Showing posts with label Bangalore Metro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bangalore Metro. Show all posts

06 October, 2011

Malls are also parking lots!

I recently came across an article which claims that Bangalore is the most painful place when it comes to commuting and parking of vehicles! My suggestion – is to build more Malls.

IBM Global Commuter Pain survey

A new IBM survey of the daily commute in a cross-section of some of the most economically important international cities reveals a startling dichotomy: while the commute has become a lot more bearable over the past year, drivers’ complaints are going through the roof. The annual global Commuter Pain Survey, which IBM released recently, reveals that in a number of cities more people are taking public transportation rather than driving, when compared with last year’s survey. In many cities, there were big jumps in the percentage of respondents who said that roadway traffic has improved either “somewhat” or “substantially” in the past three years.

IBM Commuter Pain Index

To better understand consumer attitudes around traffic congestion as the issue continues to grow around the world, IBM conducted the 2011 Commuter Pain survey. The IBM Commuter Pain Index, illustrated in this speedometer graphic, ranks the emotional and economic toll of commuting in 20 international cities. From right to left, cities are plotted from least painful starting with Montreal and gradually increase to the most painful city, Mexico City. But that’s only part of the story. In many cities, the survey recorded significant increases, when compared with last year, in the number of respondents who said that roadway traffic has increased their levels of personal stress and anger and negatively affected their performance at work or school.  “Commuting doesn’t occur in a vacuum,” said Naveen Lamba, IBM’s global intelligent transportation expert. “A person’s emotional response to the daily commute is colored by many factors – pertaining both to traffic congestion as well as to other, unrelated, issues. This year’s Global Commuter Pain survey indicates that drivers in cities around the world are much more unsettled and anxious compared with 2010.” 

According a report recently in Times of India, around 1,300 vehicles are fined everyday for illegal parking. And this is just the official number. I would assume for every ticket that is issued, atleast 5 are not! So, we can guess the number of illegal / wrong parking. Whose fault is it – to provide adequate parking spaces in a city like Bangalore, to ensure ample public transport is provided? And as users, as commuters, aren’t we as public responsible too? Well, there are no straight answers. In a growing urban metropolitan city like Bangalore, this is bound to happen. With the price of automobiles going down each year (and despite the rising petrol costs), more people are opting for personal transportation options, both for official as well as personal usage. And I wonder what relief a 3km Metro rail will bring in the short-term and even if a fifth of the city is connected, am not sure how useful it is going to be!


However, there is a simple solution through public-private partnership that can significantly reduce the pain-points – build more public car parking spaces which would also double up as Retail Destinations! Call them Malls, Shopping Centres, whatever. And we already have a great example in Garuda Mall. The land belongs to the city Corporation, the structure built by a private party which was expected to house over 2000 cars and two-wheelers. And also have some shops which would provide the revenues to maintain and manage the parking lot. And we know the result – a swanky mall with 100s of shops and restaurants including some big names such as Shoppers Stop, Westside, Louis Philippe, Benetton, etc. a full-blown food court and a six screen INOX Multiplex! Avid shoppers wait patiently outside just to just enter the mall over the weekends! Movie-goers reach the Mall 20-30 minutes before the cinema commences to ensure they watch the film from the beginning. A similar example is Mantri Mall at Malleswaram in South Bangalore

Bangalore, overall has only 10 notable Malls for a city that has a population of over 8 million people (as per the recent census). By any means, this is just not enough. World cities like New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, and even Shanghai and Beijing have a reasonably more number of Malls. And many other Retail destinations such as Hypermarkets, Neighbourhood Malls, etc. These locations, typically act as public parking spots for a particular locality during the day (since serious shoppers typically prefer late evenings or weekends). In a way, higher retail proliferation also means additional space on offer, which makes the market more competitive, such that builders and developers or Mall Management companies do not charge the Retailers exorbitantly, which in turn affects the number of stores a Retailer or a Brand operates in that market. This can be seen vividly in markets like China close by and in the US, needless to say. For example, every locality would have a Wal-Mart with hundreds of car parking lots – and it is not just for shoppers, but also for those who have work in the vicinity.  The expectation is that those who didn’t have any work in the mall may also just pop-in. And it happens many times. 


Infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges India is facing, and Retail Infrastructure is no better. Coupled to that, we as a society are averse to walking – which is very common to see in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Europe and other countries. They say, that cafes and QSRs do not have parking lots (worldwide) because customers prefer to walk a bit. But not in India. Even a humble “darshini” restaurant which serves local fare would see a dozen two-wheelers parked outside its shop, mostly in a “No-Parking” area. Most of us, in the name of saving time prefer not to walk even a bit. And people also blame it on pollution, lack of pavements or walking tracks and so on.


Bangalore will see two new retail developments open its doors within the next six months. Each of them have a million square feet of Retail, F&B and Entertainment. And a couple of smaller developments are in various stages too. Together, at the moment around 5,000 cars and two-wheelers can be parked in our Malls but this expected to simply double with the new developments coming in. I assure, the next time I have to visit a place I will atleast attempt to look for a nearby mall. What about you?

13 September, 2011

Luxury Retailing in India


Last week was a fascinating one to the world of Travel Retail and Luxury Retail. One of the world’s most coveted luxury brands, Louis Vuitton from the house of Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton (LVMH) finally debuted at Incheon Airport in Korea (which has also been ranked the number 1 airport in the world in passenger satisfaction by ACI International) amid much fanfare and excitement according to the first online update from The Moodie Report. Korea, which is famous for its “cheaper” alternatives in electronic products and automobiles (led by Hyundai) was the obvious choice for the cult brand since it is the most preferred transit destination between Mainland China, Japan and Korea and the rest of the world. Louis Vuitton was also ranked the number one luxury retail fashion brand (behind Hermes, Gucci, Chanel and Cartier) by the media house “My Retail Media” recently. LV, as it is popularly known, is most famous for its accessories & luggage (which ranges between USD 500 – 5,000) and is one of the last brands in the “Luxury” segment to enter the glamorous world of Travel Retail. Such is the potential of passengers travelling through airports!

(Suggested Reading: Travel Retail)

When LV entered the city of Bangalore in India (2008), it had installed a huge trunk outside the terminal building of Bangalore International Airport (BIAL), a first of its kind in the country but one which the brand does quite frequently across the world. Apart from this, LV operates at Delhi and Mumbai and is looking forward to expanding across other Indian cities in times to come. Hermes opened its first outlet in Pune this year, which was later followed by its flagship store at Mumbai. The beauty of this location is that it opened its store where the distance from / to Mumbai is ‘0’km (zero km)! Other luxury brands such as Gucci, Chanel, Cartier, Rolex, D&G, Armani, Hugo Boss, Omega, etc. have their standalone stores at Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. Although, the offtake is not as expected, according to market reports. There was even a recent article online in which the writer claims that the “Indian Luxury” market is a not as successful citing examples of how Nita Ambani (wife of Mukesh Ambani, one of the world’s top billionaires and the Chairman of Reliance Industries) shopped her porcelain from nearby Sri Lanka for their new billion dollar home! Indeed, Gucci, Prada and their ilk in Luxury Retail have not taken off the same way in India (estimated at less than USD 1 billion compared to that of USD 17 billion in China) but I wonder if that’s just the measure.

(Read: World’s cheapest car and its possible impact on Retailers)

The article also quotes the number of dollar millionaires – I guess, the methodology in itself is flawed. There is probably more “black money” in India than in white, hence it is not the best way to assess the wealth of native Indians. Mercedes Benz, the oldest German luxury automobile in India along with with its country counter parts Audi and BMW sold over 2,500 cars last year (at an average price of USD 100,000). Property Developers such as DLF, Prestige, Sobha and many more are developing high-end customised villas that range from INR 2 Crores to 5 Crores (USD 500,000 onwards). A typical Indian middle class family spends between USD 20,000 – 50,000 – something that’s unheard of in the Western world where Church weddings do not accommodate more than a 100 people while the big fat Indian weddings feed over a thousand people, twice a day, for 3-7 days! If western wear and accessories are any measure to say that Luxury Retail in India hasn’t take off, that’s right. But then, the Indian shopper doesn’t consider Western wear for day today use and hence their usability is restricted. The article claims that even an entry level secretary in Japan or China would sport a LV bag (it doesn’t mention if original) which is not the case in India. (But they do sport gold jewellery which is not considered…). High end electronic gadgets are favourites with the working middle class including the iPod, the iPhone the iPad and a wide range of mobile phones and related accessories.

