Showing posts with label Retailers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retailers. Show all posts

10 April, 2019

Retailers and Jet Airways – Cross Learnings

I had just started flying frequently from Bangalore to Delhi for monthly meetings and the preferred choice those days was Jet Airways (9W). Their on-board service was perhaps the best in class (the only comparison was the erstwhile Indian Airlines) and a few years later, maybe Kingfisher. Even with the popularity of the red-dress stewards with mini-skirts that attracted millions of flyers (forget not those plastic Kingfisher branded earphones), the Corporate Traveller still preferred 9W. There were many reasons for this choice, despite their pricing being 7-9% higher than Kingfisher and almost 1.5 times of Indigo and Spicejet in the later years. 


The Jet Airways – Citibank co-branded Credit Card was a must have on our wallets in the later part of the Millennium. The card provided several intrinsic benefits – including Lounge access at Airports as well as shopping and dining benefits across the country. The 5 Tier membership on Jet Privilege, among India’s largest Loyalty Program was similar to the Snakes & Ladder game, that travellers had to cautiously fly a designated number of flights in a quarter to retain their Membership Tiers. And how can I forget the uncountable “upgrades” I have enjoyed on 9W from Economy to Business to even First Class! 

Move over Kingfisher, which many Corporate Travellers thought were more hype and publicity than 9W which had a very genuine care for travellers. Be it the highly curated gourmet food menu even on Economy Class, Coat hangers for Business Travellers and an overall, relaxed travel experience for toddlers to Senior Citizens, these were a few things that attracted passengers until a few years ago. Around a decade back, 9W acquired Sahara Airlines only to burn out too soon, even as the low-cost airlines were matching or lowering air fares what Sahara offered. And after the merger completed, 9W continued to be a premier airline, some even calling it elitist. It was common to see celebrities, cricketers, reputed Business Leaders and many more socially popular people on board 9W. Even without the selfie melees those days, it was nice interacting with such personalities often on board or at the 9W Lounges. 


As I write this piece, I just finished reading that SBI which is managing the debt ridden airline’s takeover has further tightened the norms for a possible suitor even as travel agent-turned India’s most respected Aviator and business tycoon Mr. Naresh Goyal resigned from the Board recently. I am able to already see similar comparisons between 9W (and to some extent Kingfisher as well) and Modern Retailers, for they both cater to similar consumer segments. I have hardly seen traditional Kirana stores go out of business, save for financial mismanagement or not keeping in tune with changing times. In some cases, the next-gen of these Kiranas despise to take over the business calling them traditional, boring and uninteresting. 

But we have seen the meteoric rise and abysmal fall of so many Retailers, Shopping Centres and Malls. If we see what’s in common with those who downed shutters or ones that don’t have the grease to keep them up – it’s all about financial prudence, business stability and focussing on the core. For example, 9W lowered its fare over time to compete with the likes of cost-efficient airlines like Go Air. Being an International Airline and also having a Government norm to fly to far off destinations including Tier 2 towns, the airline was making losses for every nautical mile it flew in some cases. Sounds similar to many of our Retailers selling at cost or lower, a few or more SKUs which they call “Loss Leaders” and what is expected to drive footfalls who will eventually end up buying high-margin products. How I wish this dream was fulfilled. 


Most recently, 9W removed complimentary meals on board for the first time in it’s illustrious history which made even the most hopeless 9W Fan and Corporate Traveller to start whining, writing a fitting Obit for the airline on social media. Instead of upping its value proposition, the airline took to removing services, akin to how Retailers cut down support staff or reduce/switch off air-conditioning in the Retail Stores and Malls to reduce operating costs. In-flight Retail, which is a proven big-billion business worldwide remains largely untapped as well.  All is not over for 9W, yet. I am quite confident that the airline will find a new suitor who will continue and also improve the brand’s legacy with passenger growth touching double digits the last few years. Also, the Government wouldn’t let another airline fail, for it impacts the image of the country at large. However, Retailers may not be that lucky. A private Retail Company is not of national importance, yet – the way Americans eulogised Walmart & Starbucks. We see store openings and closures commonly these days. Ask me about E-Commerce players losing money for every transaction – from selling mobile phones to a portion of Roti or Dosa – well, they all hope that consumers will get used to convenience. Well. 

