India has traditionally been the country of weekly haats and melas. Our forefathers have known them to be the shopping malls and for large part of history that is where India shopped. The British before India’s independence set up some modern cities – Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, Madras – Each of these cities had their own large modern market areas – Hogg’s markets [Kolkata], Connaught Place [Delhi], Fort and Colaba [Mumbai], Broadway [Chennai] and so on.
Then post independence these markets kept thriving and smaller markets started growing. Still largely out of Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities Modern Retailing was taking shape in its un-organised and humble beginning.
In fact sometime between the 1990s the One Roof Shopping Arcades with multiple outlets and had become the preferred destinations and the stand alone/ old format stores slowly died out. These Malls or shopping centers as they were often called were changing the dynamics quickly.
The came the decade of Modern Trade Large Format Retail – The Shoppers Stops, Lifestyles, Pantaloon Retail, Reliance Trends, Max in Clothes, Reliance Fresh, Spencers, Big Bazaar, ABG More, Nilgiris – more small city wise outlets came up as well. There was a stamp of modern retail in almost everything we bought including mobile phones [The Mobile Store], Medicine [Apollo, Frank Ross], Sports Goods [Decathalon]. The mantra for Malls was to empower the customer with choice and provide a shopping experience which was unparalleled and spectacularly different.
Along the way there were hiccups – Expensive Store Rentals, Shortage of Qualified Staff, Inventory cost eventually started taking its toll on the businesses – A few smaller players like Vishal Retail, Subhiksha etc were casualties. Slowly Internet started spreading in India – from desktops to laptops and eventually into everyone’s palms as a smartphone – As more people started getting online they started to buy online – The trends was started by the not so successful Deals Websites in India. This was followed by a plethora of online retailers that spruced up across the country.
The Big Obstacle that came up was that most Indians were without Credit Cards, Online Banking was still taking shape, most people had never done or heard of electronic money transfer. To combat this challenge Indian Online Retailers came up with COD [Cash on Delivery]. COD helped not just in getting the transaction done but also in the winning the trust of the customer.
Online Retailer had cracked the code. Unlimited options for customers, Low Cost, No Rentals, Lower Prices, Offers and Discounts and lots more. The flipkarts, infibeams, snapdeals etc started up. Slowly but surely almost any business worth noticing has online presence. Fashion/ Clothes was supposed to be difficult to sell online – people liked to try and buy – but myntra.com, jabong.com, yebhi.com and many more seem to have cracked the code on this one too. The only real things they needed to invest in were 1. Tie Ups and 2. Strong logistics – In effect online Companies are brick and mortar companies with warehouses instead of showrooms but with a logistics at the heart of its business model.
From electronics to books, clothes to shoes, gifts to stationery, Holidays to car rentals, food to eyewear – everything under the sun could be purchased online. What this meant was that the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and Towns of India went online to get their stuff. The Swanky malls hadn’t reached there yet. The space was growing so quickly that it attracted funding from all kinds of Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors and Private Equity and what not.
Online Shopping today is India’s answer to low cost retailing. The scape is getting cluttered with new ventures every week. The brick and mortar businesses obviously have the advantage of customer connect and experience and are growing stronger through reinvention but online shopping is here to stay, thrive and grow faster than the brick and mortar shops.
What the future hold is a heady mix of customer choices and shopping options – eventually the fittest will survive.
In India times are changing all the time… You need to move with the tide of get left behind…