Even as the India Retail Forum 2007 drew to a close on September 6, the Forum left several paradoxes unanswered. However, many solutions came to the fore, which, if implemented, could see the Indian retail industry growing stronger in the coming years.
Global retail and consumer expert Barbara Wold pointed out the importance of listening to the consumer and giving him what he wanted. Citing examples from her personal experiences, she explained the importance of service to consumers in the retail business.
Peter Lau, Chairman, Giordano, presented his views as a sociologist and talked about the importance of how brands needed to think about the society while executing their objectives. He urged the Indian retail industry to adopt responsible retailing in the country, and thereby increase returns.
Ian Duffy, President, Asia and Group Management Member, IKEA, explained his company’s policies on making a difference to the everyday life of people by coming up with solutions for them.
The only session to witness a full house other than the grand finale of CEO debate was the one involving Kishore Biyani, CEO, Future Group. Biyani asked the industry experts to find solutions for questions like ‘how can we look at increasing consumption in the country?’ “According to me, increasing the consumption basket is the solution for it,” he noted.
Comparing the Brazil and Mexico models with India, Biyani said that a consumer-credit model would be the next step in Indian retail. The Future Group already has forayed into this with its Future Money, which provides consumers with loans to purchase any commodity from any of the Group stores.
Answering a question on retaining consumers and brand loyalty, Biyani said that loyalty came at a cost, but whether retailers would be able to sustain it remained to be seen. He further said that organised retailing would not work in Class IV towns in India.
Commenting on the rising availability of commercial real estate properties in the country, Biyani said, “2009 will be a defining year for the Indian retail industry and it will be a tough year for all mall developers.”
The CEO forum, touted as a fitting finale to the IRF 2007, evoked a lot of thoughts, questions and answers that left the audience asking for more from the leaders in the Indian retail industry. Moderated by Reg Athwal, Chairman, World CEO Forum, the interactive session had 60 leaders on stage answering questions posed by the audience as well as Athwal.
Summing up the three-day conference, V Vaidyanathan, Chairman, India Retail Forum, and ED, ICICI Bank, noted that the industry had debated and come up with many solutions and was now undergoing changes. He added, “We are undergoing a change currently, however, preparing the ecosystems in the organisation for the changes is important.”