04 July, 2018

SS EOSS 2018 is a full house

After a long time, I went shopping. Once again, of course during EOSS popularly known as End of Season Sale which usually occurs twice a year after each season is over (SS – Spring Summer & AW - Autumn Winter). I recall, during my days at Benetton in 2004, there were not more than 3-4 weeks of EOSS, which would begin right after Valentine’s Day (late-Feb) & just before Ganesh Chathurthi (July). There would be a frenzy among Customers to get the best merchandise at lower prices during this time and the EOSS was a great crowd puller. A number of first time customers would turn up at the stores, those who’ve otherwise not been the Brand’s patrons earlier. They would engage with the Brand, the Staff, take Trials and purchase. If they liked what they wore, they would come back and buy again, even at full prices. Therefore, EOSS was a great tool to induce first time buyers (of a Brand).

Things started changing slowly, especially between 2006-2012 during the Retail explosion pan-India with over 300 Malls opening simultaneously across the country. What was supposed to work “for” the Retailers and Brands worked “against” them. Let me give a perspective;

Let’s say, Brand A had 3 -5 stores per Metro (around 2006) and a small presence in 1-2 Department stores. Circa 2012, the same Brand had a dozen or more stores plus larger counters at various Department stores in the city. Add to this, so many International, Domestic & Regional Brands started exploding the retail scenario in the country with total shopping space quadrupling every two years. 


All of a sudden, customers had too much choice, and at better price points. If a (Male) Customer had 4 brands to choose for Formalwear earlier, there were atleast 20+ brands in the same space now. Similarly, for casualwear & sportswear while new categories like fitness & lounge wear were created.

Meanwhile, the Bansals were building E-Commerce websites which offered clothes and accessories at half the price (like books!) and they called it disruption. It was indeed, that Customers could shop from their desks or sofas – just that a few Brand Managers got it all wrong. While pushing unsold merchandise to e-commerce (at discounts), thanks to a general slowdown in Retail Sales, even fresh Merchandise were being sold at lower prices than at stores. Mall Owners were gasping, feeling high and dry with footfalls barely hitting the precincts during the weekdays and largely window shopping over the weekends. Everyone was talking E-Commerce. So many Brands built their own websites while most of them who wanted an online presence aligned with E-commerce Marketplaces like Myntra & Jabong, as well as horizontal players like Flipkart & Amazon. 

As an ecosystem, we (Retailers) pampered Customers to shop online, return if they didn’t like what they bought, get a 100% refund if they deemed fit and encouraged them with a variety of discounts. This became a daily habit and more Brand Managers were getting intrigued with this incredible opportunity. All along, many Retailers missed meeting Customer Expectations at the Retail Outlets. Customer Engagement was negligible, Customer Service levels were dropping and the Staff were getting impatient not being able to earn more, thanks to a fall in their Incentives which was directly linked to lower Sales, thanks to fewer footfalls. The cookie crumbled. Many Brands shrunk their operations, some exited less important markets and a few downed their shutters. 


It’s been reasonably slow the last 4 seasons for most Retailers. However, I saw something incredible last weekend at one of India’s largest Department Stores. Customers were patiently waiting in a long queue to bill their products which took an average 20 mins during peak hours. Add to this, they have already spent quite some time trying out their outfits at the mobile trial rooms set-up. I was convinced, Customers haven’t shunned Offline Retail. They will come back to the stores when they see “value” for what they buy coupled with fantastic / personalised service. Ofcourse they are here for discounts right now, but then, the same discount is available on their Mobile Apps. So why did they come? Think.

21 June, 2018

Is Consumer Loyalty Dead?

Commencing this weekend (23 June), almost all Fashion Brands in India will go on EOSS – End of Season Sale, a biennial activity that has been witnessing a higher share of annual sales. When I used to work for Benetton as Area Manager in 2004, things were different. There used to be EOSS Twice a year followed by the “seasons” as they are called, viz., “Spring Summer (SS)” and “Autumn Winter (AW)”. EOSS would usually start after Valentine’s Day in the hope that shoppers would still shop at full price for the big day to impress their dear ones. And the next EOSS would occur after Schools and Colleges have reopened, just ahead of the Festival season that usually begins from August onwards. Slowly, things started changing, rather realigning to Global trends. Many international brands had to match their Global Fashion Calendar and the year-end Christmas Sales, so the EOSS was pushed to December & January and accordingly the next EOSS moved earlier to end-June. And that’s the current trend now.


