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Supply chain-partnerships-emerging retail spaces take centrestage at India Retail Forum

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The national retail deliberation session held on the second day at India Retail Forum (IRF) was an eye-opener with its debate on the ‘organised versus unorgansied retailers’ theme. The session began with a welcome note by Suresh Prabhu, Shiv Sena MP.

“Retail is a big game. We see the potential it can bring for the betterment of Indian economy. Meanwhile, the corporate retail houses should also manifest their concern for the development of farmers, vendors and small retailers. There should be a win-win situation for long-term and sustained growth,” said the former power minister of Maharashtra.

Taking the consumer perspective, Prabhu commented: “Retailers have to treat consumer needs in the best way possible, and without any compromise. The corporate retailers should also come up with projects for the development of small villages and towns.”

According to him, corporate retailers have the potential to execute productive development projects in small villages and towns, including building roads and facilitating other infrastructure-related projects, which in turn will help them to solve their logistics and other transportation problems.

Bijou Kurien, president, Reliance Retail, started off with an informative presentation filled with facts and figures to take a realistic stock of the persisting mysteries of the current Indian retail scenario.

Kurien said, “I was struck to see the Indian figures on various industries. Consider the car market as example. There were only 0.08 million cars in 1996, with only 2-3 model options; today we have over 50 variants available and a consumer base of over 1.25 million. The telecom and airline industries have also grown in similar fashion. This is what the retail industry must look up to. The consumer base has grown, as also the incomes. The consumer today looks for variety and options. The more you change, the more you attract a customer.”

Vikram Bakshi, MD, McDonald’s, focused on the real estate hitches. Urging the panel to find out solutions to deal with rising property prices, he insisted on developing a template through which the real estate industry can be brought on to a common podium in partnership with retailers, and rates are decided on the kind of retail formats as also the margins that a retailer is working on. Bakshi also insisted that a profit-sharing model can be formed in association with real estate developers and retailers.

R Subramanian, MD, Subhiksha, explained the model his company operates on and what have been the determinants in their successfully cashing in on the rural markets. He said that a shop in a tier II or III can be as profit making as in a metro. Subhiksha has had a first-go opportunity getting the desired sites at viable rates and capturing the hidden buying potential of consumers in those markets.

Supply chain and logistics came up for resolution at a panel discussion starring Rahul Sinha, AD, PricewaterhouseCoopers; DS Mathur, president and head, supply chain, Reliance Retail Ltd; David Herridge, director, supply chain solutions, JDA Software Asia Pvt. Ltd; Amit Jatia, MD, Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt. Ltd; and Venu Nair, regional head, South Asia, Marks & Spencer. With the theme as “How do we unleash the potential of supply chain and logistics in the Indian retail sector,” the panellists agreed that a process of evaluation is de rigeur when retailers consider their service providers and technology vendors. Significant value and cost efficiencies can be achieved only by building and nurturing partnerships – that is, work on process, people and systems in a synergistic manner and with a long-term context in mind. As modern trade grows, supply chain and logistic systems can be used to create a competitive advantage. The panellists agreed that internalising the concept of supply chain would make the all-important difference.

Shoppers’ Stop ties up with IGNOU

In a bid to develop retail talent for the industry, Shoppers’ Stop has tied up with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) to launch affordable retail courses for the common people.

Speaking to Indiaretailing on the sidelines of India Retail Forum, BS Nagesh, MD, Shoppers’ Stop, said: “The course is aimed at providing an affordable educational curriculum to the common people. The six-month diploma programme costs only Rs 6,500 and will help the common people to get a professional backup for getting into the modern retail arena.”

Shoppers’ Stop plans to have around 50 stores operational across all formats in various parts of the country by this fiscal. The company is witnessing a 25-35 per cent year-on-year growth. It is planning to introduce multi-channel marketing through internet, mobiles and the like.

“Multi-channel marketing is our focus since we expect it to drive more customers to our stores. We will continue to invest in developing IT infrastructure across our stores. In 1997, Shoppers’ invested around Rs 2 crore and this has increased exponentially since then.”

When enquired about the company’s talks with the brand Macy, Nagesh commented: “I also read this news in a paper, but frankly I have no idea about the aforementioned talks.”

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