Showing posts with label Home Improvement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Home Improvement. Show all posts

Friday, March 19, 2010

What a Birthday present!!

Almost to the day, it has been a year since “An Indian and A Retailer” made its debut. The thoughts of this blog grew into an in-depth, experiential book about Indian Retail, titled “The INDIAN reTALEs”.

All this happened in the space of the past 365 or maybe 366 days!

And on the first birthday of the blog, I hold a physical copy of “The INDIAN reTALEs” and wish a very happy birthday to the blog.

This book has been published by Unicorn Books and is now available for purchase with an online discount of 25% at pustakmahal (dot) com. It would be available at leading book stores over the next couple of weeks.

Please start enquiring at your nearest book store about the book and get your hands on it as soon as possible.

Thanks to everyone who supported, encouraged and motivated me along this journey. Hope you enjoy reading the tales as much as you have this blog.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

DIFM - Implications for Home Improvement retail

What does DIFM or DIY have to do with retail? Very simple - the model for a home improvement format has to duplicate the neighborhood hardware store in terms of having skilled workmen to do the job.

Given the clear mandate to the new government, expected economic recovery and hence an expectation of enormous amount of housing development, it is only a matter of time before this format attracts serious attention and players enter the same. There are a few stores in this format, but they are not majorly focused on the repair and maintenance part of home improvement.

Just like how supermarkets had to closely match the experiential differences offered by the Kirana to successfully attract customers, home improvement stores would need to offer services as the core value offering. Sales of the products would be almost by default as anyways the skilled workmen take a call on the majority of purchases.

Once customers experience the certainty and convenience of such a service offering, the dependence on the offering would drive loyalty to the store.

Alternatively, given the rentals in most cities, only a service centre can be there in most major neighbourhood catering to requirements. The store could be a warehouse type of format in the outskirts. Since such large purchases are usually once in a lifetime, a good range at very competitive prices and backed by the service offering would more than offset the trouble of going to a suburban store. And lastly, even that can be countered by the store offering pick up and drop facilities for large purchases.

Going forward, customer engagement and education programs might help in slowing ushering in a DIY culture. Mr. Ashwin Mahesh in his comment on the previous post about home improvement mentions about how painting the walls is a fairly simple job and he would do that himself. But, the reality in India is that such customers would be an exception to prove the rule and even if a small percentage of people started to do this, it would be a major step in that direction.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Home Improvement - The illusion of low labour cost!

We Indians are a DIFM (Do It For Me) type of customer when it comes to any kind of home improvement project. DIY (Do It Yourself) is an alien concept given the over abundance of labor in the Indian context. However, is it sustainable?

Traditionally the majority of urban Indians require an electrician to replace a blown fuse and therefore obviously the support of a plumber, carpenter and so on. Hanging a picture in the house is a major project because we need a carpenter for that! Why is that?

First and foremost, we are not taught even the basic skills required for some of the home related repair and maintenance work. And we don’t take the trouble to acquire these skills because of the existence of the neighborhood electrician/ plumber, etc. Therefore, we also don’t have the tools required to even do simple things like changing the fuse!

Secondly most neighborhoods have a hardware shop which has a resident plumber and electrician. These people are not employed by the store. They just use the store as their base of operations and a contact point. In return the sales generated due to the work they do is monopolized by that store. So, it is mutually dependent and creates a self sustaining cycle between the customer, the skilled worker and the store.

Lastly, given the cost of a proper tool kit, hand drill, etc., and while balancing it against the occasional repair needs as also the on-call low cost labor, most Indians prefer DIFM.

This is fine when paying a few hundred rupees to do minor stuff. Recently, the capacitor of one of the ceiling fans gave up. To replace the same we paid Rs. 75/- to the electrician who had come plus the cost of the capacitor. Even assuming that the price of the capacitor would not change, if I had changed the same, there is a savings of Rs. 75/-. Why did I not do that? Urban dwellers increasingly trade off money for time (Read this article about this concept - So, in my view the cost of the electrician’s time was far less than the value of my time and the required effort for this.

But, this also leads to conditioning and repetitive behavior. Even if I knew something about home improvement, I soon lose touch and my dependence on the skilled workers increases and thereby my latent need and dependence on contractors also grows, for larger home improvement jobs.

Now, imagine a slightly larger in scope but simple enough home improvement work. Painting your home or even one room! It is actually a simple enough job. One needs to sandpaper the walls and then paint the same. It becomes ridiculously easy of one were to use a roller instead of a brush. Yet, we usually ask a contractor to do this job.Ask anyone who has had to manage even such a simple job and there will pour forth a litany of complaints about how the painters usually did not come on time, made a mess and often left without cleaning and so on. If one were to calculate the cost of the time and effort required to follow up, supervise, clean up, etc., one would realize that the actual cost of the job was far more. Therein lies the irony of the supposedly low cost labor and completely undermines our main rational for being DIFM instead of DIY.