Thursday, December 21, 2006

The natural way

High blood pressure is getting increasingly common in developed countries, due to higher stress levels, changing eating and lifestyle habits that modernism brings with it. While there a lot of modern medicines to treat high blood pressure, I don't think any of them are able to cure a person of high blood pressure. Natural remedies such as Hyperestol, on the other hand, have been clinically proven to be 99% effective in reducing high bp levels and even curing it when used over a long period of time. So, give natural remedies a try and go for Hyperestol reducing high blood pressure naturally. The major advantage of using natural remedies is that they do not cause any negative side effects.

ITC to open 54 Choupal Fresh horticulture stores

The Economic Times reports that ITC Chairman YC Deveshwar announced that ITC will be expanding its wholesale business from just fruits and vegetables to open 54 outlets in select metros. At present, ITC’s first Choupal Fresh store opened in Hyderabad in August 2006 and in total has 3-4 Choupal Fresh stores operating in Hyderabad and Pune.

The company has set up a complete cold chain that ensures fruits and vegetables are fresh when they reach the consumer, and the emphasis of these stores will be on improving the quality and productivity of horticulture products from the domestic field rather than relying on importing products.

ITC also has plans to increase is rural hypermarkets, Choupal Sagars by nine within the next six months. Choupal Sagars provide a place for farmers to bypass intermediaries and sell their produce directly to the company. At present, there are 11 Choupal Sagars in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Carrefour in talks with Wadias

The Financial Express reports that French retailer Carrefour, the second largest retailer in the world, is in talks with the Wadias of Bombay Dyeing Group for a retail venture in India. Carrefour was earlier in talks with Dubai based Landmark group and has been studying the Indian retail market for the past 4 months. Reportedly talks with Landmark fell through since Carrefour wanted to tie up with an Indian company. If the deal goes through, Ness Wadia will likely be heading the new venture. The Wadias have diversified interests in textiles, airlines, FMCG and had earlier announced its interest in the retail industry.

Shoppers run out of ideas; go for gift cards

Evan Schuman of StorefrontBacktalk writes about the rise of holiday gift cards as shoppers run of time and ideas. According to the Web traffic figures from Hitwise, searches for gift cards rose by 109% as compared to the previous week. Top searches for gift cards included Visa gitcard, AmericanExpress giftcard, iTunes giftcard, Rite Aid giftcard, the Simon Mall giftcard etc.
A Hitwise statement attributed to GM Bill Tancer said “branded credit and charge gift cards dominated top searches as gift givers opted for the most flexibility for their gift recipients.” It’s more likely they dominated the searches because advertising made them top-of-mind for desperate consumers.

Iran to calculate oil in euros not USD from next year

This is pretty interesting news, to say the least. BusinessWeek reports that Iran's government spokesperson Gholam Hussein Elham announced that Iran will be calculating oil and other foriegn trade in euros and not USD from the next fiscal year. The country's next financial year will begin on March 21, 2007.
Iran derives more than 80 percent of its hard currency from the export of crude oil that traditionally has been paid for in U.S. dollars. The Iranian government has taken a number of steps to reduce its reliance on the dollar. Iranian Economy Minister Davoud Danesh Jaffari said last month that the government is in the process of converting its dollar reserves into euros.

Holiday travel plans

So, we're off tomorrow evening for our next vacation. This one promises to be extremely different from all others. It will be a 'go back to simpler times' vacation of sorts, to our ancestral village Koilwar, on the banks of the river Soan, a place where there is no electricity (not because the village doesn't get electrical supply, but instead because the house has been unoccupied for 50 odd years), no modern accompaniments such as TV, Internet, cell phones etc. On the other hand, it will be a superb place to catch up with family. Hope to take as many pics as possible before batteries run out.

I was calculating just how much vacation time I've taken this year and it really adds up to quite a bit.
  • One week in January for Goa
  • Four weeks in June/July for US
  • Three days in August for Bangalore
  • Three days in October for Juneo, Himachal
  • Three weeks in Nov/Dec for Canada and US (again!)
  • Ten days in December for Koilwar
And, that adds up to: 72 days for the entire year. It's been a great year for travel!

