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    Innovation: The Key to Success


    The key to success for retailers nowadays, when the competition is cut-throat and can squeeze the margin, is to create a unique and compelling concept, which makes the competitors irrelevant. The retailers should then implement the same concept in such a way that a loyal customer base is created and it becomes difficult for the competitors to copy and carry out the same idea.

    There are a few brands, such as The Body Shop, Subway, Zara, and Whole Foods Market, which with the help of their innovative concepts have changed the face of retailing internationally. These brands have some distinct features that give them an edge over others as their unique offerings attract an extremely loyal customer base.

    Though all these brands are very different from each other, there are a few similar characters that all of these possess. Their core philosophy is same that is why they are so unique and successful at the same time. If Indian brands want to be extremely successful with their unique offerings, they need to keep certain points in mind, which are as follows:

    Vision: The clarity in product offering is of utmost importance because the value proposition of the product line will help the retailer to connect with his core customer group.

    Evolve with time: The budding retailers should not be afraid of experimenting. They can start innovative line of businesses with modest investment and should wait until one becomes successful. The idea is to keep on tweaking the business model with change in time and customer preferences.

    Addressing a real unmet need: It is critical to study the gaps in the market and a successful retailer will always try to bridge those gaps by creating a product line or service that has great potential but was never tried by anyone else. By developing such a missing category, the brand becomes resistant to all the competition.

    Scaling: A successful retail concept needs to be scaled. Expanding the footprint over a period of time is of extreme significance.

    CSR: Many of the new successful concepts incorporate social or environmental programmes into their product offerings.

    Indian brands carving their own niche

    Retailers across various verticals are innovating their business models for staying attuned to the tempo of modern India. Many new entrants in the Indian retail industry are also betting big on innovating themselves and offering new retail services/product line to the discreet urban customers. The reason why new retail concepts have spruced up in the country is mainly driven by the increase in disposable income.

    Keeping the current trends in mind, few of the Indian brands have modified their product line and retail concept; one fine example is The Jute Shop. The brand not just fulfills its CSR duty by bringing out authentic jute bags, which are natural re-usable, they are also working with major grocery stores worldwide such as Dean & DeLuca, Fresh Market, Whole Foods Market, Tesco and many more in the UK, Europe, USA and South East Asia. Apart from this, they also produce designer bags retailed through their kiosk format, which is basically modelled to be in the malls as their bags are pragmatically priced and it is an impulse buy product. The Jute Shop as a retail format was launched in 2010 and has 60 outlets, out of which 56 are kiosks and 4 are stores.

    Another brand that has realised and addressed the unmet need of the market is ClubLaptop. ClubLaptop is an initiative by printer cartridge recharging chain “Refeel Cartridge Store.” Developing on the experience and knowledge in the IT industry for over a decade, the idea of building a club of laptop users and prospective laptop buyers was formed. ClubLaptop is a one-stop solution for laptop, its accessories and care. The company, however, aims to become the most advanced laptop specialists in the country focussing on technical superiority, branding, market coverage and quality service at reasonable cost. They aspire to be an environmentally aware group by creating an opportunity for everyone to “save money and save nature.” The brand intends to open 300 ClubLaptop stores all over India by 2013.

    When talking about the brands that have stood out in the crowd, it is apt to mention about Presto Wonders, owned by Mohan Impressions. Started in 1995, Presto was formed with the objective of being a leader in personalisation. During those times, the word itself was non-existent. But the company saw a huge opportunity in everything that could be personalised. This was the single largest source of motivation for the inception of the brand “Presto.”

    Speaking about choosing an untraditional retail model, Anurag Poddar, Director, Presto Wonders explains: “It is from a personal experience. I did not find gifting greeting cards to friends very exciting. I then decided to give a ‘handmade’ card to a girl. Well it did make a difference and we got married eventually. This brought about a realisation that personalisation can work wonders if executed well. We were lucky to have made some wise choices in terms of the technologies we chose in the initial years. A good start gives you the leverage to be able to experiment later. Today Presto has every solution under the sun for personalising gifts.” Presto Wonders has more than 125 stores across India.

