Showing posts with label Pizza Hut. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pizza Hut. Show all posts

24 July, 2014

Online Dining

I have enjoyed my pizzas better at the restaurant that at home, all along. It is more to do with the fun of dining – you plan a trip to the pizzeria, a walk or a short drive usually, or even at a Mall after finishing retail therapy. I fondly remember the bottomless Coke and unlimited Pizzas at Pizza Corner in Chennai in the late 90s during my most cherished college days with my gang of friends. Have ever since been a fan of pizzas and the love has only been growing. Frankly, I like pizzas from different places, be it Dominos or Pizza Hut, California Pizza Kitchen or standalone indie restaurants. One of my most favourite of course has been from “Italia”, the fine dine restaurant at The Park, Bangalore. For me, Pizza is an all time snack. I am usually game for a pizza at any time of the day (or evening) although I avoid a heavy dinner of pizzas. In fact, the love of pizza is more because of the yummy accompaniments, the cheese garlic bread and an array of toppings, especially the gherkins and olives. Am not a big fan of coloured flavoured colas and would rather prefer a strong coffee if not a lemon ice tea to drown the heavy food.

What I like best is food to be served hot and fresh from the kitchen. Haven’t been a big fan of home delivery or takeaways since I feel that the freshness is somehow lost, especially the international fare such as pastas, pizzas etc. although Indian food is still doable – we have an option to reheat the curries and biryanis at home once again which can’t be done with pizzas and pastas. Have avoided ordering pizzas at home for a long time now since I have had not-so-great experiences in the past, but that was probably because I used to live in Bangalore where the ambient temperature outside is not conducive to serve hot food by road.

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This Football season, I decided to order pizzas at home. No, I don’t follow the game but why not enjoy the delicious offers provided by F&B Retailers! So, first it was Dominos followed by Pizza Hut. On the first occasion, the pizza arrived pretty late, almost 45 minutes since I ordered. I was very disappointed with all the promises made by the company on various media, but gave a benefit of doubt to the delivery boy – he must have had a lot of orders to fulfil and mine was probably the last one. So, I didn’t make an issue about it and just left it there. Yes, I would give them a try once again in future and I hope they live up to expectations.

On the next occasion, the pizzas were served hot and were in a consumable condition even after 20-30 minutes of being delivered at home. What was surprising was it was a Sunday and was the day of the “Final” match between the two teams. And yet, the pizzas were sent on time, well ahead of the promised time. They have a future customer for sure!

In both occasions, I used the mobile applications of both these companies. The UI for Dominos is a bit confusing while the one for Pizza Hut seemed much better. In fact, I had to switch over to the website while ordering for Dominos since that seemed to be a better option. The UI is perhaps not designed by retail experts and with consumer feedback, it lacks the sensibilities that customers look for, especially people of the older age and for women, both of these segments may not be very mobile savvy. Also, one of my friends quipped on his Facebook post recently how the delivery boys call a number of times to take directions. The Pizza companies can take a cue from Uber, the taxi service guys who have a GPS enabled map on their cell phones that help the drivers reach their destination without even calling once.

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Mobile App Zomato also integrates Home Delivery along with providing reviews about restaurants and they are growing rapidly not just in India, but also internationally. Overall, I guess online dining, or rather online ordering is a great way to reach out to customers. It is also non-intrusive in a way. There is no need to call a number and go through the menu being repeated often – the menu is just there on the mobile app or on the website and helps users to choose what they want quickly and easily. Once customers are used to it, they would rather prefer this option instead of calling on the phone, whenever they desire to order food home. So, go ahead and try ordering on your phone next time. And yes, do take a minute to share your feedback. Happy Dining…

13 March, 2014

Food Retail is tuff…

Restaurant business is damn exciting. While people don’t shop for clothes and mobiles every weekend, most people drop over for a good meal frequently and a great meal, once in a while. Great Meal, I mean is a bit indulgent. It could be a Michelin rated restaurant. It could be one among the top 10 restaurants in the country. It could be a celebrity chef’s eating place. Ofcourse, the Five-Stars. The list is long. However, the food business is also one of the tuffest to be in. In fact, it is also one of the retail formats where the churn is very high. For every 6 successful restaurants, three of them fail. And the reasons for failure are aplenty, Customer Service (or the lack of it) being one of the main reasons why restaurants cannot keep up in the short to medium term. Also, investors are not too keen to fund ventures that do not show the ability to scale. 2-3 outlets is not scaling up. It should be in double digits. Most of the restaurant owners are entrepreneurs, many having chosen the route to entrepreneurship after stints in corporate life. They invest their life time savings to open a restaurant (also includes Pubs / Nighclubs / Others) and usually find the going tuff within 18-24 months of opening. That’s when the business matures and needs further investment in marketing and PR – the machinery that keeps restaurants going. I was at a restaurant called “Tangerine” in the upmarket Alwarpet locality in Chennai. The last I had been there was about a decade back. The food was excellent, just how I remember it had tasted during my last visit. However, the place was a bit worn down. The kitchen, which has limited space and equipment cannot cook more than two dishes at a time, which increases the waiting time for guests. The staff fare not all that excited, since they don’t get regular footfalls all over the week.