Supercharge your vehicle

Supercharge your vehicle engine with Dieselsmoke's incredible formula of Diesel Performance, which has been used on trucks such as Chevy Duramax, Dodge Cummins and Ford Powerstrokes. Using specific diesel performance modifications, these trucks have been to fitted with diesel performance chips, tuners, exhaust systems, air intakes, propane and nitrous to become highly fuel efficient giving a mileage of 20-35mph on the highway. For those who don't know, diesel performance product such as Dieslesmoke is one of the most respected brands in the business.

Santosh Desai, COO of McCann to join The Future Group

Lots of reshuffling in the retail industry currently going on.

After Harsh Bahadur, MD of Metro Cash & Carry India put in his papers, Business Standard reports that McCann Erikson’s President and COO, Santosh Desai announced that he will be joining Kishore Biyani’s Future Group as the head of Future Brands, a new company yet to be launched. Future Brands is to be a brand and marketing company, which will control 45-50% of the Future Group’s brands and will work on licensing and brand promotion.

The Future Group has a host of brands such as John Miller, Fresh and Pure and Bare. In this regard, Kishore Biyani, MD of the Future Group, said that "The campaigns for Dreamline and DJ&C will break shortly. The business model is very similar to what Martha Stewart does in the US."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Reliance Retail hastens expansion

With all the interest generated by the Wal-Mart and Bharti tie up, all retailers are gearing up to face the competition. DNA Money reports that Reliance Retail is understood to be ready for its second phase of expansion sooner than earlier expected and has already started its cash & carry format stores, Ranger Farms in Hyderabad. In the next two months, the company will be launching its Specialty stores and Hypermarkets. In the next few days, Reliance Retail stores will be opened in several cities, such as Jaipur, Delhi, Kochi, Bangalore and Chennai.

Its first Ranger Farm outlet opened in Hyderabad and will be opening in Jaipur next week. Ranger Farms are wholesale suppliers of fresh fruits and vegetables for small push cart vendors and other small merchants. The stores will function only from 2am to 9am.

Carrefour, Landmark deal falls through

A high profile retail linking is on the rocks. The Economic Times reports that according to sources, Carrefour and Landmark are unlikely to tie up for the Indian retail market, as Carrefour would prefer to tie up with an Indian company rather than the Dubai based Landmark group. Carrefour is also conducting talks with specialty retailers for possible franchising agreements, where it has supposedly approached a well known franchiser in the apparel segment.

The company is keen on opening stores in the convenience store format, with stores ranging from 2,500-3,000 sq ft, and plans to enter the value and mass retail segments at a later stage. In this regard, Carrefour is in talks with real estate companies, possibly to set up hypermarkets.

TCS creates interest in Wal-Mart and Target with its Personal Shopping Assistant

This is a really interesting development for consumers that has been doing the technology rounds for a while. According to a report in The Economic Times, Wal-Mart and Target have both shown interest in a new retail technological product being developed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). The new product is a Personal Shopping Assistant (PSA) and is currently being tested out at the TCS retail innovation lab, with a likely rollout occurring sometime next year. K Ananth Krishnan, Chief Technology Officer at TCS, said that “TCS has worked with some of the largest retailers, including 30 of the 50 largest in the world, and retail contributes more than $200 million in revenues for the company.”

The PSA will be a scanning device with a LCD screen that is mounted on a regular shopping cart. Upon scanning the customer’s loyalty card, the screen will guide customers to special offers and discounts available in the store. Customer’s can also pay via this product as it recognizes bar codes and RFID tags.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Could Barnes & Noble be coming to India?

DNA Money reports that US based Barnes & Noble, the world’s largest bookseller is keen on opening shop in India and is looking to find a suitable joint venture partner. Some suggest that it might be The Future Group that the book giant will be tying up with although Kishore Biyani, MD of the Future Group categorically denies any such thing.

Bamboo flooring

I've always liked having wooden floors, maybe since I grew up in the hills, where we always had them or more likely since I love the warm look and feel they create. Bamboo is a newer entrant to floors and is more eco-friendly than regular wood. Here's a good list of some Bamboo Flooring Manufacturers, if you are interested in installing them. It is also one of the most durable and long lasting natural materials. We had great floors in Bangalore and would have loved to have something similar here in Bombay, but since we were in a rush to find an apartment quickly, we had to fore go the wood floors. Interestingly, bamboo flooring is really popular here and there are a lots of companies getting into the business to handle the boom.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dabur explores entering consumer retail business

The Economic Times reports that Dabur India is considering entering the consumer retail business in the areas of health and wellness. According to Sunil Duggal, chief executive officer of Dabur, “Retail is an opportunity that requires to be studied. We are looking at various options, but have not finalised any plans. But we are sure that we will not be a mainstream retail player, meaning we wouldn’t be in food and grocery retailing.”

