labels: marketing - general
What the consultants saynews
Anita Sharan
01 December 1999

consultants.GIF (1095 bytes)Over the past two years, global retail consultants have done fairly regular rounds of India, either because their companies have a presence here or because they are interested in having a presence here. Thanks to India's massive population and indications of better levels of disposable incomes side by side with awareness emerging, retail is being seen as a massive emerging opportunity.

Naturally, since retail revolutions took place in the more developed markets much earlier, the feeling is that India can draw from their experiences. Although, given India's own unique characteristics, expectations are that as the retail scenario evolves (surely rapidly now), the country will emerge with its own retail models as well.

Yet, say these global consultants, there are enough models out there in the developed part of the world that will find acceptance here, even though they may find some modifications to suit local needs better. The challenge, really, is in the re-invention.

There are certain formats these consultants feel can work in India:

  • small stores, with complex but efficient supply chains
  • small supermarkets that run on brand variety and tight inventory control
  • a mix of food and general merchandise stores
  • out-of-town shoppatainment complexes
  • mid-sized retail propositions within town limits
  • small corner outlets with integrated home delivery

Effectively, then, leaving out hypermalls of the US kind, other retail models are possible in India, though a model cannot really be moved across borders piecemeal. Not normally. What can come in piecemeal, however, is the supply chain management model attached to a broad model that is being transferred.

Again, the opinion is that you have to build on what's already there -- you can't just wipe the slate clean and start afresh. And so the likes of catalogue or mail order buying will not necessarily lose significance. Make it more efficient and it can work. However, since in a lot of product categories, the consumer may prefer a touch-and-feel before taking a decision, these kinds of formats can be supported by display outlets sans on-premise stocking. Take your pick, order and get it all delivered at home. E-retailing could also adopt something like this combination. There are no strict rules anywhere, anymore.

What of rural India? Ah, that's where a modified multi-product hypermart could work, is the opinion. And the best fits? No, there are no best fits -- adopt/adapt/develop the best fit from what's out there. And here.

The bottomline: there are basic commonalities in retail evolution in any market. As incomes rise, value additions go up. As value adds go up, retail models gain significance. And then come shakeouts and consolidations. That's the ground reality. You just can't shake that.

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