“Constant innovation and new products keep the excitement going”

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According to a recent report by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Ernst and Young, the market for “wellness” services in India is estimated at Rs 110 billion and has been projected to grow at an annual rate of 30-35 percent. “In this scenario we are the first movers in health & wellness category to get our centres certified by Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International,” claims Somnath Das, COO, Manipal Cure and Care (MCC), the health & wellness retail service from Manipal Group, which has won several accolades for its innovative concepts and service excellence.

Das became the Chief Operating Officer at MCC within a decade of his joining Manipal Group. Before MCC, Das worked for MEMG (Manipal Education and Medical Group) where he established a ‘Quality & Compliance’ process across different institutions. He is also the Chairman, Health, Beauty & Wellness sub-committee of Retailers Association of India. He shares his thoughts about the industry in an exclusive interview with IndiaRetailing.

IndiaRetailing (IR): What is the driving philosophy of the retail operations at MCC?
Somnath Das (SD): At Manipal Cure and Care (MCC) our focus has always been on meeting consumer expectations and preempting their needs. Hence our centres offer a mix of world-class products and services in preventive, wellness and beauty care. We are the first in India to provide qualitative monitoring of healthcare by well trained doctors and paramedical staff. Our aim is to offer customised services based on the individual’s lifestyle and family medical history in comfortable environments that are conveniently located in malls and high streets.

IR: While taking your retail operation forward in the Indian context, what is the biggest learning from the current slowdown?
SD: The preventive health, wellness and beauty market is still fragmented and is not organised — across the world. But today’s consumer wants constant change; hence, we have ensured that we introduce a new product every 90 days and a new technology every 180 days. Constant innovation and new products have kept the excitement going and that has ensured regular footfalls in our centres even in current slowdown. MCC has remodeled the health care segment by redesigning and retooling it particularly to address the requirements of the target group. This remodeling and reconceptualisation of services and innovative products enabled us to create a new opportunity for health care.

IR: Your personal vision when it coming to leading your retail team.
SD: Being in the healthcare industry for more than a decade, I strongly believe in the ‘prevention is better than cure’ adage. My vision has always been to make MCC a global leader in health care in the categories of preventive healthcare, wellness & beauty care through our retail format as a key differentiator in the market. My team shares the same vision, which keeps us motivated and always focused and helps us achieve the common objective.

IR: Given the two schools of thought that are currently dominating the Indian retail industry — ‘aggressive expansion’ versus ‘slow but steady expansion’ — which has attracted you as your own retail strategy?
SD: Our centres are cohesive units of systems, processes and services and we don’t compromise on either as we want to give the best quality of services to our guests, which require meticulous planning. We ensure that each and every centre in our retail chain attains full efficacy before we move to our next project; hence our expansion is slow but steady. The result reflects in the awards we have won in terms of our concepts and services.

IR: Your comment on the expression ‘Powerful Retailer’. According to you, which are the three most ‘powerful retailers’ in the world and why.
SD: The term ‘Powerful Retailer’ is very relative; it would depend on the geographical position and life cycle of A company; its scale of operations, ROI and the expertise in its value chain. Therefore, one who at the end, can fulfill consumer needs with a concept that is quick, convenient, different, value for money and above all, carries the core aspect of a better shopping experience, appeals as a powerful retailer to me.
This could be any retailer that has a very successful and robust business model that can be replicated across geographies without major restructuring, though customisation should be a forte of that business model.

In my view, the top three most powerful retailers are:
1. Wal-Mart – For its cutting-edge supply chain, warehousing and logistics.
2. Zara – For its speed of designing and delivery — fast footwork.
3. Tesco – For its incredible consumer insight.

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