Ratnadeep Retail Pvt. Ltd embarked on its food and grocery supermarket journey 33 years ago – in 1987 – when it opened its first store in the city of Hyderabad. With a storied legacy to fall back on, and which is continually being burnished further, Ratnadeep has now become the most awarded supermarket chain in the State of Telangana and among the most credentialled regional supermarket chains in India.
Currently, Ratnadeep has a retail footprint spanning over 3,00,000 square feet across 68 stores operating in Hyderabad, Secundrabad, and Bangalore. It is not just a next-door neighbourhood store that is there to satisfy the daily needs of customers; as a food and grocery retailer, all its strategies revolve around its loyal customer base.
“We are first and foremost known for providing quality products and delightful customer experience,” asserts a company spokesperson, pointing to the retailer’s mission even in these
difficult times of the coronavirus, which is to make its products easily accessible to all customers and even push to expand its store count further to 70 as shortly as possible.
He adds that the supermarket chain has achieved tremendous growth and has set various benchmarks since its inception in 1987. “At the end of the day, we constantly question ourselves-how does a loyal Ratnadeep customer relate themselves to the brand and what is the road ahead?”
As with every other business hit by the ongoing COVID-19 curveball, Ratnadeep too had to face the virus related and the lockdown induced challenges. These ranged from those of depleting stock availability, non-availability of skilled workforce, disrupted logistics and supply chain issues, non-operation of manufacturing units and the uncertainty around the question of which stores to keep operational, and other issues.
Take for instance, the issue of supply chain. Every retailer will agree that it is the lifeline to the organisation. Ratnadeep’s usual logistics have been severely hampered due to the lockdown and it brought into focus a sharp concern faced by the retailer: How to maintain and keep the crucial link established between its Category Management team (to find the right product suppliers) and Operations Team (store operations)?
With the lockdown bringing most economic activities to a halt, its immediate impact was felt by the retailers and their supply chain became the most vulnerable point. In the case of Ratnadeep, out of its total strength of company-owned transport fleet, only a small number of drivers were available for work. As a result of which, though it had vehicles loaded with products ready to be dispatched to the stores, there were no drivers to drive the vehicles. With only a fraction of its fleet active, it was very difficult to keep all stores stocked.
To weather the challenges, the company fielded a tracker whose job was to prepare and keep a note of the stores open. In the meantime, the company mobilised its feet-force with additional
drivers as and when necessary.
This way, the supply of products was managed with top performing stores getting products regularly followed by other stores, which helped keep the shelves stacked. Th e Management even went a mile further by installing a new packaging machinery overnight, which automated and accelerated the production and packaging of its private labels.
With the concern of stocking and replenishment of products taken care of, the next question was how to arrange for more people needed for work? Th e company formulated a special wage program, which really motivated drivers to report for duty. It went a step ahead by rewarding drivers for covering additional stores on their daily routes every day. In order to recognise their special contributions to the company, Ratnadeep revised their designation from “Drivers” to “Pilots”. Th is approach helped the company gain a significant increase in the number of stores covered every single day.
But despite coming up with such off -the-wall and novel solutions to the challenges brought about by the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, Ratnadeep came across a new problem at its backend. Quite a few of its suppliers were not able to cope up with the increasing level of demand that had to be catered to at short notice. To deal with this challenge, it went for forging new tie-ups in order to keep the supply moving smoothly in the market. New routes were configured, and the old ones were cast aside with the changing times. It also came up against contingencies where few of its suppliers/manufacturers lacked the logistics required for delivering the merchandise. To get around this problem, Ratnadeep extended its assistance by collecting the goods straight from the supplier’s warehouse, and also incurring the cost of this exercise.
It preferred to directly pick-up fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure that only lush, green and the best vegetables made it to the stores in such difficult times. Also, the production cycle of its private label products (mainly staples) had to be increased and the production time was extended to the night shift for ensuring a continuous supply.
At the same time, in keeping with the constantly evolving customer buying behaviour, and with the crisis getting further protracted and in the face of continued quarantined living, it also began working on many innovative lines to match the customer expectations.
Amidst the pandemic-induced chaos, it became obvious that it would need additional logistics force in hand to withstand such a ruckus. So, it hired third-party logistics vendors to fill in the gaps.