Lashakahari

The business is all the more difficult if they operate in niche categories. In a city like Chennai, there is a strong thrust on Veg-only restaurants. Yes, you heard that right. In fact, India is the only country in the world which has so many veg-only restaurants and that too, all across the country. I visited one last month. It is called La Shakahari. La, being a french word and Shakahari being vegetarian in Hindi language. The restaurant is located inside a residential area and I was almost being challenged by the Google Map in my phone to find the place despite its best efforts. But once we entered, we realized what a great place it was. They had a set-menu as well as A la Carte. The set-menu offerred more items for what we would have paid otherwise while ordering them individually.

One of the biggest challenges that Restaurateurs face is the inability to scale-up. Most times, it’s the lack of capital. At times, it’s the lack of intent and interest to grow. A potential investor would indeed be able to show inclination to projects which are tried and tested. However, many entrepreneurs just don’t expand. Another option to scale up is the Franchising route. However, the risk is you would lose consistency in the long term and many of them would probably serve food that tastes different.  For fear of not diluting their exclusive menu and taste that it offers, these restaurants remain standalone ventures and thus allow others to crop up in other parts of the city.

Of all retail formats, the F&B format is one of the toughest to operate. Many of them shut shop within 24 months of opening. If they withstand any further, then they strive to stay for a long time in their lifecycle. It also depends on the choice of real estate – Rent is almost 20% of Sales in Malls and about 12-15% at High Street locations. And that’s why you don’t find many of them in Malls not doing well or being priced exorbitantly. At the end of the day, the success of a restaurant is actually many factors playing in.

22 May, 2013

Inviting patrons for a great feast

The Hotel Industry in India is facing tough times ever since the global recession occurred a couple of years ago. In my current role at Royal Enfield as Head of Business Development, I travel atleast 2-3 days every week across the country. Whenever I try to book rooms in small and big cities, the room rates just surprises me. I was trying to look for rooms in Hyderabad for stay over the next few days and was surprised to find discounted rates at 5 star hotels for as low as Rs. 5000 (USD 90). The Leela and Grand Chola – both touted as 7 star rated properties in Chennai are offering over 40% discounts on printed rates, to as low as Rs. 7,000 (USD 130). Same is the case in Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Pune and is even worse in smaller towns. I stayed in Trichy, a city in central TamilNadu which connects a number of other towns of prominence in business and culture within a 100 km radius during the first week of May 2013. On the MakeMyTrip mobile app for the Apple iPhone, I could get a double room for three adults and two kids for as low as Rs. 2,500 (USD 55). The room was quite large to hold a King size bed and two single beds. I have stayed in cities like Coimbatore, Dehra Dun, Jammu, Patna and many others for similar rates in well maintained properties. The outlook for hospitality in India as such wears a glim look and with increasing inventory and competition, not to forget the choices that customers make, the pricing is aggressive at most of the properties. This is where ancillary income to Hotels are helping them.

Cappucino

Most of the hotels have in-house restaurants, mainly to cater to resident guests. Many of them advertise these restaurants quite heavily, thereby attracting visitors through the year irrespective of peak season or otherwise for room occupancy. While this practice has been there for long, its quite evident these days with a number of hotels including some premium Hotel chains advertising in the media. What caught my attention recently  was an ad (displayed above), by ITC Hotels, one of India’s largest companies in the hospitality space for their Cappuccino Restaurant at the erstwhile Park Sheraton (in Chennai) . They have advertised buffet options with prices! Do those patrons who visit these places really care for the price? I mean – everyone does. But then, do people care what the final bill is gonna be when they visit star rated hotels and restaurants? I really doubt. Restaurant incomes are an important source of revenue for Hotels. They contribute anywhere between 7-25% of total sales depending on how well these restaurants are positioned and popularised. Some of the restaurants in these hotels are even Michelin-rated – a rating by the Vehicle Tyres powerhouse Michelin which grades eating joints across the world and shares in a report that is published annually.

Suggested Reading: Franchising

Stand-alone restaurants are doing their best too, to woo potential customers. They advertise in leading newspapers regularly to attract attention and over a period of time become destinations. In some cases, they are located within hotels and Malls and in many cases they are located on High Streets. User reviews in sites and apps such as Trip Advisor, Zomato, Burrp! etc. help them gain more traction. Chains like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Subway and Café Coffee Day advertise across the media regularly to pull customers to their outlets and many of them even offer complimentary WiFi as a hook to retain them.

Suggested Reading: Does Free Wifi help?

With inflation leading to peak rates of food items, it is becoming impossible to middle class families to venture out eating outside. But the upper-middle class seems to be slightly more insulated, fuelling the needs of these restaurants. While premium hotels and restaurants promise great food (quality) and a wonderful ambience, consistency is key. To retain existing customers and to attract newer ones. If you are planning a visit to a nearby restaurant this weekend, flip through the pages of newspapers or mobile apps and you may be in for a surprise at a hotel nearby you! Happy Dining…

Suggested Reading: Food Inflation

18 September, 2012

The Retail FDI brouhaha!

