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Others India Retail Forum 2007: ‘Customers are the best teachers, they will take care of you in the long run’

India Retail Forum 2007: ‘Customers are the best teachers, they will take care of you in the long run’

Author | Jagadeesh Krishnamurthy & Rishi Vora | Wednesday, Sep 05,2007 9:17 AM

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India Retail Forum 2007: ‘Customers are the best teachers, they will take care of you in the long run’

India Retail Forum, the country’s largest retail conference, got underway in Mumbai on September 4. The Forum has brought representatives of the Indian retail industry and associated industries under one roof to debate and deliberate on the growing sector in the Indian context.

Welcoming the delegates, V Vaidyanathan, ED, ICICI Bank, and Chairman of India Retail Forum, observed, “The biggest boon for India is that 890 million people are below the age of 45 years.” He further said that India’s retail sector was expected to expand rapidly in the next decade and provide jobs to the country’s large young population.

The Indian retail sector is still largely closed to foreign investment and is dominated by millions of mom-and-pop stores, but with the entry of big multinationals, the organised retail sector is on an unprecedented growth curve.

“The story of India is still full of opportunities, it is definitely a huge ocean,” said Vaidyanathan, adding that over the next decade, “the projected growth for the retail industry Rs 12 trillion, which is expected to triple in the future. It will also create 3.5 million job opportunities”.

Vinod Sawhny, President and COO, Bharti Retail, spoke about the consumption driven Indian economy and also pointed out some of the drivers for this growth. G C Daga, Director (Marketing), Indian Oil Corporation, cited the company’s example to explain the retail options that could be used for driving growth.

Arun Nanda, ED, Mahindra & Mahindra, underlined the importance of environment and infrastructure in the Indian context. Providing a world view on India, the emerging market of the world, Abraham Goren, Executive Vice Chaiman, Elbit Imaging Group, compared the market with the Central and Eastern European markets that had gone through a similar phase some years ago.

The second session of the day saw the launch of the India Food Forum and had speakers like IGD’s Louise Spillard and ITC Foods Division’s CEO, Ravi Naware. The session also had Minister of Food Processing Industries, Subhodh Kant Sahai, sharing his views on the sector.

In a panel discussion post-lunch, speakers like Peter McCafferty, Director, Benoy Hong Kong; Rodney Fitch, Chairman and CEO, Fitch, UK; and Devita Saraf, CEO, VU Technologies, discussed on whether or not the small stores would be wiped out with the advent of big malls and multiplexes in India. All speakers on this front shared a similar view. It was concluded that small stores had their own space in the retail sector, and that they had an altogether different shopping experience as compared to big stores and malls. Fitch added that large malls were old fashion in America, and today American consumers were more inclined towards medium and small scale stores.

Ashish Kapur, MD, Yo! China, in a session on ‘Mentoring SMEs in Retail’ emphasised on key points such as the need for right location, right people, simple strategies and the most important – the ability to listen to the consumers. He also stressed on the need to invest in quality rather than quantity.

While in the same session, Witco’s V P Harris spoke about the need to keep a track record of the customer’s behaviour pattern right from the point of entry to the point of exit. Prashant Desai, Group Investor Relations and New Ventures, Future Group, laid stress on avoiding processes and systems. “If you think you have the money and the desire to invest in retail, then just go ahead and open a store. Customers are the best teachers, and they will take care of you in the longer run,” he said.

Talking about the retail scope in rural areas, Munish Hemrajani, MD, Big Apple, said that the retail sector in rural areas was not big as the industry primarily required a lot of disposable income among consumers, which apparently was not the case among Indian villagers.

In a session on ‘Market and Consumer Intelligence’, Rajiv Krishnan, Head-Large Format, Bharti, talked about getting into the right mindspace by building competitive products and identifying trends among consumers. He also spoke about customer segmentation, the need for personalised campaigns, building trust and using different channels to interact with the customers.

Dev Amritesh, VP – Marketing, Domino’s, explained a five-step marketing approach that his company had effectively used in marketing Domino’s Pizza in India.

The last session discussed on how to create impact as a leader in the retail industry. It was conducted by Nigel Risner, who is known for motivating and developing leadership skills in business.

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