Launched in 2016, Citykart has been focusing on making fashion affordable and accessible to small town Indians. The retailer displayed an exponential growth and has opened 48 stores in 41 cities in the last four years. It reached the 25th store mark in just a little over two years (March 2018). Sudhanshu Agarwal, Founder and CEO, Citykart shares the journey and his opinions on the Indian fashion retail segment with IMAGES Fashion Bureau.
CityKart Retail Pvt Ltd – one of India’s largest value retailers – was founded in January 2016 and focuses on family fashion retail in Tier II and smaller towns of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and the Northeast. In three short years, the brand has cultivated a following like few others, with personalised customer services, sensory experiences and usable benefi ts like redemption of points and e-vouchers.
The brand has gradually built a strong customer base across Tier II and beyond, helping shoppers in these areas warm up to the idea of modern fashion.
“These consumers thrive for in-store experiences and that’s what we are tirelessly working towards,” says Sudhanshu Agarwal, Founder and CEO, Citykart.
“As consumers’ exposure to digital experiences increase – from ordering to delivery and from billing to payment – a frictionless experience is becoming a basic hygiene expectation,” Agarwal says.
“What many retailers fail to understand is that retail in India is not just about selling products to customers. It is also about providing this seamless experience,” he adds.
The value retailer has armed itself with resources to continuously deliver – then be these resources its people, products or experiences. From training its staff to better manage customer expectations to delivering affordable products across age groups, the retailer is setting itself apart from the competition.
Value for Money
The family fashion store, offering affordable and value for money products, targets the lower middle class in small cities and towns. With an average store size of 8,000 to 13,500 sq. ft., Citykart has steadily increased its store count to 48 this year.
“We started from Uttar Pradesh, moving to Bihar and are currently targeting to expand in Odisha, West Bengal and the Northeast This expansion has given us the opportunity to be successfully present in Tier II and III cities with Tier IV cities being our next target. Our aim is to open 50 new stores in the next two years,” states Agarwal.
“At this time, when major fashion retailers are making inroads, the fashion retail story in Tier II and III cities is still highly under-penetrated in terms of organised retail. These are the places where people have increased purchasing power and aspire for a shopping experience. We wanted to tap the untapped retail opportunities by setting modern retail stores across various small towns and cities like Ballia and Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh and more,” he adds.
Thriving in a Challenging Retail Scenario
India is a price-sensitive market where every consumer expects quality products at competitive prices. “Price manipulation is a strong weapon in the hands of a small, independent, unorganised players,” he says.
Aside from this, Agarwal says that the absence of a developed supply chain and integrated IT management system along with low margins and high real estate costs are major challenges associated with retail in India.
However, he shares that it will be unfair to compare India’s retail landscape with the West owing to the difference in scale, space, categories, range, brands and volumes.
“Large format retail businesses dominate the retail landscape globally, while unorganised retail is still the order of the day in India. But having said that, one cannot overlook the fact that India is all set to reach the US $1 trillion retail market mark and has become the mecca for global retailers. Moreover, the Indian government has relaxed its rules restricting FDIs leading to these big retailers to pursue one of the world’s burgeoning retail frontiers, India,” he says.
Technology: A Handy Weapon
“Over the last few years, we as an organisation have retooled our business model. We have deliberately chosen steady growth instead of reckless expansion to increase our focus on improving store economics. We have been investing in deft inventory management and best in-class management information system (MIS) that keeps a rigorous control over stock and highlights the critical areas related to sales and stock numbers,” says Agarwal.
Despite the fact, retailers have to grapple with the lack of a trained workforce in small towns in India, Citykart is progressively investing in training it’s staff about new technologies primarily targeted at enhancing customer experience. The brand is avidly working upon providing coaching its staff to better greet and treat consumers. Staff at Citykart is also armed with knowledge of products to help serve consumers better.
“Every quarter we train our staff about the qualitative and quantitative aspects of retail from the qualified trainers. These trainings cover areas such as increasing footfall, customer enrollment, sales numbers, average selling price (ASP), average basket value (ABV) and basket size,” Agarwal concludes.