 

Best Price Ludhiana

Popular Media is in full force discussing the pros and cons of opening up FDI in multi-brand Retail, announced by the Manmohan Singh led Union Government of India on 14 Sep. 2012. Finally, it happened. Rather, it had to. On 9 Jan 2012, the same Government allowed 100% FDI in Single Brand Retail, acting as a precursor and paving the way for the current policy decision. The UPA Alliance which leads a multi-party coalition Government has finally had the spine to push this through, alienating some of its own partners putting its Government in jeopardy. With the current policy in place, it means that multi-national Retailers such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Tesco and their likes can invest in India on their own as well as in Joint Ventures with Indian partners or Business Houses. But, there is a catch. FDI in Retail has been made a State Subject which means that each State has to provide an approval for each partnership that is proposed and to be allowed to be operated within its precincts. This is a bit absurd, to say the least. The policy states that over 30% of input must be locally sourced, which in my opinion is a very good thing for Indian traders and businessmen.

(Suggested Reading: Starbucks in India)

So, lets see what’s in store for consumers with multi-brand FDI in Retail;

Pricing

By allowing FDI in Multi-brand Retail, the end consumer is expected to get better pricing for most products. In case of Agri-products, even the Farmers are expected to command a better pricing since they would be dealing directly with the Retailers. Since these Retailers purchase large quantities of products from FMCG companies directly, they would be able to get better margins and would thereby pass them on to Consumers. This is largely in case of Grocery Retailing. It would be similar in Electronics Retail too. Fashion Retailers who run a chain of stores would be able to procure their merchandise at better rates from manufacturers and would again pass on the benefits to their customers. This is one important area where everyone gains!

Assortment

At the moment, products manufactured / produced in one part of the country are not available in many other places. This is mainly because of Supply Chain Constraints. Multinational Retailers don’t just bring big bucks, but also the knowledge and know-how of how to do things better. This, would be an important part of the proposed Retail expansion of Organized Retail, with traders getting more scope for their products. Customers will get a wider variety and range than before which will throw open new options and opportunities for consumption.

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Generate Employment

Retail trade as a whole employs about 8% of the population in the country, directly and indirectly. These people are paid a fixed amount as compensation and do not benefit with other Government schemes such as Pension Fund, Provident fund, Employee State Insurance, Gratuity, etc. Modern Retail already provides most of these benefits to its staff. With more and more Organized Retail Stores opening up, it is expected to generate higher employment across the country.

(Suggested Reading: Retail Staffing)

Credit availability

One of the popular qualms is that the neighborhood Kirana provides free credit which the Organized players may not be able to and would hence lose out on. This is incorrect. Spending through credit/debit cards has grown over 6 times in the past decade within Modern Retail. Customers are happy to swipe their cards even for smaller transactions, more for ease than anything. Retailers like Shoppers Stop and Big Bazaar have co-branded cards, thus exciting customers with higher reward points for purchases.

Recreational Spaces

Modern Retail is not just about shopping in a comfortable environment but also includes a lot of fun and entertainment for families. These large stores have F&B facilities, gaming zones, etc. where children can unwind while parents are shopping. It is also an excuse for families to go window-shopping and end up buying something or the other!

And here is why a few segments of the people are against it;

Kiranas would shut-shop

The oft-heard uproar is that Kiranas would shut-shop due to the emergence of big-box multi-national Retailers. This is untrue. Kiranas have their basics right, starting with Location, Pricing, Assortment, Credit to Customers, to name a few. Large Retailers take time to crack even some of these points. Having present in India for over a decade, Domestic Retailers such as Foodworld, Spencers, Reliance Fresh, More, etc.  haven’t got their act correct, I would say. If they have a good location, then their pricing is (obviously) not so competitive and even if they attempt to, then they are in the Red. Merchandising is one of the most difficult paradigms of the Retail business coupled with severe Supply Chain constraints in the Indian scenario. Given these, it would be almost impossible for large Retailers to succeed, whether they are of Indian origin or International.

(Suggested Reading: Store Opening )

Secondly, most of the Kirana stores (Mom-and-Pop-Stores) are first generation entrepreneurs in their 40s and 50s who started off their own little corner stores during the 80s and  90s after Liberalization. Some of them include women, who run petty shops in neighborhoods to support their family, sometimes as a main source of income and at times as alternate, additional income. Their children, most of whom are undergoing good education are moving out of the family businesses. Many youngsters aspire to become Diploma holders, Engineers, MBAs, etc. across a wide range of subjects and are hence not looking forward to continue the family’s traditional Kirana business. As it is, many shop owners are not looking at continuing their petty businesses for the coming generations. So I wonder why this hue and cry.