I wonder why “Luxury Retail” in India is always connected with western apparel and accessories. Women do not sport western wear to work everyday! And the reason is simple – an average Indian (women) is more comfortable in her Indian clothing. The climatic condition is more conducive for comfortable dressing and hence their preference. Would this change in the next 20 years, yes. Would it match the world markets? No. I can assure that this market will never be the same in size as what it is in Japan or China, forget Europe or the US. Indian women and the society at large are indeed embracing western wear in a big way, especially for formal occasions at workplace. Even for holidays and other occasions. However, the appreciation for high-end Luxury remains lukewarm since the reasons to wear (other clothing) is far more. Cufflinks are famous all over the world to match blazers, jackets or suits. But a majority of people in the working class do not wear a full-sleeve shirt to work, forget other accessories! And the reason is that the Indian weather conditions do not permit wearing a heavy suit all day at work. Two thirds of the working class still commute in public transport (Metros / A/c buses) and two-wheelers and hence prefer an easy attire than the complicated ones. This is one reason why “wrinkle-free” shirts and trousers are a big draw in the country.

(Also Read: Luxury Retail at Airports)

But no one bothers to compare the gold consumption in India – the most coveted precious metal with the rest of the world. Some one from the Jewellery industry told me recently that if all the gold in Indian houses is collected and offered in the world market, the price of it would be cheaper than that of copper! Really. That’s the amount of gold that is collected and retained in India. For Indians, gold (Swarna, as in Goddess Lakshmi) is bought for various reasons – as traditional jewellery, as savings for future, as a means to display wealth and so on. A former minister from the state of Karnataka who was recently arrested and jailed apparently had a gold-plated chair and even cutlery / crockery for dining at his home according to press reports when the CBI raided his house!

I am sure that the Luxury Market as opined by experts will indeed grow - Coupled with better Retail Infrastructure and Government taxation norms. Soon, one can expect an LV at an Indian airport too. You never know. It’s just a matter of time.

30 November, 2010

A curious case of Autorickshaws and Kiranas!

The prepaid queue at the Bangalore City Railway Station was long, but we decided to wait patiently instead of choosing one of the touts who were continuously stalking us. After all, many auto drivers have been waiting patiently notwithstanding the early morning chillness for their turn to pick up a customer at the prepaid counter for a long time. In our city like many others, the night fare (10 pm – 5 am) is usually 1.5 times of the normal and is quite well accepted. So the prepaid fare to my house was Rs. 200/- as against the more luxurious Meru Cab which we took during the onward journey that cost us Rs. 350. While sitting in the auto this morning, I was thinking about need and necessity. At 5am, all we needed was a transportation to reach home safely. During the peak hours last Saturday we had chosen a taxi – we had time at our disposal and didn’t mind paying a bit more for the comfort of a/c during the day time. Is there a lesson or two, I was guessing if one had to compare autos and kiranas. Just after sometime, the headline of a leading English newspaper claimed that 15,000 additional autorickshaw permits were being issued shortly and the total number of such vehicles plying in the city would touch close to 95,000 vehicles!

That’s a lot for a city of size of Bangalore, many would argue. I disagree a bit. It is based on the age-old principle of demand and supply, according to State Transport Commissioner Bhaskar Rao. The power of permit makes the auto driver a ruler. We need more autorickshaws to reduce the nuisance. Liberalising the over-regulated permits will no doubt increase their numbers on road but the good part is that it will also increase options for the commuting public. Auto drivers will have to oblige then, he said. Quite true. In the long run, with personal mobility becoming a compulsive habit and the acceptance of public transport as a sustainable and viable mode of commute, Autos will become more of fillers – running short distances and acting as the last mile connectivity – be it from bus stands or Metro stations while taxis could turn out to be the preferred mode while travelling from home to airport or railway station.

Cut to the real Retail Story. In spite of the increasing number of Organized Retailers, especially in the food, grocery and household segments, it’s quite common to see so many Kirana Stores coming up in smaller neighbourhoods. As is the case of “Bottom of Pyramid”, the consuming class is right there and is expanding its base as well as its propensity to consume. They are moving upwards from the Govt. run – Public Distribution Stores (PDS) to the neighbourhood kiranas whose regular clientele is moving towards neighbourhood Supermarkets, and in turn whose regulars are moving towards the large-format Hyperstores. However, all these consumers, when they need a pack of salt or sugar, vermicelli or Maggi, reach out to the neighbourhood kirana!

