The Great India Food Bazaar

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Recession may be the talk of the town these days but people gathered at Food Forum India 2009 seemed adamant to talk about growing their respective business rather than getting bogged down by the downturns of recession. A houseful at the first day of the forum is a clear indicator of the fact that people serious enough in their business have no time to worry about recession.

The inaugural session of Food Forum India 2009 had Anish Trivedi, CMD, Banyan Tree congratulating those present as he welcomed everyone. He observed that it takes a lot of courage at times like these to take two days off work and spend time to discuss and debate and find a common ground.

Kick- starting the first session, Ireena Vittal, principal, McKinsey & Co, gave a full fledged presentation talking about ‘Food Facts’. Vittal commented on how the story of food starts with the household income in India and it obviously is huge considering that India has 206 million households with a larger chunk in the ‘aspiring segment’.

Taking the theme forward, Amit Burman, vice chairmnan, Dabur India, spoke about the Great Indian Bazaar and how food retail offers a feast of opportunities. According to Burman, in the F&B segment, mom and pop stores are still dominating the market. With the household spending on vacations and big tickets purchases declining in India, according to Burman, the spend on eating out and on food will considerably increase. Burman observed, “F&B space in India is highly complex and fragmented, with a lack of well capitalized, professionally organized national players and while there are a number of recent entrants in this space, there are no dominant players.” Burman mentioned how ‘corporate catering’ was emerging as a good business opportunity in the F&B retail segment.

Praveen Someshwar, vice president, bottling operations – beverages, PepsiCo spoke on the importance of enhancing the in-home experience. Someshwar made a point when he said that the slowdown that is taking place right now is basically to be seen as an opportunity to be captured.

Speaking about challenges in farm fresh business, Vinod Sawhny, president and COO, Bharti Retail, highlighted six major challenges faced. These include quality of produce, regulations on directly sourcing from farmers, lack of standardisation in the supply chain, inefficient usage of existing infrastructure, logistics cost and non-reliability of delivery time and nascent stage of food processing industry.

The first session had the speakers stressing on the points of collaboration and innovation. Recession according to all could be used to advantage if dealt with wisely.

— Zainab Morbiwala, Mumbai Bureau

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