Rajesh Francis, Director, MagSon-Fresh and Frozen, speaks to Progressive Grocer about the fresh assortments and dairy products available at his stores and how MagSon has become the choice retailer of frozen and processed foods in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
What is the customer proposition and marketing positioning of your store?
MagSon Fresh & Frozen –10 years since its inception in 2009 – has evolved and grown from a single fresh food store to a 22-store gourmet & frozen food speciality retail chain. MagSon has become the biggest franchisor in the state of Gujarat. While ‘Fresh’ is a noticeable characteristic of our product breadth, ‘Fresh’-ness, as an uncompromised philosophy, runs deep within the core DNA of the company, extending to (and beyond) our everyday customer interactions.
Consistent with our service ideology of ‘Delivering Excellence, Always!’, our endeavor is to serve our customers & consumers with premium quality gourmet, frozen & International/Global food products, backed by our commitment of high quality, hygiene & packaging standards. Th is sets the bar high up for all checkpoints in our sourcing and importing.
We take pride in our ability to bring to our customers their favourite types of Exotic Cheese, Processed Foods, Premium & Imported Chocolates & Beverages, Imported Cereals and Frozen Veg & Non-veg food items to the extent that makes us not only the largest frozen food retailer in Gujarat but also the purveyor of the widest range of cheese and processed foods retailer in Gujarat.
The thing that really sets us apart is that we are the only speciality retail chain in Gujarat to have achieved and leveraged backward integration through our very own in-house distribution company, which stocks and manages inventory for not only all 22 of our stores, but third parties as well, giving us a high degree of operational and competitive advantage.
Tell us about your product basket. Which are the categories and merchandise range that you specialize in as a retailer?
We primarily categorize our products into three baskets – gourmet, chilled & frozen. Our specialities include: exotic cheese, processed foods, premium & imported chocolates, beverages, imported cereals, and frozen veg & non-veg food items.
Give us an overview of how much space you have allocated to the different sections and what is your strategy for allocating space for different sections at your store?
The majority of space is occupied by gourmet food items, which get premium visibility spots. Th e in-store space allocation is in decreasing order of preference: gourmet, frozen & chilled. Th e strategy to allocate space is mostly store-specifi c with store locality, customer demand and seasonality driving space allocation and visibility decisions.
Our objective is to first align merchandizing with the niche market of expats, NRIs, tourists and global food enthusiasts. We differentiate ourselves by off ering the widest range of niche products, strategically displayed to optimize first-time in store conversions.
What is your location strategy?
Which locations do you prefer and what part do they play in your store sales? Store locations are based on our strategy to target cosmopolitan neighbourhoods and high-end localities. We look for ground floor sites where we can establish a presence as a stand-alone neighbourhood store for that location. The broad strategy is to target areas of high population of expats, NRIs, tourists and International/global food enthusiasts.
Considering the peculiarities of the supply chain in India, have you introduced any specific innovations to make your back-end operations foolproof?
We have achieved backward integration considerably, to such an extent that we have integrated our back-end operations, starting from the sourcing of products up to the front retail end.
The majority inventory for all retail stores is sourced from the in-house distribution company, which helps improve the robustness of the overall business. Our retail position is reinforced by our operational advantage and our in-house distribution.
Please describe, citing specific instances, how you are using technology to enhance customer experience and improve operational excellence?
We actively use technology & digital media to build up interest and activity around the brand, products and new launches. Th at’s apart from our regular customer engagement and response management wherein we aim to maintain a high level of responsiveness to reviews and feedback from popular social media platforms.
The storage and distribution processes integrating our in-house distribution company and retail stores also rely on technology for information management and operational accuracy. We have plans for further improvement and optimization of such systems.
Our stores are equipped with dedicated telebooking hotlines to service on-demand home delivery orders for added customer convenience. We also have in the pipeline our online e-commerce platform/app and CRM & loyalty system, which is due for launch by the end of 2019.
Tell us about your private labels/house brands strategy and your plans to augment and expand your PLs?
We are working on building a few in-house brands for a few product categories, and plan to launch them in the near future.
Any interesting concepts or innovations that you have introduced at your stores?
We regularly launch seasonal merchandising campaigns for our stores in the festive season based on interesting themes. Th ese are closely aligned with our marketing campaigns during the festive seasons.
As mentioned earlier, the unique aspect of our retail business is our in-house distribution, which is responsible for inventory & stock for all of our retail stores. Since the majority inventory is sourced from in-house channels, the robustness of the overall business increases manifold.
What is your roadmap for the future?
We are currently working on the corporate development and restructuring of the complete business. Currently, all 22 stores operate under a single brand but have individual holding/operating identities as part of a single franchised business. We have already initiated the merger of 14 of these stores to form a private limited company as part of our next phase of growth.
We also have a number of other exciting projects in the pipeline for the near future, such as our online e-commerce platform/app and CRM & loyalty system, due for launch by end of 2019.