    Another brand that also has an innovative concept is the Cherishing Moments, which offers a creative product range made out of wax. Sugandha Malhotra, Founder, Cherishing Moments, who has opened a kiosk in the AlphaOne Mall, Ahmedabad, says: “Because of the heavy crowd in normal traditional retail, I think only a few major players in each category will be able to survive. On top of that the competition has even more increased because the FDI is now allowed in India, which will give a tough fight to all the major national players as well. Looking at this vigorous scenario, I think innovation will be the only key to success and speciality retail concepts have a long way and great future in India provided they keep on introducing new ideas.”

    She further states: “Initial challenges became the opportunity for us as we strongly believe that problems are opportunities. In our key findings, we realised that there is a huge gap in people’s thinking in India about the usage of wax and other related stuff. When you stand in front of any person in India and say wax, the only picture comes in his/her mind is candle and nothing else. To change this mindset of the common man, we decided that we can fit in well and fulfil the gap by launching a new concept on wax and other products so that all products can become a memory/souvenir for everybody which they can cherish for years.”

    In the F&B segment also, there are a few retailers who have been quite innovative with their product line or the services they provide. Rahul Tibrewal and Vikas Churiwala of Yoforia India are the master franchisee for the US-based frozen yogurt brand Yoforia. In order to stand out from other brands, they innovated their product line and store concept. They thought of presenting the frozen yogurt concept in the form of a premium cafe, marrying the idea of a regular cafe along with newly found sweet dessert.

    According to them, the initial problems they faced were different from one place to the other, which led them tweak their model a bit according to different market needs. “We had to advertise and adopt different marketing strategies by introducing various schemes and offers to entice customers,” they say. Currently, the brand has three stores in the country and according to the company officials, the break-even time for their model is two years.

    Speaking about the innovative concepts, Tibrewal and Churiwala say: “Speciality retail and innovative concepts will rule the roost because Indian economy is booming, whereas the economy in the West is going through a recession. There is a growing population in India which travels abroad and is willing to pay for the products and facilities available at home. All the statistics show that the future is in India and China. The multinationals are all investing here. There is enormous future for any innovative concept in India as the new generation is aware and open to experimentation.”

    “F&B, education, spa and gym, and entertainment are some of the verticals in which specialty or innovative concepts of retail will flourish,” they add.

    Few of the other F&B chains that stand-out because of their offerings are The Beer Cafe, which is the Delhi/NCR-based chain offering a unique beer drinking experience where consumers can pour beer directly from taps through RFID activated beer cards.

    Another example is India’s first branded momos chain Wow! Momo. Based out of Kolkata, the outlet first started as an SIS format in the Spencer’s at Tollygunge and is generating a turnover of over ` 6 crore every year. “We discussed the idea of opening a branded momo joint when we were in the final year of our college, and just two months after our final exams, the idea was operational,” says Sagar Daryani, Co-founder, Wow! Momo. “One day while having momos outside our college, we just thought of giving a brand value to the dish. There are other F&B chains that have revolutionised pizzas and burgers but momos were still untouched. This is how Wow! Momo was born,” adds Binod Kumar Homagai, Co-founder of the brand. In less than four years, the brand has expanded to 13 outlets in Kolkata and 1 in Bangalore. Other cities where the chain wants to enter are Pune, Chennai and Mumbai.

    Daryani also feels that apart from innovating, marketing that concept properly is very crucial. “You need to be seen and you need to show. For a start up, one would never have too much money for marketing. So one needs to identify their product’s target group and be in their minds all the time through different forms of social networking. One has to make the brand he/she is creating, visible at most places,” he advises.

    Today’s consumers are spoilt for choices. It’s very difficult to capture a share of their mind space because of the plethora of options that are available. In order to stand out, one needs to have that zeal to improvise and innovate rather than just follow the existing norms. That’s what many players are trying to do.

    Also, as modern retail sector in the country is evolving, firms are devising unorthodox retail concepts and tapping the untapped business opportunities to cater to the discreet urban customers of India. With innovative retail concepts expected to play a big role in the growth of modern retail, many players are reviving old ordinary formats while various budding retailers are coming up with new unique ideas and concepts.