The case here is logical and comparable. When the product becomes a bare necessity, consumers would reach out to what’s close by and cheapest as a measure of time – the ubiquitous kirana while the monthly pantry filling or a weekend party shopping would be at a large format organized Super market or Hypermarket. The consumer is fully aware that one doesn’t derive the benefits of organized retail such as bulk discounts, buy one get one, and price-offs at the local kirana, but they know that time is of essence and hence reach out.

I have always remained a proponent of Retail FDI in the hope and faith that it would only do good to Kiranas as well as end users and consumers in the long term. Such anecdotes make our hypotheses stronger.

Long Live Kiranas; Long Live Organized Retailers!

22 November, 2010

Walk like an “Emperor”

“Show me your shoes and I will tell you how wealthy you are”, goes a saying. Indeed, it’s so true! This is one accessory that most Men care the least about. And the issue is specific to men. Women, as anybody would guess are so fond of their footwear and it’s also a coveted purchase for them. Men always had few choices – in India, in the early 80’s, it was Bata for “office wear”, and Power for “other uses”! The early 90s witnessed the entry of International Brands, initially through the grey market and then through Franchises followed by company owned stores. Today, the footwear market in India according to an IBEF Report is estimated to be USD 2.8 Billion! Since the dawn of the 21st century, the footwear market in India has taken a dramatic shape. There is fierce competition among the players and interestingly, prices have been steadily coming down, inflation adjusted. The Indian footwear Industry is expected to grow at 20% CAGR over the next few years. At present, the footwear market in India is dominated by Men’s wear that contributes almost 60%. Since the organized footwear industry in India has remained focussed on men’s shoes, the opportunity for retailing women’s footwear is enormous. At present, most women buy their footwear from nearby stores or mass markets with very few organized players such as Soles focussing on this category.

The Men’s footwear market can broadly be classified as formal wear (office wear), casual wear (evenings, outings, etc) and sportswear. While this definition is more to classify the categories, it isn’t followed so strictly by one and all, except for the urban male and a few of his counterparts in the smaller cities. The most popular, rather most advertised include “sportswear” and the target audience is clearly the youth and young adults. After all, it’s best to “catch them young, watch them grow”. And thereby Sachin, Dravid, Dhoni and various sportspersons, mostly cricketers are the brand ambassadors. Reebok, which has close to 1,000 stores (most of which are franchised) has a market share of over 50% in this segment – a rare feature when compared globally. The brand received phenomenal upcountry publicity after becoming the official partner for Kolkata Knight Riders in 2008, the IPL team owned by Shah Rukh Khan. One of the biggest strengths of Reebok is its design capability – apparently, the brand launches about 20 styles every quarter and prices start from Rs. 1,000. Adidas has remained focussed though – style and substance put together. While utility takes the cake, it is also known for its fashionable designs. Nike, the smallest player in the market yet among the big three predominantly focuses on various sports. Puma and brand digressions such as Levis & Provogue concentrate on the fashion segment. In the formalwear segment, Bata and its brands including Hush Puppies have remained the most popular across the country. Early 2000s witnessed brands such as Lee Cooper Gaitonde and Woodlands reach the masses with their popular designs and low-pricing. Florsheim, a late entrant took the market by storm due to various innovations including the stress free footwear range that starts from Rs. 5,000 onwards! The last among the batch seems to be Samsonite, the brand known for its sturdy luggages and suit cases which has been spreading its presence across the country. Footwear chains such as Metro & Mochi and Department stores such as Shoppers Stop & Lifestyle have their own private labels and are popular in the mid-segment which looks forward to latest styling at reasonable pricing. International Premium Brands such as Tods, Jimmy Choo and others have just entered the Indian market and have limited presence in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

So, what’s in it for consumers? To begin with, a wide variety and choice of pricing! There are over 20 Domestic and International Brands operating in India, right from the neighbourhood to the nearby malls or speciality shopping areas. From as low as Rs. 1,000 upto Rs. 6,000, one can find reasonable footwear to suit the various occasions and activities that one performs during the day. The same set of footwear may also be available at a 30% discount at Factory Outlets such as Brand Factory or MegaMart, although it would be 18-24 months into the market with its design and styling. On the whole, for a little extra care, one can walk literally like an emperor! Keep Walking...

