Saree all the Way

Nine yards of magic from India. Your complete guide13343010_1103984302973567_1074322161038224193_n.jpg


Shopping at MAX

First it was the likes of Roopam, Amazons, Benzer, Akbarally’s etc (I am restricting myself to options in Mumbai) that satiated the need to a modern shopper to shop in an environment that would be a one stop solution for all that was related to ‘apparels’. Then can in the game changer – Shoppers Stop. The launch of Shoppers Stop set the ball rolling for more department stores and multi-brand-outlets to open doors in India. Most notable amongst them would be Lifestyle, Globus and Westside. Where each one managed to win a strong patronage from their respective target audience; Globus got things a wee bit wrong and they were seen closing down stores and losing a lot many of their shoppers as well (me, being one of them). Lifestyle has got better and Shoppers Stop and Westside seem to have got into a comfort zone.

In 2006 MAX (a part of the Landmark Group that also own Lifestyle) entered the country. It was until 2015 that I got myself to enter a MAX store at one of their outlets in Pune. This was primarily to kill time. But instead I ended emptying my wallet in there. I was taken aback (pleasantly though) by the collection and price points they were selling at. What attracted me the most was their kid’s wear range. Impeccable quality and perfect colors to suit the little ones. No meaningless cuts and no meaningless quotes on tees. Just apt for me to dress my little one. The offers they run are tempting as well. Instead of discounting individual pieces of apparels, they offer a combo deal. I find this option better than having a 10 per cent off on individual things. Besides the kid’s wear range, the women’s wear range is fantastic as well. To repeat myself, the price points offer a sheer indulgence. And again, the designs are perfect for everyday wear.


The store design and layout is well thought of. You can quickly pick up the stuff you need and move out without wasting much time browsing through things you may not want to indulge in. The men’s wear section is well stocked as well though I think some price revision there would be appreciated.

To talk about the staff and customer service; without sounding too carried away by the brand, I must say that each of the floor stuff including the guard at the entrance are trained really well. Extremely courteous and extremely knowledgeable.



For a recent story on MAX that I penned for one of the retail magazines, I had a chance to speak with the executive director of MAX – Mr. Vasanth Kumar. He took me through the journey of the brand and post my telecom with him, I am all the more mesmerised by the brand. It was only within a year of its international launch that the brand set its foot in India in 2006. In this one decade, the brand has only managed to win more and more patronage for itself in the country with more than 145 stores covering tier 1 and 2 cities and towns. The minimum sq.ft. space occupied by any MAX store is 10,000 (the one at Panvel is 8,000 considering the store sizes at that mall aren’t more than that) and maximum is 12,000 sq.ft. Since their launch, the brand has stuck to its mission of Democratising Fashion and true to it, they indeed have. Every two months a completely new stock is added and every week new designs are introduced. The in-house staff is given ample of opportunity to climb up the ladder. Customer engagement initiatives include model hunts and various on-gorund events and initiatives wherein local celebrities are called in. The quality control team remains on its toes and ensure that consistency is maintained in the production lots. Nothing substandard from the vendors is accepted. The design team travels across the world to get their hands on the latest trends. In all, a MAX customer can rely on the brand for price, design and quality.

One of the many reasons why a  MAX customer remains hooked to it is because of their decision to not indulge in national brands more than the need is. At any MAX store,  there is only one national brand, for e.g. W in women’s wear, Peter England in Men’s Formal Wear and Bossini (owned by the Landmark Group) in the Men’s Casual Wear range. This leaves the customer less confused when he is shopping. The more cluttered the store is with a range of brands, the more confusing it gets for the customer to get the best option possible.

For my little one, I am not going anywhere. I have tried high end brands and seen her tees looking ugly after a few washes. But with MAX, I know I can spend and not regret.

-Zainab S Kazi






Retail in India – A Quick Flashback

Stepping back to yesteryears, it shall be of interest to you to learn about the handful of brands present in the country till the close of the fourth decade of the 20th Century.

We Indians love our chai but you may be surprised to learn that when it came to branded tea – it was just Brooke Bond and Lipton that found place on the shelves of the kirana stores. Lux and Lifebuoy minus any of their existing SKUs where the only two bathing soap brands that the country had and for clothes it was Sunlight. Cooling  / fairness talcum powders were not even thought of then as the only brand available was Himalaya Bouquet. Afghan Snow was used as an all purpose cream as obviously the concept of age defying and fairness cream was absent then.