From Apparel Department Stores to Mono Brands, almost all Brands try to exhaust their Stocks during the EOSS. Interestingly, 15 years back, EOSS was restricted to a little less than 3-4 weeks. However, now it has moved to 6-8 weeks. There are many reasons that could be attributed to this;

  • There is limited seasonality these days, in a sense Customers shop all through the year compared to “Occasion-based Shopping” such as for festivals, wedding season, special occasions etc. So, while the lean periods through the year have more or less flattened, the demand spread has also evened out
  • Ever since the 2008 Economic Crash worldwide, Customers have become wary of spending high on products which would eventually be available at a lower price in a few weeks (sic). While India saw a boom in Mall culture between 2009-2014, the sheer number of Brands and their availability all through the year have been a cake for the Customers with easier accessibility 365 days
  • While I am not a big fan of “E-Commerce killed Offline” theory, it is a fact that there has been a reasonable impact for fashion brands, especially. This is mainly because the unsold Inventory were pushed to their digital vertical by Brands to liquidate the stocks and over time, the likes of Jabong and Myntra have become more of “Factory Outlets” where discounted Merchandise are available, always. It is no wonder that the share of products which are on Full Price on such Ecommerce Marketplaces is relatively low compared to those on Discounts. Actually, this is applicable for all categories
  • Department Stores offer a larger “Discount Pie” compared to the Mono Brands, given that most of them operate on a “Buy and Sell” model with no stock returns to the Brands. Therefore, in an effort to reduce the impact of their exposure to unsold Inventory, Department Stores offer aggressive discounts & promotions to ensure they clear old stocks as much as possible. 
So, with all the above factors taken in to account, I wonder at times, is there “Brand Loyalty” left anymore especially for the Fashion Brands?


When was the last time, You – the Reader of this Article, bought the same Brand of Apparel or Footwear or Watch or Sunglasses? Are you wearing now the same Brand that you wore yesterday? If two Brands are offering similar discounts during EOSS (or even at full price), would you buy a particular Brand? If so, then why?

So, the responses could be very subjective and suits each one of our needs. 

Honestly, I do not see Consumers clinging on to any particular Brand and I attribute it to two reasons – variety offered by over Top 500 Indian and International Brands (and Labels) across products categories from Perfumes to Casual wear, formal shoes, running shoes and beyond. 

Are you rewarding your Loyal Customers just with just Loyalty Points, Sale Previews and price-offs? Is this going to be sustainable at all in the long term? 

How would you retain them for longer – LTV as they say, Life Time Value (sic)?

10 June, 2018

What’s in a name?


Is naming hotels after castes illegal, or will it amount to casteism? No, said the Madurai branch of the Madras high court, terming it ‘commercial speech and holding that there was nothing wrong in a Trichy hotel calling itself ‘Sri Krishna Iyyar Traditional Bramanal Café’.

About four and half years ago, several Periyar Dravida Kazhagam members tried to deface the hotel’s name board and were arrested and jailed for 22 days before being released on bail. 
Quashing the criminal cases against 112 people, Justice G R Swaminathan pointed out the ‘sheer hypocrisy’ of the petitioners as they had not showed defiance against similar entities elsewhere. “In Madurai, where this bench is situated, there are hotels named after castes and communities. ‘Konar Mess’ and ‘Mudaliyar Idly Kadai’ are well-known instances. Speaking for myself, I used to regularly go to ‘Reddiyar Mess’ at Pondicherry for lunch during my college days,” said Justice Swaminathan.


It is the constitutional right of the proprietor of a hotel to name it after a caste or community, he said, adding: “Unless untouchability is practised or only persons from that caste are allowed entry, nothing is illegal in it.”