He added that, “If we decide to enter the retail business, it will be in the front-end. Our plans will be focused and specialised with health and wellness being the obvious option at the moment. We could make a foray through Dabur India or through a separate company.”

Metro and Keventer team up for West Bengal

Business Standard reports that Germany’s Metro Cash & Carry has teamed up with Keventer group, which has set up Keventer Fresh Ltd, to enter the state of West Bengal. The Keventer group is a major company in the eastern area in the food processing industry. MK Jalan, chairman of the Keventer group said that his company would provide back end support to Metro.

Metro Cash & Carry India managing director, Harsh Bahadur, conformed that the two companies had tied up, saying that Keventer “would run a platform for Metro in West Bengal”. At present, Metro has 2 cash and carry hubs in Bangalore and had short listed 6-7 cities such as Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Ludhiana and Chandigarh for its first phase of expansion.

The importance of the right POS software

The emphasis on spending money for many small business owners starting out is usually on product, real estate and advertising. Actually, one of the most important issue's a retailer has to look for is installing the right point of sale software, one that seamlessly connects all aspects of the store such as inventory, supplies to customer demand. The MerchantOS is one of the really great companies that get what retailers need and have developed a product to suit their needs exactly. MerchantOS was founded in 2003 by Ivan Stanojevic and Justin Laing for independent bicycle retailers, it was the first web based retail system. The MerchantOS system allows retailers to track and organize sales, inventory, customers etc all with a computer and Internet connection. The system has been designed for small businesses who have one or more store locations.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

On the road pics

Well, here are some pics from my trip to Canada and the US last week. Most of them are taken along our drive from Toronto to Ridgefield, CT (an hour NE of NYC) and back, through the Finger Lakes region and the Catskills. I especially loved driving through the Catskills along NY State Highway 17 (which is being converted to I-86 and is a 4 lane 65mph highway) along the Delaware river initially and then along some other stream or the other.


Driving along Cayuga Lake, between South Lansing and Cayuga Heights in NY State.


Just the best and cutest coffee house, called East Shore Coffee House in Ludlowville, just north of South Lansing, NY.


Along Cayuga Lake, near Cayuga Heights, NY.


View from the house, Ridgefield, CT


The best little hot dog stand is on the main street in Ridgefield, CT.


On the road to Toronto. I-87 North towards Albany, NY.


On I-90, along the Mohawk river. A beautiful stretch of the road.


The snow started mid-morning, but it was still a lovely drive.


Another view along the Mohawk river on I-90.


Driving in the snow, with fat flakes flying past us.


A truly beautiful sight with the sun shining and blue skies and snow on the ground.

How to find the right hotel

This year has been a really great one for travel for us. We started the year out with a week in Goa, then spent a month in the US in June-July, driving from Virginia to Maine, visiting old haunts and discovering new ones, and I have just returned from a 3 week trip to Toronto with a slight detour through NY state to Ridgefield, CT. We have also taken several shorter trips to Bangalore, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh in-between. So, this year, I have spent a lot of time searching out hotel and reserving rental cars.

One of the best sites I found for hotel reservations was hotelreservations.com which has a superb selection of hotels, ranging from quick motel stops along the highway to luxury resorts, vacation rentals and hotels in the heart of town. I found that the prices listed on the hotelreservations.com site were the best rates available online. The enquiry form is simple and easy to use, even for those who are just starting out booking rooms or cars online and the results can be sorted by price, quality, best value and alphabetically so you can quickly see the results you want to.

I really liked the format of the site, and even though this is a sponsored post, I can realistically say that I will definitely be doing my future hotel bookings on the hotelreservations.com site. For one thing, it is one of the rare international sites that offers hotel bookings in some locations in Asia, including my favorite beach holiday location, Goa. We're planning to go there again in February 2007 and I found that they have a great rate for The Taj Holiday Village. Other locations in this part of the world are Bongkok, Koh Samui and Tokyo, of which I have been to Bangkok and have the other two on my must visit list.