Colgate was the only toothpaste that consumers bought – be it to fight tooth decay / sensitivity or have a refreshing breath. 7’o clock blade was the only male grooming accessory which was used till its bluntness could no longer be sharpened and there was a need to replace it with a new fresh 7’ o clock blade! It was only the hair-oil category which had about 3-4 brands but then these brands were put to use only on special occasions.  After reading about all this it should not come as any surprise to you when I say that the country got its first brand for slice bread in 1964! And yes, to share more – this brand originated from Orissa just in case you thought it was Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore which took the lead for setting up the industry for slice breads in the country.

Till about 1950s the only major FMCG Companies in India were that of Colgate and HUL. No wonder then that till late 1950s the monthly consumption of an average Indian middle class household was just about Rs. 70. Till then, the level of aspiration he had was restricted to owning a fountain pen, a cycle and a watch! I missed mentioning here that India got its very own branded fountain pen only in 1955 and there are stories of how the body had to be usually masked with a sticking tape to avoid leakage of ink. 1969 saw the entry of Nestle in India.

Coca Cola came in by 1957. The Indian FMCG companies till then who were fast filling the shelves of retailers with their brands were – Dabur (till a long time it was just into Ayurvedic products), Godrej and TOMCO which was later taken over by Hindustan Lever.

Means of communications were visibly absent. Radio wasn’t in the reach of a common man forget having a television at home. Till late 1970s Illustrated Weekly  was the only magazine hence where and how would brands advertise then? Had it not been for Lal Bahadur Shastri’s intervention, perhaps we still would have just been tuning to Radio Cylon. It was he who under his reign launched Vividh Bharti. In 1972 Mumbai saw the launch of the television! The trend of owning a television set then mushroomed during the 1980s. That is when information explosion and information bombardment started happening and advertisers were there plenty many!

The advent of branded garments swept the wardrobes in the early 1980s and post that there has been no looking back in this category which witnesses the launch of a new clothing apparel brand almost on a daily basis. The MRP concept in the country came in  mid 1980s. Till then it was just the concept of a 5 per cent mark-up. To mention about the concept of super markets, the country truly speaking didn’t have one as till mid 1960s, 99 per cent of the stores were less than 500 sq.ft. But it is of importance to mention that department stores as a concept existed in the country since the time of the British regime. 1962 saw the setting of a super market with Delhi Super Bazaar and it was in the 1970s that super-markets were to be seen but thanks to the Co-operatives who in all sense need to be credited to have launched and set the ball rolling for the concept of ‘modern retailing’ in India.

The Transformation
Now, after learning about all this, isn’t it an obvious question to ask that how and why would multi-nationals enter the country then and why then we didn’t have the concept of modern retail in India?

1970s saw the aspirational levels of an average Indian middle class graduating to owning a two wheeler and a refrigerator. It was a transition in 1990s with the same target audience now wanting a flat, a car and a foreign tour. Gradually we then saw the mindset being comfortable with spending rather than always wanting to save.  Things changed largely with the then Finance Minister – Manmohan Singh opening the doors of India to Liberalization, Globalization and Industrialization. A lot of consumer goods importing began in the country and this was also with more and more Indians going abroad for work and study. Top industrial houses of the country jumped into retail – Tata’s, Birla’s. Goenka’s, Marico etc.

Contribution from Down South
The contribution from South India in setting the ball rolling for organized retail in the country has been significant with industry players there taking a lead to establish the first organized retail chains in the food and grocery segment in India with stores such as Nilgiri’s, FoodWorld, Margin Free etc. The Consumer Durables segment too has its root from down South with regional players like Vivek’s, Giria’s, Pai International etc. Additionally, India saw its first mall in Chennai in 1997 – The Spencer Plaza. Mumbai saw the opening of Crossroads but eventually it had to shut shop as it went wrong on many aspects – the major being not adhering to following the basics of mall management which includes have 5 anchor tenants – each from the category of a hyper or a bigger super market, a successful / well established departmental store, a food court, a multiplex / entertainment zone and a well known food chain. But this failure was well taken note of the future malls setting themselves in the country and those which followed the basic principles succeeded whereas the rest had to change their strategy and have the property used for commercial office space.

 Foreign Direct Investment in India in Cash and Carry Wholesale was allowed in 1997 but soon it faced a roadblock on its way to success when it required Government permission. Though, in 2006 the approval requirement was relaxed and automatic permission was granted. Between 2000 to 2010, Indian retail attracted about $1.8 billion in foreign direct investment but this was representing a very small 1.5 per cent of total investment flow into India.

India as a country is an amalgamation of various communities and cultures. The potential of retail in the country is immense with the possibility of customizing retail options based on the area of operation and its catchment. Success in retail is no rocket science as long as the basics are adhered to.