Much has been discussed about the religious and caste identities of Retailers in India. I am told this segregation exists, even in developed countries between people of various religious identities. We still see people of certain religious identities in India not shopping at outlets run by those of other communities. In one instance, I learned that a Retailer had to shut the store in a town because the customers there felt uneasy while the jewellery they purchased were being delivered in their hands by those of a certain community, which they felt was offensive. This was in the year 2016.

The reason I am writing this article is because there is an unusual discomfort among the citizens of India, with mindless accusations drawn upon each other thanks to the hidden agenda of politicians. In many cases, the whole thing is vicious. Retailers take advantage of Politicians from their caste and they help the Politicians in turn to win subsequent elections. There are instances where people of various ideologies fight among each other and hence boycott certain Retailers. 


It is common to see those of non-Hindu community make flower garlands outside Temples for Hindu Gods and I have personally seen this till date in areas like Mylapore & Triplicane. Neither do Customers have a qualm about the same nor does God ever came in some devotee’s dream and told them to boycott those from other religions selling flowers that decorate HIM.

In my own journey of 21 years in Organised Retail, I have personally never segregated a customer based on their race or religion. In fact, I always say that it is from the money the Customer pays us for the products or services that we feed our own families. So, where is the question of religion coming here? This realisation is very important. Especially in the current situation. I guess Retailers (and people at large) must rise above the growing polarisation thrust upon us by fringe elements and a few politicians for our own good. For we cannot expect that this trend will take us anywhere forward. No way.

19 October, 2017

Deepavali Retail Sales – Less Fire, more Smoke


The week leading up to Deepavali was perhaps the most exciting times for Retailers. From Apparel to Consumer Durables, Motor cycles to Cars, people would flock to Retail Stores with their savings of the year. The period around Deepavali, which normally comes in the latter half of October or early November and the entire 3rd Quarter of a financial Year would contribute over 50% of Retail Sales for certain categories like Television sets, Refrigerators, Washing Machines etc. This was the trend through the 90s and the new Millennium.

Cut to mid-2000s, the evolution of Mall culture in India has been rapid, with over 1,000 functional shopping centers across the country. For every 3 new malls that open, 1 perishes and the trend is worse in certain cities, which were over-hyped by the Real Estate fraternity. The good part of Malls is that they provide customers 365-day access to regional, domestic and international brands. The footfalls used to be far higher in Malls a decade back than today – in act, today it has halved on an average to say the least. Since the prevalence of E-Commerce over the past 5 years, there has been all round the year discount on Electronics and Apparel which means customers are shopping more online than before, while the overall market growth has been tepid with Organized Retail registering a CAGR of 6-7% over the past few years. After MRP adjustment due to Inflation, there is hardly any positivity on the bottom-line numbers and Retailers have been struggling over the past few years. The Balance sheet has been strained a lot and to keep the monthly and quarterly Sales numbers looking up, Retailers have been offering various incentives to Customers all through the year.


The fight-back from Offline Retailers against Online Retailers has been merely on the price front which E-tailers have been managing all the while thanks to Wall Street funding in billions in the sector in India. That no E-Commerce company has been profitable in a decade (almost) nor have they been sold / acquired at a premium says a story that’s still unfolding.

So I set out this Deepavali to various retail stores to see what’s brewing and how the market is operating. The Offline Retailers are a worried lot. Fewer people are coming to their stores and even fewer are actually shopping. The bill values have halved in 5 years with customers picking lesser number of garments per bill. Consumer Durables retail is even worse with round the year launch of new models, availability across modern retail chains and low prices through the year. The best was saved for electronics, perhaps. I walked in to a retailer of mobile phones and enquired for an iPad. To my shock and surprise, he suggested I buy it online since the prices are far lower than his procurement prices.


Deepavali Retail Sales 2017 has been more smoke than fire, I guess. Local Retailers have taken full page Ads making Vinit Jain & Co. richer by a few hundred crores but the desired result is obvious that it has not translated in to incremental Sales. Smaller Retailers, with less than 3 shops are even more worried due to liquidity, cash crunch and rising debts. I never imagined that Retail would see such a gloomy period, but this is only getting more real. 

