Friday, July 23, 2010

Will you pay for someone to shop for you?

A few weekends ago I coerced my kids to accompany me for the weekly vegetable buying trip, as my spouse was travelling.

Amongst the various reasons/ excuses given by my children for not coming to do vegetable shopping was that it was boring. To reiterate this point of view my college going son strongly stated that he would never go for vegetable purchases when he grows up. When I teased him about being chauvinistic, he replied with a simple statement of fact that it was boring and that most people in that age group regardless of gender would not be interested in “wasting” their time in such tasks. They would rather hire someone to do this for them.

Initially I dismissed this perspective as a youthful one. However, it has been at the back of my mind. I am now beginning to wonder if India would see a sudden shift in shopper behavior which would not only spawn new services but also lead to paradigm shifts in Indian Retail.

The reason why I am debating this is due to a study that was done more than ten years ago to understand price and value perception amongst housewife. It was interesting and an eye opener to say the least. One of the things thrown up in the study was how a housewife would readily pay a Rupee (Bear with the text till I get the new font!!) more for cleaned Rawa while she would not do so for cleaned Rice. The reasoning was that the perception of the effort justified the extra Rupee as also the fact that she anyways cleans and rinses the rice before cooking.

So, the question in my mind is;

Are shoppers changing? Will they pay and outsource functional (AKA boring) shopping? Is India heading towards a personal shopper service of a different kind?

My personal view is that as of now I don’t see the majority paying to get shopping done. I am basing this on my observation of shopper behavior and price-value perceptions. Even today an advertisement for a Rs. 149/- tawa draws a crowd! However, this could change. How soon, I don’t know!!

Please share your comments and views on this topic. I shall also explore this further and post more regarding the same.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Discussion Paper about FDI in Multi Brand Retail

In April 26th DIPP had announced (as reported in the press) that the discussion paper would be released and discussions would start next month. Promptly the next day the Commerce Minister categorically states that the government is currently not working on the possibility of FDI in Retail. This changing stance seems to find an echo in the paper even after it has been finally released. To quote a point stated right at the start of the note “The views expressed in this discussion paper should not be construed as the views of the government. The department hopes to generate informed discussion on the subject, so as to enable the Government to take an appropriate policy decision at the appropriate time”.

DIPP is a department of the Commerce Ministry. This is a detailed discussion note prepared by this department and quotes several facts, figures and refers to several research and studies done including one by a Parliamentary standing committee. Yet, it starts by absolving any Government perspective to the note. In light of this, how seriously can anyone take this note? Is it yet another document put together for the want of anything else to do?

A detailed perspective about this was published in "The Hindu Business Line"  today.  Look forward to your feedback and views.

Unleashing the Human Resource Potential in Retail

Coincidentally on the same day of my critique of the DIPP discussion note an exhaustive article of mine was carried in the “Brand Line” which is a supplement of “Business Line”.

Apart from detailing how Retail can harness India’s Human Resource potential, the article talks about how the same can have a significant impact on the Indian Economy. In a context where Retail is already amongst one of the largest employers in India contrasted with the reality that the majority of people employed would not even be paid minimum wages, Industry status is the most pressing need for Indian Retail.

The full article can be read online at Brand Line