Friday, April 7, 2017

F for FDI in Food Retail

Much has been spoken and written about the opportunities and perils of allowing Foreign Direct Investment in Retail, especially in the Food & Grocery business. At the moment, only locally procured farm goods and other products manufactured in India can be sold in organized retail stores with FDI. Unfortunately, the top Food Retailers in India including the Future Group, Reliance Retail, RPG-SG led Spencers Retail, etc. do not have foreign investors. Most of the retail chains are reeling under heavy losses and have not been able to scale their businesses beyond existing geographies.


Carrefour and Auchan have shut shop while Walmart has severed it’s tie-up with Bharti Retail and is on it’s own for a while now. Tesco has always had a back-end arrangement with Tata Retail and it continues to be just that. And there is no news of any other international Food Retail chain getting into India in the near future. Interestingly, Amazon and homegrown start-ups Grofers and Big Basket have applied FDI proposals to FIPB for operating in the food & grocery space, perhaps in e-commerce, which is gaining ground every passing day.

Big Basket started operations in 2011, is well funded at the moment and works on an Inventory model in gross violation to existing FDI rules. BB has a warehouse where its products are purchased, sorted and stored. Customers order online/mobile apps and BB delivers the said products from their Warehouse to customers at their doorsteps. BB also procures products from local retailers for quicker delivery and for items that they do not carry. Needless to say, BB hasn’t made a single penny in profits and continues to mount losses.


Grofers started similarly as Big Basket and built ghost stores (outlets with products but no name board and consumer shopping) but then modified its business model to a Hyperlocal model where it currently picks products from neighborhood stores and delivers to customers.

Others like Peppertap, Zopnow, etc. have tried their best raising Investments but have failed to make a dent and have shut shop or have morphed in to delivery companies. Amazon Now currently operates only in Bangalore and is app-based. Customers order on the Amazon Now Mobile app and Amazon picks the products from The Future Group run Food Bazaar & Shopper’s Stop’s Hyperlocal format “Hypercity” Stores and delivers products to customers in a scheduled manner. This is the entity perhaps to whom the FDI license is being sought for.


Incidentally, I have been operating “Oyethere” which has a website and mobile apps on Android and iOS which are not only Hyperlocal but also Convenience formats. Customers can order products from our website or apps and we pick products from the nearest Retail outlet with which we have tie-ups and deliver to customers in 30-300 mins which is our Unique Selling Proposition (USP). We have been around for a year and half now with minimal investments and are on the verge of getting well funded shortly.

Food Retail is a hot space both offline & online Retail and we are playing a wait & watch game with what the Modi-Government is up to. Let’s hope for the best.

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