04 April, 2017

C for Conversion (Footfalls to Customers)

One of the biggest challenges for Retailers is customer conversion. In large formats such as Malls, Department Stores & Hypermarkets, the opportunity is huge but in reality the conversion rates are quite poor. It’s a completely different story at supermarkets and fashion retail stores. The conversion in E-Commerce is a completely different effort altogether. In this article, we explore various opportunities for Retailers to engage with customers for better conversions.


Drive footfalls
One of the most important things for a Retailer is to drive footfalls in to their store, no matter if they are located on a high street or a shopping complex such as a Mall. This could be done through creating interesting visual displays on the shop front, attractive shopping offers, images of brand ambassadors, new launches of products (and services), “Happy hour” shopping boards, to name a few. The key here is to drive footfalls in to the store and leave the Conversion to the shop staff, which is of course, easier said than done. Retailers should look at various ways through driving more and more potential customers to the store as well as get back past customers to shop repeatedly with them. In E-Commerce, potential customers leave a digital footprint and most of them do not know that, however e-tailers follow the trail and repeatedly reach the said potential customers through various ways such as Re-Marketing through Google & Facebook. You may wonder how does the same product that you saw a few days back on a popular website still shows up on your Facebook screen – this is it. Indeed, its eerie that our digital footprint is captured, but hey, when you get a product for free, you are the product, remember!

Tie-Ups with other Retailers
Many times, Retailers collaborate with each other and co-promote their products and services. For Ex., when I launched my Hyperlocal venture Oyethere.com, we gave away free vouchers for beauty treatments from Naturals Salon, India’s largest Salon chain along with each purchase. At times, the Gift Voucher value was the same as the shopping value of customers and they were really glad that they actually got back their money back. During Diwali 2016, a clutch of Retailers in Chennai got together and created Chennai Shopping Festival where more than 300 retail stores participated and promoted the event driving footfalls to each other’s stores. It is quite common to see larger international properties such as Dubai Shopping Festival, Singapore/HKG Shopping Festival and so on where Retailers come together and distribute store traffic to each other. Ecommerce giants like Snapdeal create Shopping Days which bring together thousands of retailers together and offer best deals to customers.


In-store Experience
Once the potential customers enter the retail store, that is where the magic of converting passers by to customers lies. Through store props, product displays and discounts or promotions, Retailers encourage customers to buy the products or services then and there. It is important to remember that the conversion period is very limited since customers might be in a hurry or may lose interest if the offering is not attractive. Therefore it is important to ensure Customer Conversion efforts are looked into carefully and continually by Retailers.

23 October, 2016

UDAN - a A Flight for Retailers

If the Modi Government has its way, it will make the real common man to fly. No kidding. With it's ambitious UDAN - Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (Let the common man fly) which is a rehash of the regional air connectivity proposed by the UPA Governments but with a lot more incentives to Airlines and of course flyers. The fare for a one hour flight is capped at Rs. 2,500 adjusted to inflation. Whether the one hour is block time or flying time is yet to be clarified. And many other things too. If technical details about UDAN interest you, read this column written by The Flying Engineer here.

India has over 450 airstrips/airports that were developed and built during the WW 1 & WW 2 by the British for strategic purposes. How many of you may know, unless you are from surrounding areas that we have airports in most obscure locations that one would have never thought of, such as Vellore and Salem (Tamil Nadu), Kadappa (Andhra), Gubarga (Karnataka), Raxaul & Muzaffarpur (Bihar) and so on. Most of these lay defunct with AAI not having funds to develop them or Airlines ready to ply there for various reasons. Such airports also include the ones at Pondicherry and Mysore, just to name two of them, which are very interesting tourist places but are not really well served. When local politicians announce their charter for upcoming elections, there is a mention of developing a local airport but the idea dies down after the man (or woman) occupies the high seat. Due to this, many thousands of people are forced to undertake alternate routes for travel by road and rail which are cumbersome and times taking as well. 


The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), which represents IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and GoAir, has written to the Union Civil Aviation Ministry terming the proposed regional connectivity levy as “illegal” and “in contravention to the Constitution of India.” It said the government is not empowered to levy a tax on airlines to fund the regional connectivity scheme under the Aircraft Act of 1934, quotes The Hindu. And their grouse is understandable. The Civil Aviation Ministry's guidelines already includes flying to certain far-off destinations across the country including the North East which doesn't attract flight loads and hence dampens the revenue prospects for the airlines. 

