Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) has put together a unique concept to cater to visitors and the city’s aspirational shoppers who travel through the International Terminal 1 A. Focussing primarily on South Indian culture and heritage, the BIAL team has chalked out a retail plan bringing together a unique mix of brands to make the airport a destination for travel shopping. Roshna Chandran talks to BIAL and retailers about their exclusive plan for shoppers during their transit
Having researched and travelled through South India, the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) team has brought together South Indian art and heritage as a concept at their new Terminal 1 A, which will give people an essence of the South to take with them while they transit. Divided into three zones, the first zone is the “sense of place,” second is the “trust” zone, and the third is the “convenience” zone, where all the retail outlets will be positioned. The terminal, which spreads across 1.5 million sq.ft., will have all the retailers operating on a revenue sharing model. All products at the terminal will be sold only at MRP. The International Terminal is expected to attract at least 20 million travellers every year. The travel retail space is also plastic bag free and substituted with cotton bags made by over 5,000 women who produce 1.2 million bags for export at villages located around the airport.
All retailers were put through a very rough process as store designs and concepts had to be approved by BIAL security standards and made commercially viable. Explains Hari Marar, President, BIAL: “We had people come over with their concepts. So every single element in that concept had to be looked into right from the smallest detail so that we could create something for Bangalore. We were trying to give the aspirational Bangaloreans a window to what Bangalore is. We also want the airport to be a destination. Our main idea is sustainability in art, language and culture. You can see all this coming alive in our retail format.”
Adds Rene Baumann, Vice President-Commercial, BIAL: “BIAL is also the very first airport in the country to have a contract with restaurants that are HACCP hygiene certified and the food is all freshly cooked.”
Getting the Right Mix
Bringing in retailers who sell convenience products, South Indian spices, coffee, speciality restaurants and South Indian brands, out of which Baumann expects 25 percent of the customers from the IT industry alone, who would mostly go for products such as Swiss watches and gadgets. Baumann explains: “A lot of businessmen who are frequent travellers often tend to pick up a shirt. This becomes a convenience buy. People who come from overseas always talk about spices in India, which accounts for 45 percent of the production in this country. We have also got Indian sweets such as Mysore pak, which is something that people like to buy from India. Another product category is handicrafts from Channapatna, Kalamkari and Mahabalipuram bronze works. Shoppers Stop is someone we had partnered with as they are able to get our vision right and be able to translate that into a shopping concept. We also have silks from Mysore and Hidesign from Pondicherry.”
Owing to the higher percentage of vegans in Karnataka, the South Indian Vegetarian Restaurant located right in front of the passenger terminal offers all the typical Kannad dishes. Malgudi Tiffin Centre offers food set in a typical South Indian village style and Hatti Kaapi offers filtered coffee at a reasonable price. BIAL serves over 2,500 filter coffees everyday, which in return supports more than 2,50,000 people who work in and around coffee plantations in Karnataka. Sweets, coffee powder and spices have been attractive retail offerings by Shoppers Stop. The stores at the terminal will also stock traditional sweets and savouries from Karnataka.
A 1,000-year-old heritage, the traditional arts and crafts by artisans are also retailed by the Lotus House at the BIAL to give over 500 craftsmen a platform to showcase their skills. Silks from “Made in India,” which started as Mysore State Silk factory in Ramanagar around 100 years ago, is presented by Shoppers Stop, offering a wide range of sarees, scarves, apparel, bags, accessories and home furnishings such as cushion covers, table runners and quilts.
Apparel and Accessories
Having designed each store as a different business unit, Shoppers Stop has seven stores operating at the BIAL terminal, offering apparel, accessories, coffee and chocolates, which all become part of their single business. The work wear section spreads across 475 sq.ft., where the brand has invested around Rs 4,000 per sq.ft. and is expected to break even in a period of around one to one and a half years’ time. Challenges arise as customers who are on transit are usually in a hurry and often pick up apparel of convenience and also expect a quicker billing service. The brand also sees a problem in retailing at their store that sells sarees, as customers would require more time to browse through such a product category. Other categories under apparel include Indian designer wear, casual wear, high fashion wear and departmental stores that is like a typical Shoppers Stop store format but in a smaller version. Watches, perfumes and jewellery are the fastest moving categories in this store as well.
Explains Souvik Bose, Customer Care Associate and Area Controller South, Shoppers Stop: “The best we can do to serve a customer is by understanding what his needs are. What we have noticed from our existing stores at the other terminal is that here we do not really need to serve the customer more. Neither men or women have time to try on clothes while shopping at the airport. They mostly look for bottom wear like leggings or denims. It is like a quick fix. While travelling, you realise that you are short of some clothes and so you come here and pick it up. So it is about serving a customer with the right kind of size and fit.”
Clothes are priced at MRP with bottom wear starting from Rs 499 and tops from Rs 2,500. Shoppers Stop and other retailers have been provided with basic infrastructure such as electrical connections, but the designs, false ceiling, tiles and floorings are done by the retailers themselves. All designs are done according to the required specifications which makes it more expensive for a retailer and sometimes doubles the cost as compared to a city store format. According to Bose, the airport does get involved with maintenance of the design of their stores. The materials used in the store are fire resistant for at least an hour.
“We also have chocolates and coffee powder as some of our exclusive labels. People like to pick up different flavoured coffee powders while travelling. The contribution to sales coming from chocolates is 20-25 percent. Other branded coffees such as Nescafe and Brew are so commercialised that most people do not really know what kind of coffee they are drinking. You have to actually read the label to find out where the coffee is grown. It is expensive coffee and we are planning to keep a limited stock,” informs Bose.
