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Retail industry leaders meet in Mumbai to discuss the IRF 2011

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A high powered group of retail CEO’s and leaders met in Mumbai this week to discuss the important issues facing Indian retail, and how these could be addressed through the annual gathering of the retail industry and it’s stakeholders – the India Retail Forum (IRF).

Hosted by Kishore Biyani, founder & group CEO, Future Group, the meeting was also attended in person or on video conference by Ajit Joshi (Croma), Amitabh Taneja (Images Group / IRF), Anuj Puri (Jones Lang Lasalle), Bijou Kurien (Reliance Retail), Gaurav Mahajan (Westside), Himanshu Chakrawarty (The Mobile Store), Jayant Kochar (Images Group / IRF), Kishore Bhatija (InOrbit Malls), Martin Jones (Marks & Spencer), Nikhil Chaturvedi (Provogue), Rakesh Biyani (Future Group), Rishab Soni (SSIPL), S Raghunandan (Prestige Group), Sanjeev Mohanty (Benetton), Sunil Kapoor (Blue Foods), Thomas Varghese (Aditya Birla Retail), and Vikas Purohit (Planet Retail).

The leaders of the retail sector discussed the media attention being focused on the proposed changes in the FDI norms, even though these would only impact a handful of potential new entrants. FDI should be looked at differently for Food and Non Food sectors, where the social and political implications are relatively insignificant. It was also felt that even if some sections wanted to restrict the inflow of foreign retail, they should not restrict the availability of foreign funds (equity as well as debt).

Other key issues were the difficulties in managing retail businesses in the absence of Industry status, different rules and laws in each state, “Shrinkage”, lack of relevant information & knowledge, etc. However, the impending introduction of GST was viewed as something that would help the industry serve it’s Customers better and more efficiently.

Perhaps the most significant challenge is the severe scarcity of good quality retail space, which is only going to worsen over the next 2-3 years, with declining returns and short-term focus of developers leading to a lack of investment.

With close to 3000 visitors expected at IRF 2011 (September 21 & 22 – Renaissance, Mumbai) it was agreed that it would play a key role in promoting the interests of retailers and developers, in fulfilling it’s role as a knowledge platform, in improving the performance of modern retail, in highlighting the attractiveness of the Indian market to those who would bring in the right kind of investment of capital and ideas, and in connecting businesses, people, knowledge and ideas related to modern retail.

The retail leaders group also endorsed and helped define new directions and sessions to make the IRF even more relevant and useful through more focus on learning and content, so that even the most experienced retail CEO’s could benefit from the knowledge and experience of Academicians, Policy makers, Global experts, and visionary CEO’s from other industries. The process of Awards was also discussed and endorsed, as was the showcasing of the best upcoming Shopping Malls and new technology products for the retail sector.

With all the improvements and innovations planned for IRF 2011, all the CEO’s agreed that IRF was now an even more essential feature in the annual calendar. However, to someone who mentioned that it was difficult to stay away from his office for 2 days, Kishore Biyani had the best advice – “Do what I do. Every year, I move my office to the IRF for 2 days, so that I can gain all the benefits, meet all the key people in the industry, do business deals, and remain in the thick of the action”.

– IndiaRetailing Bureau

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