21 April, 2009

An Odyssey from Adyar to Africa!

I was watching the second day’s cricket match of the second edition of the Indian Premier League on Sunday, 19 April 2009. What struck my eyes was the big branding of one of India’s leading Retailers, Odyssey. One could not miss this name on the back of the team’s jersey of each player of Deccan Chargers, one of the eight teams that's part of this new concept in playing the game in just 20 overs! Enough has been said and written about the format, so I save my readers of any more of that...

Coming back to Odyssey – Dictionary.com defines this word as “a long series of wanderings or adventures, esp. when filled with notable experiences, hardships, etc.”

A very apt name christened by its Founder and Promoter. For all the struggles they have seen over the past decade to be where they are today. I have been seeing this brand since their inception in the year 1995 – at a nondescript location at Adyar in South Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, India. It was among those first stores to be “Organized” for the categories they were offering – mainly Books and stationery, Music and other leisure products. They were quite popular among students and youth in the city, especially in that area – given the affluence of people who resided in and around along with a number of schools.

Among the first initiatives of expansion of the business by the promoters was to step into a prominent Luxury Hotel in the city in 1999. This made them be seen, by the literati and the glitterati, and Brand recognition started to increase. In a couple of months, expansion was seen across various cities in South India. Even before they were acquired by Deccan Chronicle Holdings in 2005, they launched a co-branded Credit Card with ICICI Bank, one of the largest banks in India. This was a great initiative at that time. There are not too many Retailers who have ventured into this path and Odyssey is among the few who have got it right. However, a lot more could be done by Retailers through such partnerships – to be regularly in touch with their customers, to begin with. After signing up over two dozen stores in the same year, the brand started seeing more stores being rolled out – this time all over the country.

The year 2008 saw maximum store openings including another first to its credit – the first Leisure Retailer in India to enter Travel Retail when it opened its outlets at the Bengaluru International Airport on 23 May 2008. This was followed by other Airports such as Hyderabad and Delhi Airports and I am told that they are aggressively pursuing this subset of the larger Industry quite well. Also on the cards – a long list of Metro Rail stations at Delhi. As on date, although largely present in South India, they have 40 stores across 13 Indian cities. With one of the largest network of Leisure and Book Retail Stores in India, the Brand’s main USP, as I believe, is its simplicity. Most stores have a universal appeal with its furniture and decor only varying to suit the needs of the particular markets. Although Books are still the mainstay even today, they have ventured across various categories including Toys and Electronics, which needless to say are quite popular among its core audience. They also hold Book Reading sessions with prominent authors and writers at their Outlets – a unique but a sure way of getting more walk-ins into their outlets.

Coming back to where I started – advertising through IPL. Many of you would know that the promoters bought the Franchise of the Deccan Chargers Team in the year 2008 at a whopping USD 107 million! The sheer coincidence or rather the advantage of having such a sound backing from its parent and a pan-India presence would have obviously prompted the Retailer to take pole position as against the choice of its sister concern, Deccan Chronicle, a daily newspaper that’s present only in three cities in the country. This is also a first in our Industry – I am yet to see Retailers advertise through such media for obvious reasons of exorbitant advertising costs, although sports goods / FMCG manufacturers and marketers are exceptions. What a sensible way of utilizing space of its promoters’ assets and mainline communication to its potential and present target segments! Wow. And an opportunity to retail the Team Jerseys and other accessories at their Outlets - a clever, yet simple way of getting more shoppers walking into their Stores! This brand, from Adyar to Africa, has come a long way and probably there would be a day when they own a team as well. Hopefully. And I would be cheering for their team, as much as their success. For sure.

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