The new Hidesign retail outlet at the terminal is 700 sq.ft. in space, showcasing the brand’s iconic products. This store is especially designed for the airport. Says Dilip Kapur, President, Hidesign: “One thing we have tried to do here is to bring out who we are. We have panels that will talk about our designers. So this is very nature oriented. Everything in the store design is built by hand. So we want to tell a story about our values and Pondicherry.”
Handbags and accessories are generally a fast-moving category targeting 25- to 35-year olds. The airport will work with the brand in marketing their campaign. “Within the airport we work with them. We plan to showcase our iconic bags. We are going to use this format everywhere. Most of the design space is also made with leather and natural wood and we had to get it especially made to be fire resistant,” shares Kapur.
Operating on 700 sq.ft. area, the Lotus House sells authentic handcrafted products sourced from South India. Attracting customers who are on transit and who have very little time to shop, Lotus House has retained an open format store that will automatically bring in all the traffic at the terminal. The store design is all modified to give an international feel and also to suit the requirements at BIAL. Says Anurag Sharma, CEO, Lotus House: “Everything in the store, from panels to black granite flooring, has been done by us. We have also got actual antique columns from Pondicherry. The idea here is to promote South Indian art and craft which is all very commercialised already. There are companies promoting but the biggest barrier here is that there are many middle men and then the artisans do not benefit. So we had to do a lot of research and go to villages and talk to artisans. The biggest challenge that artisans face is communication, so are not really able to sustain themselves. We plan to write a little about the artisan who has created each piece to help promote them.”
Lotus House is also present at Mumbai International Airport, but with a totally different concept, where about 40-50 percent of the product categories is traditional art and the other 50-60 percent will be pop art which is sourced out from all over India. This will also include upcoming designers from NID. A major part of the contribution from sales comes from craft mainly due to the fact that the store is present at the International Airport.
According to Sharma, people from Bengaluru generally have a lot of interest in arts and crafts compared to people from Delhi. Customers from Mumbai also never inquire about the craft or its significance, which is why pop art has been included as a product category. Most of the shoppers fall in the age group of above 40 years, but Sharma is determined to get the younger generation hooked on to buying craft. The fastest-moving category is the Ganesha, popularly known as the elephant God by visitors. Wooden products move fast compared to stone and bronze pieces due to its weight and price. A wooden handcrafted piece of Rs 2,000 would cost Rs 8,000 in bronze.
To keep with the security measures at the airport, everything in the store, right from the flooring, had to be modified and completely do away with metal fixtures and any sort of sharp edges even in any of the product categories. Selling handicrafts also comes with challenges. “Due to safety regulations, most of the handcrafted products made of wood or stone cannot have sharp edges or be highly inflammable. So even the furniture that we have used are fire resistant. Unlike selling apparel, we cannot bar code these artefacts and every piece is unique and can never be identical. Hence, the moment we change our supplier, the size and quality of work will change drastically, mainly because this market is very unorganised. A lot of artisans tend to jump to other jobs the moment they get a chance and leave their home towns. So the biggest challenge is to organise this industry,” shares Sharma. “The major challenge is the amount of time a customer can spend in a security held area. The service level is not so high as we know the customer will be in a hurry to get his bill and will not spend too much time browsing.”
Sharma expects travel retailing to pick up as there is a lot of potential, especially when the rentals are worked on a revenue sharing model. Lotus House has also worked out a home delivery system anywhere in Bengaluru.
The Malgudi Tiffin Centre (MTC) as the name suggests offers South Indian food in steel dubbas or tiffins with a seating for around 90 people. With service area of 2,100 sq.ft. and 1,200 sq.ft. kitchen area, MTC caters to both types of customers, those who are in a hurry and those who have time to sit and order with live kitchen counters and two express counters apart from the regular dining area. The biggest challenge that restaurants have at airport is the lack of space and the restrictions due to security norms within the international terminal. The MTC does not use gas cylinders or knives as part of the security norms. All the kitchen equipments are electrical. The restaurant will have a basic kitchen where all the ingredients are prepared on floor below the terminal, where all the cutting, chopping and grinding are done. There are also special equipments and commercial size machines that help process food faster. Ingredients are then brought to the top using a service elevator. Special ingredients also have to be locally sourced from nearby vendors. Expecting a busy traffic at the terminal, the restaurant will have a large team of 24-25 members to cater to the customers.
All the F&B counters have to go through an HACCP health certification. Even the kind of materials used for the express counters are easier to clean and maintain. HMS Host, which is a part of Autogrill Group, designs purely for the airport. It has been operational since 1895. The restaurant will be focussing on stabilising its food rather than costs and then short list on its final menu which will take at least two months to come to a smooth level. Jagvir Singh Rana, Director Operations, HMS Host, is still sceptical whether the space would not be sufficient enough to meet demands of the rush that they might expect.
He explains: “The turnover is going to be very high, since Bengaluru Airport is very busy. Today if you buy the right equipment, you can manage things. We are offering two express zones where people get their takeaways of filter coffee or any typical South Indian snack. Then there are separate zones for non-vegetarian food as well. We have also kept in mind that people will walk in with their luggage and strollers, so there is a gap of 800 mm between the seating area. There are interesting visual merchandising that we plan to change every month, which will show customers the different spices, rice, and its benefits. Everything is kept in the open.”
*This article was originally published in the March 2014 issue of IMAGES Retail.