. How true, it was at that time. And then 2010 happened. Growth was the new buzz word and Retailers were back in action. New swanky stores, additional staffing, high-paid executives in the upper echelons and yes, a double digit same store sales growth which was being celebrated by one and all. All izzz well – the song from the movie “3 Idiots” was the most hummed song among the Retail fraternity thereafter for the next 18 months.

lifestylePhoto Courtesy: Times of India

Consumers who were holding on started buying new houses; furniture and furnishings for their new/old houses; Cars of all sizes – from an upgrade to a sedan to the first four-wheeler in the family; brown goods – LCDs and LEDs saw growth of over 100% for some brands! Refrigerators and Washing machines were flying off the shelves; Smartphones’ sales grew than those of normal phones; shoppers were buying more footwear and clothes, not just to show-off their wealth and happiness but because they could now afford to. Monthly grocery, which is an important metric to measure consumer confidence was growing at a healthy double digit. The confidence in consumer spending allowed Retailers and Brands to invest more and more – on new stores as well as higher targets. Unfortunately, the party seems to have ended abruptly.

(Suggested Reading: New Store Openings)

Lifestyle, India’s premier Department Store Chain was the first to announce EOSS – End of Season Sale last week. This came as a big surprise to the market – consumers aren’t complaining though. Central Malls, part of the Future Group and the largest mall chain in the country announced flash sales over the New Year Weekend, only to end up disappointing itself. Even brands like Levis which wait until Valentines announced “Sale” a day before. Spanish chain Zara, went on sale too, albeit it matches its International calendar where the end of season sale happens around Boxing Day and continues until Christmas. The new season in the West begins from January onwards. Most brands usually run on full price until Feb. 14, assuming shoppers would anyway buy, irrespective of the price-tag to fulfill their own wishes as that of their loved ones. This year seems to be an aberration.

Photo Courtesy: Times of IndiaZara

“The targets for the current year were ridiculously high; We pleaded the Management not to set such high, unrealistic targets but they were in no mood to listen, thanks to the high voltage sales that have happened over the past 4 seasons” – says the Area Sales Manager of a premium apparel brand, who requested anonymity, saying he was not the official spokesperson. The Unit-Head of one of India’s largest Department store chains quipped that the chain has more stores today in large cities and hence the pie doesn’t seem to be growing rather getting cannibalized. “Instead of increasing the customer base of loyalty members through marketing activities and TV ads, the Management is getting into deep discounting; we had one of the finest customer service staff 4 years ago, but I cannot claim so now; they (the CSAs) are paid 6-7000 bucks and obviously the quality of staff and their service has deteriorated.” This gentleman, whom I’ve known for over seven years now requested I don’t mention his name as he may even lose his job for saying so.

(Suggested Reading: Customer Service by Trial & Error)

“These days, people are walking to our stores, checking out the products and then buying online. 5 years ago, the larger players were threatening our livelihood, but these days, looks like the online players will wipe us out”, quips Ravindra, shop assistant at a leading electronic store in Bangalore. “FDI in Retail is a big threat for us; if the big international players step up their expansion like what I’ve seen in the Gulf over the past 15 years (read: Middle East), then we will all have to shut shop and find an alternative full-time job rather than running these departmental stores”, cries Syed Pasha who settled in East Bangalore 5 years ago after working in Sharjah for 15 years as a low-cost laborer.

Photo Courtesy: Times of IndiaLevis

So, is the party over already? The answer is a big NO. Retailers and Brands have to realize that short-term growth is no metric for long-term survival. Nor would E-Commerce players like Indiaplaza.com would take away their share of business. India is a one trillion dollar economy and is fundamentally a strong one, with its ability for self-sustenance. (Sale) Targets are an important part of the business but they are not the only ones to focus on. Most Retailers and EBOs of Brands need to step up customer service. Rather than pay lower and have more staff, they should consider paying higher salaries, mostly linked to sales and have lower staff on the floor who are efficient and effective in their output.