  • Zainab S Kazi –

Big Data – Big Competitive Advantage

So how big is big data? Really big! Would I be exaggerating if I say the concept of Big Data is akin to that of Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984? Not at all. Every move of ours which involves use of anything related to technology immediately falls in the preview of Big Data. That also includes the use of maps on your smart phone! Earlier it was only about tracking the shoppers buying patterns with the use of  a loyalty card but the game has got much much bigger. And like how! Big Data literally can help you with creating models of trends for the future. The tools used here include various things like customers buying patterns, social media trends, the movies that would be released the time frame we are taking into consideration etc. Big Data can be used and successfully so to personalize marketing campaigns and boost results. This is the trend we are witnessing in online retail today but there is a wider scope before them as well if intelligently used.

For those who have just joined in, to explain big data in layman’s language; Big Data is decoding the information we have with us. It is breaking and understanding the sentence – Information is everywhere but where is the knowledge? I quote from Data is the ocean of information we swim in everyday – vast zetabytes of data flowing from our computers, mobile devices and machine sensors. With the right solutions organizations can divide into all data and gain valuable insights that were previously unimaginable.

A McKinsey study stated that, by using Big Data to the fullest, retailers stood to increase their operating margins by up to 60%. In a recent article, big data expert Jeff Kelly explained that the retail industry is among the early adopters and innovative users of Big Data.

While researching more on the big data, I came across a white paper by IDC which revealed that the data creation is occurring at a record rate. In 2010, the world generated over 1ZB of data; and by the end of 2014, we shall be generating 7ZB! All of the data that is created and accumulated creates unimaginable opportunities across industries and sectors like – healthcare, security, travel, hospitality and of course – retail! Along with IDC, I  strongly believe that organizations that are best able to make real-time business decisions using Big Data will thrive, while those that are unable to embrace and make use of this shift will increasingly find themselves at a competitive disadvantage in the market and unfortunately sooner or later shall face potential failure.

Putting it in Context
To draw an example on how Big Data has helped a retail giant reach out to millions, the story of Walmart fits in perfect. In fact, it is believed that Walmart pioneered the use of Big Data to improve operational efficiency in the retail industry and this was when the concept of Big Data was not even officially introduced. Sam Walton’s retail entity was early to understand that by putting to use the data it had of the customers, they could go ahead and streamline their supply chain thus taking care of inventory problem – overstocking as well as understocking it. The money thus saved and made was passed on to customers in form of discounts.

In the online space, Amazon was the earliest mover which in the mid 2000 began using what it know about it customers’ buying patterns and behavior to recommend similar and related items to customers at the point of check-out.

The use of Big Data in its various avatar can be used across – from planning store layout (video identifiers) to merchandize mix to even narrowing down on the right location. Big Data can bring before you dynamics of the population in a particular area, the number of times they shop in the vicinity, go out for coffee, the newspapers they read etc.

Big Data and the Four ‘V’s’
Just as the four ‘P’s’ (product, promotion, place ad price) define the principles of marketing; Big Data is defined by the effectiveness of four big V’s – Volume, Velocity, Variety and Veracity.

The IBM Big Data Hub Explains these 4 V’s beautifully

UntitledAll the above four V’s put together can empower you with knowing your customer better. Afterall, once that information is in place, all the other decisions apt for your business shall fall in place.

I would strongly recommend that if applicable to your business, ensure that you do take in professional help and encash on the data mine you have with you. Remember – Big Data today equals BIG COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE.

eCommerce and India

As being pointed out by Ashis Jhalani from etailing India, this year, investments in the e-commerce sector have been about Rs 20,000 crore, four times as much as 2013. The e-commerce sector’s share in total organised retail is much less than 1% of total retail at present.

Now this was to set the context of online retail in India. Is it really that big as it is being projected and when I say ‘big’, I mean is it really making money?

During one of my recent meetings, I had someone telling me how they have been successfully selling toothbrushes worth Rs. 750 (for a single toothbrush) online through their channel partners like Flipkart. That did amuse me a bit and I thought that may be the current frenzy over online retail is indeed substantial. For a moment I wanted to believe that eCommerce in India has definitely taken the country by storm and the shopping bags at retail stores must be gathering dust on them with people shopping online. Just as I was about to convince myself, I thought of doing a bit of my own research to stamp my newly found belief. The first thing I did was to check on with this gentleman on the repeat orders for the toothbrushes. That would throw light on whether online shopping is just all about impulse buying and getting carried away by the frenzy or is it serious buying for things that are needed on a daily basis. The reason I wanted to know this was to ascertain the predictions that online shopping is going to replace traditional shopping channels / mediums. The gentleman couldn’t “confirm for sure”. Well, I got my answer!