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Many Kiranas have already embraced modern Retail. For example, Metro AG which set shop ten years ago in Bangalore now has half a dozen stores spread across the country. Most of its customers are traders and merchants who buy from Metro and sell to end-users (customers). Wal-Mart set up a JV with the Bharti Group a few years back and runs Cash & Carry Stores in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Its main focus is on Kiranas and Retailers to whom they sell stuff in tonnes! Even in big cities like Mumbai and Chennai, it is quite common to see Retailers shop at the likes of Reliance Mart and Big Bazaar, given the substantial savings.

Kiranas are a tough lot and represent the well-entrenched Indian Entrepreneurship and cannot be unseated so easily. Long Live Kiranas!

(Suggested Reading: David Vs. Goliath)

07 April, 2012

Music can convert more customers!

salon style

I asked him, “are there people in your store who have had a love-failure"??” and obviously he was confused. He called for his supervisor and I repeated my question. Both of them gave me a warm smile and declined that there wasn’t anything of that sort. So, why play such boring music of love-songs at a Hair Salon post noon?!? I quipped. He was quick to change the music and I told him that it wasn’t for me but for his employees too. This incident happened recently at a hair salon when I was out for my monthly activity. I have been a firm believer that “air play” or the music that you play at your retail store, irrespective of its format has an impact on the customers and their tendency to shop/consume more. And there is no standard laundry list of what kind of songs to be played across formats – these are learned over time and are specific to the history (of customer behaviour) and the geography (of the store’s location).

A salon must be playing peppy songs  most often. As it is, a hair cut or a similar activity is a reasonably boring one (and I specifically refer it only to men) while women seem to focus more on the job being done. The staff must be happy and cheerful all the time – after all, they promise to change the way one looks and this is an important thing that most Senior Managements at Retail companies give a miss. While they focus on clean and hygienic environments (which is a must in a salon), things such as mood-lighting and sound (read: music) is often ignored, though not intentionally. It could be different for various services within a Salon. For Ex., the music to be played while a hair-cut is being undertaken could be significantly different than when, say a body massage is being given. I was a month ago, outing at a Kerala Ayurvedic Massage centre, its more of a therapy than just a massage, I would say and to my surprise, there was no music! The whole place was smelling of essential oils, which seem to be suffocating at some stage. I did share my feedback with their front-office and they gave a lame reason – that the speaker wasn’t working. Hope these things get corrected.

Salon 1

For my new born child, I was looking for a cradle and visited many stores that stocked “Baby Products” in Chennai. Not one was  playing music! They could easily be selling music CDs and DVDs for kids of various age – though these are low-margin, low-value items, they increase the basket size without much effort. Mom and Me, the baby products and maternity store operated by Mahindra Retail was playing a DVD on their LCD screen which was located 15 feet above the ground. One had to look up all the way to see what was going on. Ofcourse, it was better to play something than nothing, I felt.

Saravana Stores, a regional Retailer based out of Chennai which has one of the highest footfalls into their million square feet stores recently was playing “Jam” by Michael Jackson, while most of their customers wouldn’t have even known the pop icon. India’s largest Hypermarket Retailer Big Bazaar had sometime ago tied up with a Radio station with national presence but which plays regional songs. Makes sense. Retailers need to talk the same language as the customer and create the mood for consuming more. Cafes and eateries such as Café Coffee Day, Gloria Jeans, Pizza hut, etc. typically play the latest hits while a fine-dine restaurant plays mellow music, usually instrumental such as a piano or piped instrument. Pubs and Bars, as always play music that is so loud that patrons have to speak at the top of their voice to be heard. Grocery stores may choose to play local music but not something that is very jazzy! Department Stores and Malls too play soft music most often. The moments of truth, irrespective of the retailer’s origin or market remains the same.

The power of air play is huge. Few Retailers have realised and used it well. Hope to see many more use them smartly – afterall, good music can aid in higher conversions!

31 January, 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

12 January, 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)

20 September, 2011

Alcohol and Consumers

According to a recent report by World Health Organization, alcohol use results in the death of 2.5 million people annually. Nearly 4% of all deaths are related to alcohol. Most alcohol-related deaths are caused by injuries, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and liver cirrhosis. Globally, 6.2% of all male deaths are related to alcohol, compared to 1.1% of female deaths. Worldwide, 3.2 lakh young people aged 15-29 years die annually from alcohol-related causes, resulting in 9% of all deaths in that age group. Alcohol raises the risk of as many as 60 different diseases, according to a recent study in the medical journal `Lancet'. Nearly 62.5 million people in India drink alcohol with per capita consumption being around four litres per adult per year. For every six men, one woman drinks alcohol in India. Over 40% of road crashes occur in India during the night, with one-third of them being due to drunk driving. It observes that India saw a robust increase in recorded adult per capita consumption of alcohol. When it came to only drinkers, the average per capita consumption of pure alcohol of a 15-year-old and above in India between 2003-05 was 22.25 litres (23.93 litres among men and 10.35 litres among women). Nearly 62.5 million people in India drink alcohol with per capita consumption being around four litres per adult per year. For every six men, one woman drinks alcohol in India. Over 40% of road crashes occur in India during the night, with one-third of them being due to drunk driving.