30 May, 2010

Savings! In the heart of the city...

I was quite intrigued when I first heard of this, but then came to terms. It was about a month back when I first heard that the erstwhile Lido Mall would be reconverted into a Big Bazaar. While Lido Cinema, one of the oldest landmarks in Bangalore was brought down to give way for two new unique landmarks, Ista hotel and Lido Mall four years ago, it was quite a shock that the Mall was getting dismantled. But that’s better than running a Mall without footfalls. The Mall, among the many that are being managed by an arm of The Future Group housed International Fashion Labels such as Next, Guess and Etam apart from a spacious Pantaloons Fashion store, Body Shop, Lee Cooper, Marks and Spencer, etc. Cafe Coffee Day, which occupies the ground floor corner was a saving grace to the mall which has only seen footfalls dropping over the years, thanks to the ongoing construction work of Bangalore Metro Rail project. The block on the opposite side has a McDonalds on the Ground Floor along with the Box Office of Fame Cinemas, which partnered with Lido to manage the multiplex spread over the top floors. The Mall was actually very convenient, the only one so to say in the “MG Road” vicinity. In fact the Cinema runs to full capacity during the first weekend of new movies and apparently, night shows have higher occupancy than day shows, thanks to its prime location which is accessible quite easily within 8-10 km radius as well as for office-goers in the CBD area.

I did see the signage of Big Bazaar coming up a few days ago outside the Mall and the Newspaper Advert recently pulled me into the store, for my love of Retailing. I never imagined that an operational Mall could be put to good use; better use rather by converting it into a Hyperstore (or whatever one may want to call BB as). While Cafe Coffee Day still retains its location and I would believe would perform better with a stronger anchor in BB, all other tenants have been dismantled. The main structure remains as is; the escalators and elevators that were used earlier by the countable walk-ins now transport busy shoppers and their families up and down, albeit both transporting-equipments are not best suited for the shopping trolley – wielding consumers at a Hyper. The main signage outside has indeed changed, or rather elongated as “Lido Big Bazaar” - Honestly, looks nice. The tiles that were used earlier for International fashion concepts are now being used to sell private label grocery and electronics, Chinese-imported furniture and clothes! Well.

The Ground floor, which was reserved for parking remains so, while the First floor houses Food Bazaar, Furniture Bazaar and Electronics Bazaar. So, it’s a no-shocker to see Plasma and LCD Tvs next to household items and Deodorants. The planners have indeed done their best although a bit more adjacency planning would have helped. The second floor houses Fashion Bazaar – a street fashion concept that is being popularised using youth icons – Cricketer MS Dhoni and Actor Asin. Apparently, they are among the two icons who relate the most to the trendy youth today, almost a boy/girl next door positioning created deftly by agencies and their brands. F123, a gaming zone that is gaining popularity quietly across the various formats in the group sits in a corner while Musicworld with two gondolas serves the latest as well as evergreen hits. No eating joints as such, which would have certainly done very well, just a counter that sells street snacks. Call it coincidence; the guy behind the counter was conversing comfortably with two different couples in Bengali. Strange, yet true. Just when I realised that the music that was being played in the background was in Hindi, not in Kannada (the vernacular in the city). Does it matter so much? Well, yes to some extent. Retail is all about regionalising – as I always love to say, Think Global, Act Local, and Retail Regional.

While Big Bazaar has been communicating and advertising within and outside the store in the vernacular languages across the country, it is indeed important to maintain the connect while the shopper steps into the store. Not just the music or communication, but some local QSR would have complemented the shopping experience too. There are enough and many who are awaiting a chance to serve within the store and that’s probably the opportunity for all the three, the Hyper, the local caterer and the customer. After all, the shopper has just walked off from her favourite neighbourhood grocer to the swanky a/c shop! Overall, it was great to see the giant in the middle of the city. The promise, of Savings in the Heart of the City seems to be a big one though. Time will tell and I will live that day to see it firsthand and write about it again. Long Live the Indian Consumer. Long Live Indian Retailing. 

A Firefly finally takes off

Monday - 22 Jan. ‘24 is a very important day in my professional life. I complete eight months today in my role as Executive Vice President a...