Hailing from Raipur village of Sonepat district of Haryana, Manoj Kumar Khatri is determined to transform the retailing landscape of his home state.
Born into an eminent family of Sonepat, Khatri completed his school education from Sonepat and went on to do his B.Tech from Neemrana., following that up by a stay in the UK for higher studies (MBA and M.Sc.).
Venturing very fast into multiple business segments, including Retail, Power & Energy, Education, Capital Investment and Hospitality, Khatri’s immediate focus, however, is to develop the Anant Fresh retail brand of food and grocery retailing as the company’s managing director.
Anant Fresh, which began operations in January 2014, is already making waves in Haryana with a three-way retailing business model. After the launch of its retail store in Sonepat last year, Anant Fresh’s e-commerce and wholesale retail businesses are offering food and FMCG delivery services in Sonipat and neighbouring areas through alliances with over 300 mom-n-pop stores.
Haryana’s first three-way modern food retail format was designed on the premise that the state’s inhabitants consume food products differently from those in neighbouring states, says Khatri. “Compared to other northern India states, Haryana still needs a push, especially in organised food and grocery retail business,” he notes. “The food consumption habits of Haryana inhabitants are very different from other adjoining states such as UP, Punjab and Rajasthan. We felt there was a need for a retailer that would specifically cater to local tastes and demands.”
When it comes to aligning with customers, the stores are designed keeping in mind Haryana culture and food practices. There is a deliberate plan to not replicate international store designs because Anant Fresh is catering to a specific segment of the population more than 50 per cent of which is not literate. “The aim is to introduce them to good shopping experiences within a single door, while also keeping in mind the rustic preferences,” Khatri says.
Khatri’s major play in recent weeks has been the extension into online retail. “We are the first store in Haryana to launch an online shopping platform,” he proudly states.
[Having drafted an online route map for expansion, Khatri now plans to invest Rs 100 crore over the next three years to mordernise and develop the retail sector in Haryana.]
Khatri asserts that the decision to graduate to online retail at this early stage of the company’s existence was triggered by the ongoing explosion of ecommerce. “Especially since 2012, the e-commerce model is growing much faster than brick-and-mortar retail. For an emerging or start-up brand, it is a very good platform because it needs lower investment, infrastructure and manpower and has a wide customer reach,” he explains.
“Customers now demand quality products at the right price points available at a trusted shopping destination. With modern lives now being must faster-paced, they also seek more products options at a single stop. Also, the fact that a large chunk of the customer base is young, means a retailer needs to present a wide variety of SKUs,” he elaborates.
Stressing on the need for food retailers to tap the online space, Khatri says typically the primary challenge to a modern supermarket arises from local kirana stores. “Having said that, in Haryana, such stores do not sell a large or quality product ranges; therefore, there is scope for modern formats.”
“Also, this business is inherently characterised by low gross margins. In fact, in food and grocery, this is among the lowest in the retailing sector. Consequently, players need to scale up by adding stores to achieve profitability,” he adds.
Anant Fresh’s unique three-way formula of physical retailing, virtual retailing and B2B wholesale retailing, is keeping the company ahead of other aspirants, Khatri believes. Having drafted an online route map for expansion, he now plans to invest over Rs 100 crore over the next three years to mordernise and develop the retail sector in Haryana.