Just as the hype around organized retail in India seems to have come on track after the initial predictions way back in 2002 that modern / organized retail in India was on its way to having the local kirana store down your road shut its shutters, we shall also witness industry experts toning down their super expectations from eCommerce in India. It shall be interesting to find out if the recent numbers as revealed by a research undertaken by Google will actually meet with reality. What the research has predicted is that the Indian online shopping market is all set to touch $15 billion by 2016. Back in 2012, the size of this market was $8 million and is currently $ 35 million.

As predicted by the retail gurus and kartadhartas in 2002, modern retail in India was slated to have a pie of about 30 per cent in 10 years from then, but still, it has not even crossed 4 per cent! Ouch! Did I hear you say so? So now, if modern retail in India has not managed to live up to its prediction, I am not too sure if it is wise to expect eCommerce to rule the game of retail in India. Even in the U.S., eCommerce contributes towards less than 5 per cent of the overall retail sales.

For online retail in India, to grow to the predicted figure of USD70 billion by 2020, the size of retail in India will have to stand at USD 1.4 trillion. But even if these figures are achieved, online retail in India is not expected to have a share anything larger than 5 per cent. Venture Capitalists and Investment Firms are pumping in big monies – be it for established players like Flipkart of the recent players seen joining the bandwagon of online retail. What though remains to be understood is the fact that are these online retail players making money even as much as the newsprint that is being dedicated towards writing about them? Marked with huge inventories, innumerable returns that are not considered during the accounting stage and of course money towards the manpower being sourced and a sizeable chunk towards larger than life advertising campaigns; online retail in India is playing a challenging and difficult game.

With due respect, I do accept that this festive season, the online retailers managed to pull in a lot many customers to the disappointment of the brick and mortar retailers. As reported by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), in 2014, 30% of watches, 30% of eyewear, 18% of books, 25% of imported cosmetics and 10% of mobiles were sold online.

But if we take a rational look, the online retailers managed to offer huge discounts. In the electronics category, the margin was almost wafer thin. It would be interesting to see if incase the discounts and offers are stripped off when would the medium still have shoppers glued to e-shopping?

So all in all, I have put my doubts to rest on the super success of online retail in India. We have a long way to go and especially so because there are too many loose ends to tie. – Its all blue with them!

So online grocery shopping is the best in-thing in India? I beg to differ. How can it be? Each of the platforms have a minimum value attached for delivery. BigBasket has 1000, LocalBanya has 599 and has 399. Now if I have to utilize their service, I need to plan well in advance the things I may need to cross the figure for a home delivery. Anyways, that is one concern clouding online grocery shopping but the most important is that of the quality of fresh produce reaching you.

Leme share a bitter experience I have had with Getting carried away by their claims of offering fresh farm produce, I got myself e-shopping for fruits and other things. I guess in the last two months I may have gone ahead to shop with them close to about 7-8 times and each time my bill value crossed well above their minimum requirement. Leme confess…most of my shopping was done on impulse just to ensure that the fruits I was ordering would reach me to meet their minimum requirement.

My last two experiences with them got me thinking if I was on the right track believing them. But the last experience has gone ahead to cement my  doubt…these guys are here not for a long run! Where my second last experience with them can be dismissed, my last def cannot.

The bananas that are to be naturally ripened in 3-4 days remain rock hard till 8 days. I let them know. They ask me to share a pic. I do so and they tell me that they would add the amount I paid in my wallet which I could redeem at  any point. Really? With a minimum requirement of Rs. 399, they really thought I would burn about Rs. 360 to redeem Rs. 34 and specially so when my last two experiences with them were not nice.

When I try to explain this to the customer service executive who called and tell him that ideally they should send me a fresh pack of bananas without expecting me to order for Rs. 399 or just credit that amount in my bank and not in my wallet that comes with *conditions apply; , he refuses to listen. I tell him that this may just mean that I would never return to shopping at ever again to which he tells me, “M’am we have credited the amount in your wallet. You are free to use it if you change your mind in future.”

Wow! Now that is some amazing customer service, isnt it? Specially so when you are paying twice three times the price for a product that is available in the market!

Feel cheated but then do they care? For those wanting to shop at Greencart .in, my advise 0 the vendor down your house is much much better. Had I purchased bananas from him, I am sure if I had faced a problem, owing to my loyalty to shopping with him, he would compensate me without this *conditions apply tag!

Food Fundas

What is it about the ‘food business’ that attracts the young and the restless to be a part of it? We talk to entrepreneurs who have launched their own food haven with delicacies and concepts that are enticing and alluring to find out