Actor Imran Khan had recently announced to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) at the Bombay High Court challenging the State Government’s proposal to ban “alcohol consumption” under the age of 25 years according to a recent news article in Times of India. The co-petitioner is his brother-in-law Vedant Malik, 22, who wants to "espouse the cause on behalf of youth below the age of 25 years", says the PIL. The respondents are the Maharashtra government, the secretary of the department of social justice and state excise commissioner. The PIL states that the government "seeks to impinge on the right of equality and personal liberty" of the youth, who are otherwise vested with the right to vote, marry, serve in the military, drive vehicles and enter into legal contracts. The PIL informs that legal drinking ages worldwide are usually 18 to 21. Incidentally, Maharashtra's and Delhi's drinking age limit of 25 is among the highest in the world, except for Maharashtra's Wardha district, where it is 30. The PIL states that the petitioners were surprised to find that the 25 drinking age limit was actually in force since September 26, 2005, but was not being implemented. "The petitioners were therefore under the bonafide belief that the age limit to apply for a liquor permit was 21 years and not 25 years,'' the PIL says. The petitioners then read news articles saying that the Maharashtra cabinet on June 1, 2011 introduced a de-addiction policy that said the legal drinking age for hard liquor was 25 and mild beer 21. They decided to challenge the higher drinking age and asked the department of social justice and empowerment and excise commissioner for the policy. They learnt that the policy was "only at a nascent stage of discussion and yet to be implemented.

I would say this is indeed a noble move had it been done by any other person than the said actor who played the role of an urban youth in his recent movie “Delhi Belly”, which was produced by his uncle and ace actor Aamir Khan. In the film, the actor and crew have professed and performed some of the most vulgar acts (some really meant only within closed doors) which even couples in their 30s (without their children) couldn’t fathom watching at the cinema! The fraternity and junta laughed off the whole episode, claimed and hailed the actor-uncle duo to have taken Indian cinema to global echelons! Neither the saffron brigade nor any mullah condemned or took them to the roads or to the court; no women’s panel took notice of such derogatory remarks in the film. A song featuring “chaste Delhi / national abuse” was reformulated in the soundtrack which went on to become a Chartbuster. Indeed, there was some criticism, but Aamir Khan himself appeared on Tv to justify this and said it was just a song, just a movie! And Hyundai Motor Corp. whose brand ambassador happens to be Shah Rukh Khan (apparently the two Khans are considered arch rivals and do not see eye-to-eye ) announced that it would sue the movie-makers due to a dialogue spelled in the film, where a modified “Hyundai Santro” is abused with the choicest derogatory words which goes “this looks like the outcome if a donkey had f****d a rickshaw!” The film grossed over INR 20 Crores during the opening weekend and was declared a super-hit at the Box-Office, an important attribute to commercial success!

Look who’s talking about social causes! And in a recent interview in Times of India, the actor says he is supporting the freedom of choice! Well, we live in a democratic set-up and each one of us is free to propose our likings and wishes. But a youth icon such as Imran Khan standing up for a frivolous cause such as this is rather disappointing.

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As consumers, we all have the right to choose what we want to buy and consume. In fact retailers like Spencer’s, Hypercity, SPAR, More, Total, star Bazaar and many more have separate sections within their stores that are dedicated to alcohol. At Airports, Duty Free Liquor and Tobacco is one of the fastest selling items. I remember way back in 2001, Spencer's stores in Chennai city would sell alcoholic beverages within a distant corner of the store, or rather abutting the main supermarket. Liquor was not part of monthly shopping baskets earlier, which has changed dramatically over the years. The typical 365 litre refrigerators have given way to larger capacity ones, thanks to the increasing consumption patterns of consumers. Today, there is a specific place allotted for wine, beer, soda and other beverages within the cooling equipment. Consumers have evolved and know what to drink and when to drink. most boutique Restaurants that have opened recently have liquor permits and serve alcohol (no one really checks the age). Even Pizza Hut started serving wine at some of its outlets which was later withdrawn due to poor response. While every one talks about “legal drinking age”, it is not implemented in its spirit.

The issue arises when unwanted propaganda such as this is promulgated. When the Government issued such a notice (in Maharashtra), not a single liquor company or a Retailer came forward with such a PIL. For obvious reasons. No one wants to be known supporting alcoholism. But the way the actor has done this doesn’t merit anyone other than him with some additional publicity which I am sure he could do without. Even if he had filed it as a “consumer”, his agency could have remained silent about it. (I am not even bringing his religion into the picture as this blog is not meant for discussing such purposes).

Consumers today are well aware of their rights with permissible laws (and outside). They are learned, educated and know what is really good for them and their families. Whether the PIL is granted or rejected or not, alcoholism is a peril that will continue to daunt the society unless managed well (by each one of us) with personal and social responsibility.

Cheers to Consumers.

15 May, 2011

Paribartan! Retail revival in West Bengal?