(Suggested Reading: What retailers can learn from the aviation crisis)

The Retail India Story has just begun; Internet Commerce is still under-penetrated at the moment. Retailers can and should take advantage of growing consumerism with better service with fewer stores. As always, Small is Beautiful.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Retail in India–Way ahead for 2012

Customer Checkout 

Organized Retail in India has come a long way over the past decade and 2011 was expected to change the wind towards the positive side, due to allowing FDI in Retail. Thanks to political unrest and the opposition parties claiming hoarse, FDI in Multi-Brand Retail has been put on hold (hope not shelved) while FDI in Single Brand Retail has quietly been allowed, atleast on paper. While a few International Brands such as Benetton, Tommy, Diesel, Esprit, etc. have been operating in India for many years now through Joint Ventures with Indian partners, a beeline of Brands wanting to enter India is expected in 2012 – a hope that many in Retail have been holding on for sometime now! The coming months are expected to be exciting times for our Industry and here’s a view on how this landscape would evolve;

Malls

From a lakh square feet to a million square feet in 10 years, modern shopping centers aka Malls have walked a long journey all these years. Today, Malls are not places for consumers to just shop but a generous mix of shopatainment – which includes Shopping, Dining and Entertainment. While there are over 200 operational malls today in the country, another equal number is expected to come up in the next few years. A number of mall projects which commenced during the slowdown in 2008 are ready for occupancy now and many are expected to launch this year.

Supermarkets

The neighborhood supermarkets have evolved the most, among all formats of Retail over the years. Size was always a concern for players like Spencer’s and More – getting it right was a challenge, either the stores being too big with empty shelves or too small with regular stock-outs. Many players have exited the marketplace while a few like Food Bazaar and Nilgiris (through franchises) are increasing their presence assuming scale-up would help them gain overall net margins which range in high single digits. This would be the first format, in my opinion that would straighten up – only serious players would exist and they would do a great job while many others would exit – hopefully this year.

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Hypermarkets

With foreigner CEOs and advisors engaging the managements of Indian Retailers, it was widely believed that Hypermarkets must be large, really large like the ones in western countries.Thanks to some early learning, many players like Hypercity and Total have corrected their ways of working. Small is the new Big, with Hypers ranging from 20,000 – 45,000 in prime retail areas in multi-level locations compared to the earlier proposition of being over 60,000 sft – one single floor in suburban areas! Newer players especially multi-nationals like Tesco and Target are expected in this format in the coming year while existing players are planning massive scale-ups.

Department Stores

These large format stores, the blue-eyed ones due to their colorful appearance was and is expected to be the only ones to see some EBIDTA in their early years. That’s a boon and bane in a sense in this format. To ensure they attract high-spender footfalls regularly, they should turn their stocks quite often; that means having the right mix of merchandise is extremely important which is a direct impact of having high quality staff who can choose the right merchandise every consecutive season. This is a vicious cycle and players like Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Westside etc. have got it right while a few of them are still struggling to learn.

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Specialty Retailers

Stand-alone specialty stores of international and even domestic brands are seeing dwindling numbers. The total number of stores that were being added year-on-year have reduced considerably. If it was 20 new stores and most being unprofitable four years ago, the numbers have reversed, thankfully. Most brands don’t talk about crazy numbers anymore, only well-merchandised stores and outlet level profitably.

QSRs and Food Retailing

It seems cooking and eating at home is a more expensive proposition these days thanks to high food inflation and going by the sales of pizza chains and fine-dine restaurants. While Dunkin Donuts is almost ready with its first outlet, Starbucks is slated to open quite soon too. Café Coffee Day will ad over 200 new cafes this year while Dominos and Pizza Hut will have company in California Pizza Kitchen and a few others. This would indeed be the most exciting format to watch indeed!

Greenland

Kiranas

The unorganized retailer down the road doesn’t pay taxes or offer health benefits to employees; no one ever checks the quality or quantity of goods sold; BUT he is able to offer lower prices everyday to consumers with other additional benefits such as short-term credit and quick home delivery. Modernisation is the byword for the them and they are indeed giving a touch competition to the organized players.

E-Commerce

But the real competition, if not threat to all formats of retail in 2012 is going to be through E-Commerce. Sadly, many brands and retailers are not paying attention to the increasing internet user base – over 100 million as of 2011 compared to just three million in 2001. This has allowed fly-by-night operators to open websites that sell everything from toothpaste to watches, apparel to expensive jewelry! Most of them have no clue how e-commerce works and many are even buying merchandise and selling – something which goes against the fundamental philosophy of transacting online!