Given the scenario, as a former Airport Official and a Retailer, here is my recipe for a resounding success to this ambitious plan. Commercial Revenues can significantly reduce the burden on the Ministry as well as the Airlines, if they were allowed to be rightfully exploited. Worldwide, even the top airports such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Frankfurt boast more than a fourth of their revenues coming from non-aero revenues. This has been, mostly a well-planned strategy executed over the past 4 decades by these airports, given the opportunity to derive non-aero incomes, especially from the millions of passengers who fly everyday across the world.

It is common knowledge that the Terminal Building in a small airport such as Salem which would have probably two flights a day will mostly remain unused all day (and night) whilst occupying thousands of acres of land. One of the best ways to put to use the idle areas is by constructing relevant retail areas in these locations. Sounds weird? Let me explain.


Continuing the example of Salem, it is a prosperous city with the Salem Steel Plant employing thousands and also being a business hub due to its native industries in apparel manufacturing and of course agriculture. People here have the money and aspirations to fly, travel the country and the world. But in most cases, they have to visit Chennai to take a flight forward. While Coimbatore is closer, it doesn't operate flights to all parts of the world or even connect important hubs within India. It is also important to note that cities like Salem do not have a so called popular Mall with domestic and international Retailers, although there is quite a bit of shopping and dining that happens all over the city. Therefore, by commercialising the landslide (the city side) areas of this airport and allowing private partners to Build-Operate-Transfer the assets to the Government, it would probably be a double whammy. The biggest issue with airports today worldwide is the safety and security factors. But this would be well taken care because the commercial areas would be located in the landside and visitors (to the Mall) will have no access to the terminal building and beyond. Only passengers with valid boarding documents would be allowed inside the Terminal Building. 

At the same time, the Restaurants at the roof top of these buildings will provide a massive view of the runway and the city as well as the parked aircraft which is always a delight to watch. A part of the vacant land may also be used to build budget hotels, thus ensuring a 365 day use of the asset. 

While the idea sounds cool, the biggest issue here is execution. AAI runs most of the airports in India including Chennai and Kolkata and currently only four airports at Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi have been privatised. It is to be noted that these four airports contribute over 75% of the air-traffic in India and also act as hubs for international travel. Much has been written, discussed and debated about the perils of privatisation of Airports over the past decade. And the Government may take the best of what has been done in since 2006 regarding airport privatisation and perhaps move on. Alternately, the airport may continue to build and maintain the Terminal building, the Runway, the ATC Tower and other technical facilities while the other areas are handed over to private operators.


Overall, Retailers have a great opportunity to grab this opportunity. India's largest cafe chain Cafe Coffee Day put up its first cafe at HAL Airport at Bangalore in the late 90's and continues its focus in the airports and has a major presence all over the country. Many other retailers can take a cue out of this and explore other retail opportunities. Chennai Airport is out with its upcoming Retail Tender, details of which can be accessed here.

I hope to see Retailers take advantage of this sky-high (pun intended) opportunity and also be a part of this upcoming growth opportunity. 

17 October, 2016

Chennai Shopping Festival

For the first time, Retailers in Chennai have come together to create a one of its kind Retail Promotion. Titled "Chennai Shopping Festival" (CSF), this is organised by the Retailers and for the Retailers of Chennai. My own start-up Smiling Baby, a baby store that caters to the needs of new born kids upto six years is a member of Retailers Association of India (RAI), an Industry body that represents our needs and requirements to the Government and other bodies. Under the auspices of RAI, members of the organisation have come forward to create a marketing property which is CSF. The idea was rolled over on our WhatsApp group by a member, seconded by a few of us and actioned by all of us in just a week's time from start to finish. We have built a simple website that provides information about the various participating stores and their offers. Take a look here.


Over 30 leading Retailers from Chennai spread over 300 stores in the city including Viveks, Odyssey, Basics Life to name a few have come forward to join in this promotion. The big highlight of this promotion is Uber has come forward to ferry passengers to select Retail Store locations by using the code CSF150 (One Free ride worth Rs. 150 for new users!).

We at Smiling Baby also have a few interesting offers.