“Currently, we are serving the customers through our hyper-local format. Our synergetic partnerships with Swiggy and Dunzo will further aid in solving the supply-gap in the market while maintaining customer’s safety & hygiene,” says the spokesperson.
The supermarket chain believes that besides resorting to out-of-the-box solutions and innovations to get around the hurdles of the lockdown, there were many insights and learnings to glean. “This crisis has a long way to go but we have a clear understanding and vision to cater to customer interests and demands. This year we have entered two big categories – chakki atta and honey – which have served us well during the ongoing crisis. We have seen a fabulous response from the customers. With chakki atta, we have got a 13 percent market share in the atta category with a 35 percent share in the 5 kg segment in less than two months. In honey, we have captured a 23 percent market share in the category. Enthused by this overwhelming response to our recently launched private label products, we are
going to launch our own bread product in another week, and have plans to introduce more categories with quite a few already in pipeline,” says the company’s spokesperson.
Asked about specific learnings and experience of food and grocery retailing in a COVID-panic-ridden world, he says: “We have a learnt a lot from the ongoing COVID crisis. It has taught us how to lead things in difficult times by thinking out of the box. It is also made us realize that there is nothing called a ‘problem’, which is just the absence of an idea to find a matching solution.”
He further adds: “We have seen the customer behaviour pattern undergoing a major change due to the pandemic. And being part of the ‘essentials’ business, it was mandatory for us to respond and adapt to the crisis at the earliest. From witnessing a surge in panic buying and increased basket size at the beginning of the pandemic to observing the purchase of mostly shelf-stable products that help to restrict frequent shopping trips, it was quite evident how people were prepping up to make their quarantined lives safe and comfortable behind closed doors.”
As any top F&G retailer will aver, the food category (staples, packed and ready-to-eat food) had to push its supply to meet the excessive demand.
“In fact, through the ongoing Covid-19 challenges, we have learnt a lot and we have been introduced to new ways of thinking and fresh thoughts with some of them being really eye openers. For instance, we have also introduced many new brands during this difficult time. We have received enormous cushioning from new local vendor and vendors from other States. This fact alone has been able to boost our team’s ability and confidence in themselves,” states the spokesperson.
Then, there has been another set of challenges by way of strict adherence to the standards of hygiene and sanitization of products within the shop. To its credit, Ratnadeep made it the top priority and an absolute imperative to ensure the safety of its customers and employees. To maintain those extra layers of hygiene, it made hand sanitisation mandatory for every customer and employee. Even though its card machines were being disinfected regularly, it encouraged people to go for cashless transaction.
At the same time, all Ratnadeep stores took extra care in maintaining regular sanitisation of all touchable points like floors, racks, shelves, shopping baskets and trolleys. It followed all government norms very scrupulously and without any comprise. To ensure that people maintain social distancing, the stores allowed only a specific number of people to shop at any given point in time. For customers waiting for their shopping chance in a queue, it created standing spots positioned six feet apart from each other. “Knowing the pain of waiting in a queue, and to mitigate that, we’ve set up tents to help our customers escape and avoid the prickly summer heat of the season; also we’re serving chilled water to those waiting in the queue,” informs the spokesperson.
To continue retaining its sterling reputation in the market, and prove its leadership over the distribution of food and grocery products, even once the current crisis finally blows over, Ratnadeep feels that in today’s crowded and competitive retail world, it is important for every retailer to define how it wants to be known as. It believes that without any value-based system, it is not possible for any brand to survive in tough and challenging situations. Even though it is exploring more tie-up possibilities to enable it make a better reach in the market, in the end, the company feels that it is the right kind of customer value-mapping that ensures whether a brand becomes a go-to brand for any customer.
Referring to Ratnadeep’s foundational values and its business DNA, company officials say: “The three pillars of Quality, Variety and Savings have defined and shaped our business and corporate philosophy, and these qualities have helped us earn a loyal clientele. By ensuring that our stores are well-stocked, we are able to maintain the three pillars of Quality, Variety and Savings, besides serving a loyal clientele that trusts us with their eyes closed and shops with us with their arms open.”