My initial happiness started worrying me after sometime – after all who wouldn’t want to achieve their Sales targets! When I was told earlier in the day that the store would close by 4pm, I was a bit happy as I could go home early. But that day, I stayed on, for I wanted to see the people’s leader who would be walking down Park Street with her followers. Yet another protest; yet another reason to bunk work, thus grinned Mr. Bannerjee, my senior colleague in his typical Bengali accent- not that he was complaining, but he was more concerned about reaching home which was at suburban north Calcutta since most taxi drivers would take off from work and those plying would demand double charges. Along with Musicworld, where I was the Operations manager 10 years ago, most other retail stores & F&B outlets along the stretch downed their shutters early due to a protest march organized by a relatively lesser known regional party, The Trinamool Congress. “So where is their leader”, I asked my colleague Sandeep Mallick. “There you see, that short lady in hawai slippers, she’s the one” he replied. I was stunned that such a simple looking person could lead a party and a few thousand followers –for her party as well as her protest march that particular day. I was more familiar with an erstwhile woman Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu where I came from, who would adorn more jewelry than that of a model who poses for Jewelry brands would until she vowed never to wear any ornaments after the ruling DMK put her behind the bars citing various scams. After 10 years, she is back in power today and is expected to run the state in a few days, hopefully more efficiently than the decade that passed by.

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Just a few months back (in 2001), the Communist Government had assumed power, this time with a new Chief Minister though, Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, after the octeganerian former CM Jyoti Basu relinquished the seat of power. Buddhadeb, over the next 10 years tried his best to bring reform and change the business landscape but the fundamentals of his party would not allow him to take brave steps too often. And the rest, as they say is History. Singur and Nandigram were bitter memories that the industry would like to forget. Prestigious projects moved out of the state due to government apathy and the worker’s lethargy. The overall mood in the Retail Industry which peaked all over the country in mid-2000s didn’t have much impact in the state, thanks to a workforce that quite didn’t enjoy working in the modern retail formats. Though money was good, many felt that the jobs were lowly and probably they deserved better. A typical middle class Bengali who reads atleast two newspapers every day, one in English and one in the local lingua, is quite updated with the latest within the Organized Retail set-up across the country. Recently, I was a speaker at the “East India Retail Forum”, organized by IMAGES Retail, India’s premier retail publication in Jan’11. There were over 100 retail honchos across the spectrum who attended the event and the mood was upbeat about the impending Retail transformation that’s on the anvil. Miracles are certain, they believed and I too did, given the slow but steady change in mindset that I had seen over the past year – on my first visit to Kolkata after 10 years since I moved in 2001, I wrote on my twitter (@shri611) “so much has changed, yet nothing much has actually changed here!” What I meant was while there were new high rises and a strong immigrant workforce that had moved in, the old-timers remain what they were, reluctant in some cases to change and a few even questioning why they should.

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All that is about to change thanks to the latest verdict in the state elections where the Trinamool Congress has won a 4/5th majority, ousting the Communist rule after 34 years. It was a shocker to see the outgoing Chief Minister, the Finance minister and many others losing their seats in their respective bastions. Just goes to show that the average Bengali was fed-up – and probably wants a change urgently. He deserves, that’s my belief too. I started my career in Kolkata, way back in June 2001 when I reached the Howrah station all alone, with four bags and loads of dreams, to build a successful professional career. Wasn’t sure if Retail was my cup of tea (or coffee, as I am responsible these days for increasing the café count for India’s largest coffee retailer) but I stayed on. I had just one friend, Hemanth Subramaniam, a former classmate at college who lived in Calcutta those days with his parents who came to pick me from the railway station. The city was over crowded by my Madrasi standards, I thought. And the city roads were congested and there wasn’t even a supermarket to buy toothpaste and shaving cream, I thought. But my first few days at Musicworld changed all my thoughts – that Retail was indeed where I would remain. My circle of friends and well wishes grew over time, so much so that I was hosted four farewell parties when I departed in just a year! 37 Chowringhee, a building that stands proudly, built during the British era was one of my favorite inspirations that housed the Corporate Office of ITC Ltd. at whose factory near Chennai my father toiled for over 30 years to build a family and careers of my sister and myself. I had a lot to give back to the city of joy, where the loner in me was treated every other weekend by someone or the other at Someplace Else or Flury’s, at Tantra or London Pub! During my recent visits and interactions with so many people including those from Government functions as well as those in private establishments, I see an urge, an immediate intention for embracing modern ideas, Organized Retail included.

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I am neither a political analyst such as those who feature in “We the People” or “Breaking at 9” nor a mediocre journalist who screams on Tv or writes sensational headlines in newspapers to grab attention – just a Retailer at heart, by profession and choice. Apart from Musicworld & Spencers from the home grown RPG Group, The Ambuja Group and Forum have built several malls in the state while national retailers including Café Coffee Day, The Future Group (Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, Home Town, Brand Factory), Shoppers Stop, Reliance Retail, PVR Cinemas, Pizza Hut, KFC and many others are all expanding rapidly across the state. A Central Mall is expected to open in Kolkata soon! What I look forward is just a better Retail scenario – one that the Bengali deserves and one which can change their lives and lifestyle quite well. Hoping for a “Paribartan” that would put Kolkata on top in the Indian Retail Map in times to come.