Smiling Baby is located at E-135, 6th Avenue, Besant Nagar, Chennai. Ph. 044-43507015 / 9176300015. Open All days from 10am - 9pm. Over 100 brands are available at competitive prices across categories such as Baby Care, nursing & Feeding, Maternity, Cosmetics, Baby Gear, Toys & Games, Apparel and Accessories. The store is the ONLY Destination Store for Medala, world's best mother care brand and houses the entire range of Medela products such as Breast Pumps, Maternity Hygiene, Feeding bottles and so on. One can also find world's other leading brands such as Chicco, Pigeon, Fisher Price, Himalaya, Johnson & Johnson and many others.

Once cam also shop online at www.smilibaby.in where the products will be delivered the same day or the next day with a Cash on Delivery option other than paying by Credit / Debit Cards at the place of delivery using mobile EDC machines.

Do spread the word; visit the website and click the "Get Offer" button so you receive an SMS to your mobile. Happy Festivities. Happy Shopping.

31 March, 2016

FDI in Ecommerce

The Govt. of India has recently affirmed through a circular through DIPP that Foreign Direct Investments in E-Commerce companies is allowed upto 100%. There is cheer among a few although there are clauses and causes for worry for many. The notification says that 100% FDI is allowed only in companies that operate as a Marketplace and not on those who operate with their own Inventory. 

Let me clarify this with some examples;

Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal and PayTM are the big Four Marketplaces in India and so is my own startup Oyethere.com. In these models, the company doesn’t own any inventory and merely facilitates the sale of products between Retailers/Sellers and Customers. Marketplaces bring together the above-mentioned two parties and complete the transaction. There are several variations here too. For instance, some marketplaces merely connect the buyer and seller (OLX) and the money is paid by the buyer to the seller directly. A majority of them including Flipkart and Oyethere.com collect the money from the customer while the Retailer provides a Bill/Invoice to the customer. The Marketplaces then repays the Retailer with its Sales value after deducting commission, if any. However, there is a catch for the big two companies, Flipkart & Amazon. Flipkart has a subsidiary company by the name WS Retail which is the largest seller on its own marketplace. Similarly, Amazon has a 49:51 JV with Cloudtail which is owned by Catamaran ventures, which is in turned owned by the family office of NR Narayanamurthy, Chairman, Infosys. These two companies could face issues because the DIPP Notification on FDI states that no more than 25% of Sales can be derived from one seller in the marketplace. This could be a potential spanner in the scheme of things until these large companies find a legal way out.


The most affected ones would include the likes of ZivaMe (lingerie), Urban Ladder (Furniture), Hopscotch (Baby Care) YepMe (Fashion) which has Shah Rukh Khan as Brand Ambassador and is also an Investor, Myntra (Fashion) owned by Flipkart and many other small and budding Ecommerce players who have already received foreign funding or are in the process of raising one. These companies are legally not allowed to receive FDI more than 49% which would never be possible.

Having said the above, the biggest beneficiaries would be the offline Retailers like Viveks Ltd. (Consumer Durables) who have already been selling online through Marketplaces. Oyethere.com also enables offline retailers like Café Coffee Day, India’s largest café chain with over 1,500 cafes across the country, Brown Tree (Organic Food), CeeDeeYes Supermarket, Smiling Baby (baby shop) and many others to sell their products online through its portal thereby facilitating the sale between the Retailer and consumer. I am personally meeting several Retailers to convince them to come on board our startup Oyethere.com and benefit from the incremental business opportunity without spending a dime on Marketing or Business Development.


There is a deterrent to Marketplaces as well – they are not allowed predatory pricing, meaning they cannot unduly discount the prices of products and ensure that the prices are merely competitive. This brings a lot of trust on marketplaces like Oyethere to Retailers because they are sure that they, and not the marketplaces, have a final say on the final pricing of products.

One of the promises of the Narendra Modi Government in their election mandate was that they would not allow 100% FDI in Multibrand Retail. And they have stuck to their guns. However, Ecommerce is seen by the Government as an enabler of trade and not a threat and hence this move which is expected to benefit very large marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart and newbie startups like Oyethere.com.

Look forward to some interesting days ahead in this space.

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