Ratnadeep stores attract on average 750 shoppers who spend about Rs. 500-750 on a typical standard family-sized transaction. “We value our customer’s time as much as their money. All Ratnadeep stores enjoy a premier and convenient locational advantage. We are strategically placed at a location wherein it’s easy for a customer to conveniently visit and shop. The size of the store is also optimum, which again ensures that the customer doesn’t get tired while shopping with us. We love to go an extra mile by providing our customers with spacious parking, valet parking and clean surrounding for that perfect shopping experience,” say the officials.
Talking of Ratnadeep’s product assortment and merchandise, they reveal: “Th e assortment is our biggest USP with each Ratnadeep store offering the best quality and mix of groceries from leading National and International FMCG brands at affordable prices and with a wide range of options in pricing and pack sizes. From daily essentials like sugar and flour to high-quality products such as fruits & vegetables, our shelves are freshly stocked every day. At Ratnadeep, there is something for everyone in every form!”
In terms of customer-friendly features, Ratnadeep follows a fluid strategy based on shopper behaviour and their expectations. The supermarket is known for offering a wide choice of products, clean shop display and layout, ample aisles space, customerfriendly planogram, clear category signages, quick check outs, efficient associates’ service, among other attributes. Coming to merchandising and display, it has the expertise and a highly qualified team that continuously works at streamlining Category Management.
Category Management is an art of arranging sections inline as per the shopper buying behaviour. Ratnadeep continues to analyse and observe shopper buying behaviour and take insights out of it for implementing on the floor level. In recent past, it has implemented a couple of category adjacencies (utility based). For example, in the noodle category, it has placed forks; in the tea/ coffee section, it has placed mugs; in the detergent powders section, it has placed cloth clips…. among other product adjacencies.”
As one of the most promising and reputable retail brands, Ratnadeep leaves no stone unturned to ensure that its suppliers stick to quality standards and efficiency norms. According to company officials: “Supplier quality is a supplier’s ability to deliver goods that will satisfy the requirements of our end customers. In our organization, supplier quality management is defined as the system in which supplier quality is managed by using a proactive and collaborative approach. It’s in an organization’s best interest to ensure that the suppliers are providing the highest quality products while also conforming to pre-established requirements. This is often accomplished using Supplier Quality Management System (QMS), which allows us to monitor supply chains and inspect or audit materials at regular intervals.”
Elaborating further on the importance of maintaining supplier efficiency, they add: “In our organization, supplier quality management begins early in the product requirement and supplier selection process. It continues through the entire life cycle of a product and for the duration of the relationship with that particular supplier. Proper supplier quality management tactics include taking inputs and effectively and efficiently converting them to outputs deemed valuable by customers.
Supplier performance and quality management go beyond securing a low purchase price or getting the best deal on bulk materials.”
But no matter how much of improvements and innovations you build into your systems, there is always room for more because of the ever-evolving nature of the retail business. And that holds true for Ratnadeep as well, which is intent and earnest about lapping up the right opportunities in different formats in multiple cities. At the start of 2020, Ratnadeep ventured into a new store format – Ratnadeep Select – with the aim of catering to a larger clientele.
Ratnadeep Select is a large format store that offers superior store experience and a curated range of gourmet and international products. The chain intends to extend this format further into multiple geographies in the coming times. On the strategic front, it is working to evaluate and evolve its brand while bridging the gaps in the consumer’s life by coming up with various formats for specific types of buying needs.
Like every other great brand, Ratnadeep also needs to keep investing in planning and strategy to maintain its relevance and vitality in the market. It has adapted and evolved with the changing times, keeping customer’s needs as the centre of the universe. Right from arranging farm fresh products to skilfully handpicking what goes on the shelves, it has instilled a level of trust and confidence in its customers. Now, each of Ratnadeep’s stores offer the best quality of groceries and FMCG from leading national and international brands at affordable prices.
Looking ahead, the chain is looking at expanding the brand across the country quickly. This fiscal year, it wants to reach a benchmark of 100 stores. Over the next 3 years, it has plans to open 200 stores across the country. In the long run, it is also planning to open up stores in more new townships and communities to become an even more convenient destination for quicker shopping services.