Disruptive Innovation Impacts the Success of Indian Retailing!
A remarkable co-existence of physical, online and omnichannel forms and their intelligently integrated functioning is what would set Indian retailing apart
Indian retailing is a unique phenomenon. I call it so because Indian consumers are uniquely diverse in their consuming tastes and preferences. Be it food or apparel, the different ethnicities and cultures of the Country impact consumer behaviour largely. It’s not just about ‘one size fits all’ with homogeneous preferences as in the case of consumers in evolved economies. Different dishes are prepared and consumed by different kinds of people living in the 29 States and 7 Union Territories of India that boast of linguistic divisions based on a diverse portfolio of 22 major languages written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects! These unique countrymen similarly consume varied types of food – a dietary diversity beyond comprehension that reflects the wide level of heterogeneity in food intake among consumers in India! This heterogeneity is a result of food availability created by the varieties of farm produce of the regions. In a lighter vein, it is often mentioned that South India alone has one hundred varieties of one dish – the Sambar (the lentil based vegetable stew, had with steamed rice and ‘idlis’!). That’s the flavour of Indian consumers and their diversity in brief!
Concentrating on Consumers
The consuming classes are the strength of Indian retailing. The industry is dependent on the increasing rate of domestic consumption. As the Country is evolving so, retailers ought to understand such diverse preferences of consumers, if they have to serve them right. It has been a constant challenge for retailers to bring together the right product in the right place and at the right time for the right customer! For long, product availability in all the corners of the country to has been a challenge as a result of supply chain deficiencies. The principal disruption has come in the form of technological innovations that help customers with access to products and services by faster means. Yes, e-commerce has been a major disruptor in the Indian retailing scenario. Gone are the days when people used to think that consumers would take an ‘either’ ‘or’ route when it came to the consumer choice of shopping. Evolved Indian consumers are at ease buying from brick-and-mortar retailers as well as from online players. So, many organizations have now resorted to serving customers through what we call, ‘Omni channel’ retailing! Fire on all cylinders to win over the Indian consumer. And so, to sell through the available channels of retailing is the winning mantra of the retailers of India today! Technology has integrated the retailing platform for consumers to access seamlessly anything, anytime and from anywhere!
While the physical spaces of retailing have been moving heaven and earth to meet consumers in malls and large format multi-brand stores, many single brands have taken to retailing in a big way. In addition to being present in the Indian markets as retailers, these brands are present online too, with marketplace e-commerce players. Retail brands have been creating an experiential environment even within large stores as they do with online players as well. Just to present a single case example: In India, one finds Samsung Experience Stores. The core of the experience provided to the customer comes in the form of a Virtual Reality thrill with Samsung Gear VR and the 4D experience chair where the customer can actually go through the experience before making a purchase decision. Simulated experiences offered online through the specially featured portals are offered in a physical store environment. These elements form part of the Samsung Experience offered uniformly to the consumers, cutting across territories!
Leading retailers of late, have been resorting to the concept of ‘Connected Spaces’ where they provide the customer with a seamless personalized brand experience as a result of the information gathered by them, using the right technology and analytics. This integrates both the physical retailing space and the retailer’s ‘Omni channel’ initiatives. The tablets placed in the pop-up and the information gathered thereof, are used to provide the customer with the right experience of shopping whether online or offline. Connected Spaces are seen disrupting the efficiency levels of customer interactions to the next level where the retailer acquires a thorough knowledge of the customer and thus be enabled to serve much better and faster.
A remarkable co-existence of physical, online and omnichannel forms and their intelligently integrated functioning is what would set Indian retailing apart. Retailers must have a thorough understanding of the diverse profiles of the ever-growing consuming class of India and instantaneous responses to their needs using disruptive and innovative solutions, would render the fervour of success in the retailing business in the days to come!
Dr. Gibson Vedamani is a retail enthusiast and runs his own retail advisory based in Mumbai. He is an author of three books and a number of topical articles in Indian Retailing. His latest book “Retail Beyond Detail – The Great Indian Retailing Business” published by Sage publications was launched in September 2018. He is the former founding CEO of Retailers’ Association of India. He is an NSDC Nominee Member of the Board of Directors of Gems & Jewellery Skill Council of India. Earlier Dr. Vedamani has served in significant positions in retailing organizations like Bata, Shoppers Stop, Piramyd Retail and Reliance Webstore in India.