Future Group switches account to Starcom

The Economic Times reports that the Future Group has switched its media agency and has selected Starcom to handle its account which is around Rs. 200-250 crore and is said to be one of the largest accounts in the past five years. The company was earlier with Carat for the past two years. As Pantaloon expands across all formats and is rapidly increasing its sq ft space from 4 million sq ft to 30 million sq ft, the company is also looking for creative agencies. At present the company uses Mudra for its value retail segment and Percept for its lifestyle retail segment.

Kitchen add-ons

Each time I come back from the States, I realize the importance of having good kitchen equipment and kitchen furniture. Unlike India, most people in the US spend a lot of time in their kitchens and thus they are made quite comfortable and decorative. In India, the kitchen is only a utilitarian space, where the owners of the house barely spend any time in themselves, since house help is easily available to do the chores and cooking. I find that even though I have a cook, I would love to do more cooking and baking myself, but I have no place to keep all the equipment required at hand, so it usually becomes a much more complicated process than required. The best way to take care of this issue is to invest in some good furniture to store my continental cooking equipment and maybe even a island as a dedicated workspace. I found a beautiful and practical kitchen island at Great Priced Furniture, from their Attic Heirlooms Collection which has a slightly distressed feel contrasted with clean, strong lines.

Retailers look to container trains for transportation

Business Standard reports that several companies such as Reliance Retail, Transport Corporation of India, Mitsui OSK Lines, Hyundai Merchant Marine and NYK Lines, and The Future Group have shown keen interest in setting up private container train operations. The interest is in response to the Railway Ministry’s invitation for proposals in the second round of licenses for interested parties for container trains.

Currently, only Concor, a public sector company that is controlled by the railway ministry is permitted to run container trains in the country and therefore has a monopoly in the sector. Railways offer a substantial savings as compared to road transport, around a third of the cost of road transport.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pantaloon to open 75 Food Bazaar outlets by end 2007

Business Standard reports that Pantaloon announced that it will be increasing its food stores, Food Bazaar from 60 to 135 by end 2007. According to Damodar Mall, president and chief executive officer (food business division) for Pantaloon Retail, “Besides metros, people in tier-II cities and towns are also ready for the modern food retailing formats and we are, therefore, gearing up to open 75 more Food Bazaars across the country by the end of next year. Our cut-in stores will continue to be a part of Big Bazaars and Centrals, and we intend to set up stand-alone stores in smaller cities like Visakhapatnam and Mangalore."

Currently, there are already two cut-in stores in Hyderabad, at the Central Mall and at Big Bazaar and the company will be opening four more Food Bazaar’s in the city within the next two months. Pantaloon hopes to reach a turnover of Rs. 4,000 crore from all formats in the 2006 financial year, of which Food Bazaar accounts for a third of its revenues.

Munjals join retail bandwagon

Business Standard reports that the $3.2 billion Munjal owned Hero Group will be entering the retail sector and is looking for an international joint venture partner. According to Pawan Munjal, managing director of Hero Honda, the company is entering organized retail in India, even though there is tough competition. He added that, “Retail, which is likely to emerge as a major sector in the Indian market, is one of the core areas of our future growth strategy.”

The Hero Group has also started a company called Aero Infrastructure Ltd which will be focusing on developing institutional infrastructure in India, and has identified real estate development such as residential complexes, shopping malls, community complexes and hospitals as the major areas that it will be entering.

Searching the skies

One of the best places to study the stars with the naked eye was just below Dharamsala, near Yol Camp, in the lower Himalayas which I visited several years ago. I was simply astonished at how clear the night sky was, we could see more stars than ever before and also several traveling satellites. For more detailed inspection of the skies, we looked through a telescope for fabulous results. I've never been into astronomy, or so I thought, until that night where I was completely amazed at the endless beauty and drama in the sky. Although, there aren't too many places in Dharamsala to get hold of equipment to search the skies, telescope classifieds is a good place to start. AstroAds.com has a large variety of used telescopes, and you're sure to find something just for you.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

US holiday sales forecast not upbeat

CNNMoney reports that holiday shopping in the US is expected to accrue lower results than earlier expected as shoppers are holding out for better sales combined with a lack of a "must-have" item. Shoppers are even likely to wait until after Christmas to shop with lowe prices. According to Britt Beemer, Chairman and Founder of America's Research Group, comparable store sales are likely to rise only 2.7% down from the earlier forcast of 3.1%. He added "I'm lowering my forecast because I don't think retailers are going to wake up in time and I don't think the consumer is going spend their money foolishly."