07 March, 2011

Retailers and Social Media – setting new trends

Everybody who is somebody in Marketing is today craving about the power of Social Media on consumers. I have been hooked onto this upcoming (or is it already there) medium for over two years now, but am yet to tap the full potential, both in terms of knowledge gain as well as ways of improving business. While most of the self-claimed Social Media Gurus believe that usage of a social platform such as Twitter or Facebook itself is Social Media marketing, it really isn't. At least for Retailers and Brands. Its about how the medium is used to connect to consumers and to receive feedback from them, rather than passing communication / message such as promotions and offers. While I have been thinking of writing a column on this topic for quite long (apologies to followers of this column and even those who don’t, for not being around for more than eight weeks due to other predicaments) I read something a while ago which prompted me to discuss this topic. Feedback, as always most welcome.



Ralph Lauren, the marquee Luxury brand in all senses has launched a heavily interactive iPad app to promote its RLX (Ralph Lauren Extreme) sportswear line. The photo and animation-rich app, the first the publicly-traded fashion company has created for the iPad, invites users to perform different actions that underline the apparel line’s various properties. Users can use their fingers to paint in color on a black-and-white photograph (highlighting the collection’s colorful palette), tap to freeze model-athletes in various acrobatic poses (conveying agility) and blow into their iPad’s microphone to demonstrate the “light-as-air” fabrics, among other things. It utilizes much of what the device has to offer: its built-in accelerometer, digital compass, assisted GPS and multi-touch capabilities. Users can shop the collection within the app, share images via Facebook and e-mail, and save images to their photo library. Like most fashion apps, the vast majority of users will open it once and never again — but that appears to serve Ralph Lauren’s purposes well enough, given that the app promotes a single collection.

What started more as a mere communication (internet advertising followed by emailers a decade ago) evolved into a multi-million audience with the social media networks springing up by the day. Facebook, (valued at $82.9 Billion) one of the earliest entrants in the social networking space and a darling of the masses seems to lead the pack with tons of brands vying for mind space on the digital platform. It changed the way brands communicated – from one-way “take-it or ignore” communication to two way "compulsive interactivity". Brands are not just telling about themselves to their audience but also listening - started asking them what they wanted, what they liked and didn't. Specific to India, Shoppers Stop, Pantaloons, Wills Lifestyle, Vero Moda, Adidas & Nike are prominent in the apparel space; Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Hard Rock Café, Dominos and Taco Bell in the QSR space; Café Coffee Day & Barista as the two prominent café chains; and there are even malls such as Inorbit and Phoenix Mills that have their own community space! All these pages are updated frequently, ranging from twice a week to thrice a day, depending on the level of engagement that a brand wants to have.

Then came Twitter –a social networking and microblogging site where the user can post messages upto 140 characters (only), has followers and can follow other users as well. While this is mainly considered for personal networking and news updates due to the frequency of postings every day (over 65 million tweets a day according to Wiki), brands are vying to be heard in this space too. Many of them who are on Facebook double up their efforts to communicate through Twitter, while the popularity of it is not even half of that of Facebook which has over 500 million users!

Another big trend these days is the emergence of Foursquare, a location based social networking tool that allows the user to invite his or her friends; once connected, the user needs to check-in using the app (available for Android devices, iPhone, Symbian and even Blackberry). Users virtually check-in to locations that are listed everytime the app is refreshed. The network of friends would get to know the whereabouts of each other, except that one should be careful in his or her judgment before inviting the Spouse or Boss into the network, for they may want to keep them away from such coveted information! Globally, many brands have tagged themselves with Foursquare and offer specials to “Mayors” (a user becomes a Mayor with maximum check-ins in the past 60 days; and there can be only one user as Mayor everyday), ranging from a dollar off on a Frappucino at Starbucks to getting free bread sticks at participating Pizza Hut outlets in the US. “We want to give our customers an incentive to return to their favourite Pizza Hut as often as possible,” says Chris Fuller, Director of social media at Pizza Hut, Dallas. “This is a fun, interactive way to fuel customer loyalty.  “Mobile tools and social media have become part of the daily routines of our customers,” he said. “They get their news, share their stories and, yes, order pizza from their phones without ever placing a call.  

Cafe Coffee Day is the first Indian brand to go live on Foursquare. On your third check-in at CCD (applicable only for Bangalore for now), you will get a 15% discount. And if you are the Mayor, CCD will serve you a free coffee and a 20% discount on every 3rd check-in. Aside, Cafe Coffee Day is the first Indian brand on Foursquare to have their own Brand PageWith 7 out of 10 phones being sold in metros already being smartphones and getting less expensive (I wouldn’t say cheaper!) by the day, between Rs. 7,000 – Rs. 9,000 for a decent entry level one all the way upto super smartphones and tablets averaging Rs. 30,000, these apps will only become more popular and user friendly. Its up to the Retailers and Brands, how much they would like to involve themselves in this new media. After all, it doesn’t come easy and cheap – either it needs a dedicated in-house team or an outsourced one, either way requiring an in-depth knowledge about the medium. Time will tell, how well this media is used. Until then, stay connected with your favorite brands and ofcourse, your's truly.

