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More consumers shifting towards the organized retail market in India: Amitabh Taneja

Data has irrevocably been a big facilitator in bridging the gap between consumer choices and business offerings. This is especially true in the retail sector where the consumer does not want for choice. 

According to Amitabh Taneja, Chairman-cum-Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, IMAGES Group “with an increasing amount of choice and brands, consumers need to be empowered with insights and data on smart consumption. There is need to build transparency on the part of consumer and retail brands to educate and communicate to consumers on key consumption shifts, product innovation and informed shopping behaviours.”

Amitabh has been relentlessly working for over 25 years now to modernize and expand the Indian retail market and build informed consumerism in India. The IMAGES GROUP, under his dynamic stewardship, has emerged as one of the largest retail and consumer intelligence organisations in the world. 

The IMAGES Group has been actively involved with consumer brands, retailers, shopping centre developers and the entire retail support network across the globe. This year, they have curated a tome honouring Indian Retail industry’s most influential leaders called the Retail Icons of India.

Speaking about the book, Mr Taneja says, “It is a collector’s special that narrates lessons from retail leaders, major developments and events impacting, facilitating and transforming retailing in India. Readers will be introduced to little–known facts, stories and learnings from over 100 of India’s most impactful, innovative and influential business leaders in retailing and allied businesses over the past 25 years through this remarkable volume. This is IMAGES Group’s tribute to the pioneers, innovators, disruptors and facilitators who’ve created or nurtured the entire ecosystem for retail to evolve in India and have transformed consumption patterns and channels irrevocably.”

The launch will be followed by the annual IMAGES Retail Awards 2019 ceremony – recognizing excellence in retail innovation, operations and technology in India across all formats and categories.

In conversation with Adgully, Amitabh Taneja of IMAGES Group discusses the future of the burgeoning retail industry, the changing outlook of retailers, e-commerce trends, and their book Retail Icons of India -- The People, Ideas and Events that transformed India’s Consumption Story.

What is the size of the offline retail segment? What are the key trends in this space?

Multichannel retail has become the new normal, with brick-and-mortar stores transforming from being the pivotal point of selling to part of a broader Omnichannel strategy. The Indian offline retail sector is projected at about $1.3 trillion by 2020.

The key trends in this space include leveraging AR technology to bridge the gap between the digital and the physical, showrooms being increasingly equipped with VR/AR/MR, AI, and robotic technology. Pop-up stores are also picking up in the offline sector, as are other interesting formats like kiosks.

I believe that the next few years will also be more about providing consumers with experiences rather than with products.

Do most retailers opt for an omnichannel strategy to reach their consumer?

In India, more and more retailers are increasingly adapting Omnichannel strategies by creating seamless experiences across various channels. The broad idea, I feel, is to meet consumer needs on whichever channel the consumer chooses to use, thereby winning the loyalty of customers.

However, Omnichannel retail doesn’t mean just adopting technology for technology’s sake. I think that what drives true Omnichannel success is a digital ecosystem in which brick-and-mortar and e-commerce will co-exist, translating into a sound business sense as well as which enhanced customer experience.

What is the size and YoY growth of the e-tail segment? What are the key trends shaping this space?

A decade ago, e-commerce entered India and changed the lives of urban consumers forever. Triggered by increasing internet and smartphone penetration, e-commerce is changing the lives of Indians in cities, small towns and beyond. I feel some of the other key factors shaping this growing trend include the easy accessibility of products – both Indian and International – especially in far flung areas which brands can’t physically penetrate; the convenience and wide variety e-retail affords consumers; and the number of discounts, sale offers, and deals tempting consumers of all ages, especially Millennials.

The Indian e-commerce market is expected to grow to US$ 200 billion by 2026, growing at an annual rate of 51 percent, the highest in the world.

How to bring the unorganised retail sector into the fold? What does your intelligence indicate?

In India, the unorganized retail sector is still dominant, primarily comprised of small-scale stores with little or no standardization, lack of access to technology and capital/funding and lack of best practices in as far as inventory and supply chain management go. These stores are low investment and do not require a lot of expertise, sophisticated infrastructure or merchandise to run.

However, with more and more consumers shifting towards the organized retail market in India, I feel that retailers in the country need knowledge, skills and training in modern retail management methods as well as financial assistance to help them come under the fold of the organized sector.

The unorganized retail sector is today aware of the benefits that an organized layout has to offer, and honestly, an increasing number of retailers from this sector are trying to readjust their business to ride this wave. I personally believe that technology will play a crucial role to reach out, identify and consolidate all stakeholders of this sector.

Data is playing a bigger role in the retail business. Where have its applications been most beneficial?

Big Data helps the retail industry sense, predict and automate user experiences at scale and optimize product placement and drive store footfalls and sales. Customer interaction with brands always yields valuable data and insights into buying trends and help predict a pattern that will aid in serving customers better. Retailers who collect a wealth of data from their consumers, and then fully exploit this data to deploy consumer engagement programs would be the ones who foster most loyalty in this ultra-competitive era.

According to me, data analytics help in the following:

  • Cost Reduction: By identifying more efficient ways of doing business.
  • Demand Prediction: Finding out the products that are in high demand by getting a good understanding of the buying trends of customers.
  • Forecasting Trends: By using data analytics, businesses can forecast the trends which need to be promoted and products and services that need to be developed.

When you curate a book telling the stories of Retail Giants in India, what are the key consideration factors?

Ensuring an unbiased representation of an entire economic sector’s evolution is paramount, as also ensuring an accurate balance of national brands and smaller-but-iconic domestic brands with enduring legacies and relevance – even 40 years after their beginnings.

Can you explain the sections of the book i.e. The Pioneers, The Disrupters, The Facilitators and the Modernists?

As is evident by the section names, Pioneers are leaders of brands that are first-movers and role models in their respective categories. Nalli is an example of this section. Modernists are leaders who’ve introduced Indian consumers to new retail formats, brands and globally-aligned in-store experiences. Abhishek Ganguly, MD of PUMA India, for instance. Facilitators relates to leaders who have created the infrastructure for modern retail to flourish and expand. Arjun Sharma, chairman of Select Group (Select CITYWALK) is an example. Disruptors are the ecommerce innovators who’ve challenged conventional formats and taken Indian consumption to the digital space successfully. Amit Agarwal, Country Head, Amazon India exemplifies this.

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