28 March, 2010

Pay online and gain rewards!

Many of us have been transacting online since the last few years and the size of this market has only been increasing. Most International and a few Domestic Banks provide Net-Banking facility at no additional cost to their customers and this means the customers can use their Debit/Credit cards to perform various transactions –to transfer funds to other accounts within and outside the customer’s own bank; to purchase financial products such as Fixed & Recurring Deposits, Insurance, Stocks, etc.; and of course, to shop! When I mean shop, one could buy almost anything that one desires – from groceries to stationery, cars to real estate properties. Needless to say, one needs to use his/her own prudence while shopping online – whether using a Debit or a Credit card as it is a natural tendency to spend as much as possible, given the various exciting promotions and offers that compel us to “consume” more. Internet payment security has been a great concern over the past years but that’s improving day by day with Banks and their payment gateway partners (third-parties who process the transactions on behalf of the bank’s customers) upgrading their back-end continuously, to ensure that the transactions are not spammed by malicious intentions.
Online shopping has been in existence since late 90s – with many Airlines and Online Travel Agents (OTAs) notably starting the trend. For the sellers, it was mere savings in their operating costs – there is no need for precious real estate and manpower to conduct these transactions; for consumers, it was saving time and effort, and of course, a better deal at the touch of a button. In India, Air Deccan (which was later taken over by Kingfisher Airlines) was among the first to popularize this trend. Over the years, many Retailers such as Shoppers Stop, Crossword, The Future Group, PVR Cinemas, etc have been using this potential in their favour. Then there are generic websites such as eBay and Amazon who have been pioneering this concept since the past decade, where one can purchase almost everything under the sun. Having said that, the size of the Online Shopping/transacting market is not yet very big in India. There are various reasons that one could find that deter people from transacting online, security being a major one but most importantly, it is the “habit” or the lack of it. I know many of my friends who have been living in the US or Europe who shop online for as many products – from hand wash liquids to food items to shirts and ties. That’s because of previous experiences and yes, standardization of products (including Quality and Delivery). I remember when I was at my friends’ place in Hong Kong last year we called and ordered full-fledged meals for three days from a small time Indian Restaurant – order placed, payment done instantly online and food delivered in less than 30 minutes. So, if it can work well in HKG, so be it in BLR as well!


While retailers have been encouraging consumers to shop online more often, Banks and credit card issuers have been doing their bit too. One of the most popular ones in recent times is the initiative by Visa. Visa has its own website aptly named visabillpay.com and the Indian version called visabillpay.in. One can register and pay bills online instantly across various service providers such as Regional Electricity Boards, Mobile and Telephone service providers, Insurance companies, etc. using all Banks’ cards which are issued by Visa. Since the payment gateway is managed by Visa, security factors seem to be well in place. Apart from providing the bank login details, one needs to provide the authentication grid details as well – three out of the ten two-digit numbers that are behind every card issued (recently) must be keyed in to complete the process. Visa, on its part takes special initiatives from time to time. When I had registered two years ago, they had a simple yet effective and compulsive scheme – when a bill is paid through the website, the user gets a 5% cash back subject to a maximum of Rs. 50 per transaction. Recently, they have come up with more exciting offers and have been repeatedly announcing this through the Print Media (across various national publications). As a limited period offer, for every five bills that are paid through the website, the user receives a Gift Voucher from PVR Cinemas. And for every bill worth Rs. 800 or more that is paid through the website, the user receives a Gift voucher worth Rs. 150 from Pizza Hut.And there are some other exciting offers too... 

There have been many programs in the past to reward customer loyalty. But this is a bit different. Needless to say, this is among the brilliant campaigns that I have seen in the past few days when Retailers have tried every trick in the book to woo consumers. In this case, a very smart move by PVR and Pizza Hut! While it is bit more cumbersome in the case of the cinema, the pizza idea seems better. The consumption cycle is not just faster, but obviously the upside sales potential is higher. A family of four would order for atleast Rs. 300-400 during one purchase and the upside value is the hook. In case of PVR too, consumers would visit the cinema, redeem tickets against the voucher but buy food and beverage within the auditorium. That’s again a big opportunity.

In both the cases, chances that first-timers would get tempted are high. If someone has never tried paying online, then probably he would, with the comfort of paying bills online, from his desktop or PDA. In case the customer has never visited a PVR or has never ordered a pizza, then that’s again a great attempt to get them acclimatized to a new way of watching movie or dining.

Whichever way, the more you spend, the more you earn rewards. So, go pay! And get rewarded instantly. 

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...