According to the group's latest poll, 75.3 percent of Americans said that they have not purchased any winter apparel for themselves in December, while 58.6 percent have not purchased any as gifts.

The survey found that 26.5 percent of Americans plan to wait until after Christmas to buy items for themselves or as gifts, double the amount who planned to wait until after Christmas to shop in 2002, Beemer said.

The survey of 800 Americans on Saturday and Sunday also found that 30.9 percent of consumers found stores less decorated this holiday season, and 23.9 percent noticed that stores were playing less Christmas music. Lower levels of staff in stores have driven 22.6 percent to leave without buying, up from 20.9 percent last year.

Retailers cashing in on private labels

The Economic Times reports that domestic retailers are gearing up to offer cheaper options for consumers with private labels. For consumers who are not too brand conscious, private labels offer a significant amount of saving for a wide range of items such as food, cosmetics, beverages, durables and apparel.

Reliance Retail will be offering a wide range of products under its Reliance Select brand. According to Gunender Kapur, president of the food division, “The company will extend its private labels across product categories like tea, water, natural food, dairy products, biscuits and cosmetics.”

Private labels contribute a larger share of the profit margin for the retailers, with savings on transportation, marketing and advertising. RPG Retail which operates the Spencer’s stores in three different formats, is considering private labels in electronic items, after having successfully launched them in apparel and foods. RPG Retail president, Jitu Mehta, estimates that private labels contribute 10% to total sales and are expected to increase to 20-30% in the next year.

At Piramyd Retail, the private label business contributes for 12% of sales and is expected to increase to 20% next year. The company has private labels in home linen, apparel and footwear and will be adding luggage and fashion jewelry to its range of private label products.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Prepare for long drives to stores

The Economic Times reports that consumers must be prepared to face long drives to reach Wal-Mart stores, which according to retail and real estate consultants, is likely to set up stores at least 10 kms away from city centres and residential areas. Sunil Mittal, Chairman of Bharti said that the company is looking at all options such as leasing, renting and owning property. Real estate will be one of the critical factors in the retail strategy of the Wal-Mart and Bharti tie up. Rentals and malls have increased by 60-70% in the past year and might be a deciding factor in the company forming its own real estate development.

Getting a degree online

Online universities are a great way to earn degrees while you work. Capella University in an accredited university founded in 1993 and offers graduate programs in business, IT, education, human services and psychology. At the undergraduate level, Capella offers degrees in business and IT. All in all, there are 76 graduate and undergraduate specializations and 16 certificate specializations at Capella University. Part of getting a college education is the interacting with diverse group of students and Capella has students from all 50 US states and 63 international countries. Capella is known to be the leader in online learning, providing realistic and practical learning. The University is a subsidiary of the Capella Education Company, based in Minneapolis. for more infomation on the university and its programs, contact them at 1-888-CAPELLA (227-3552) or visit their website at www.capella.edu.

Birla Group finalizing retail plans

The Economic times reports that the AV Birla Group announced that it will be starting operations in the next 7-8 months and is likely to form its own retail business, without tying up with any foreign player. According to sources, the Birla Group is likely to invest Rs 5,000-6,000 crore in the initial phase of their retail venture, partly financed by Birla TMT Holdings.

The company’s retail venture is likely to be centered around smaller cities, such as Jalandhar, where the company recently acquired land. Company executives say the focus will be on using the existing infrastructure. There will a combination of large and small stores, with multi-format stores focusing on food and grocery and general merchandise.

Will India have a retail revolution?

The Economic Times reports that the Indian government stood firm on its stance of allowing FDI in retail in phases instead of all at once. The government has permitted FDI in logistics and will also be allowing wholesale trade to be continued. At the India Economic Summit, the government protected the domestic industry by not permitting FDI in retail.

According to Ajay Dua, secretary, department of Industrial Promotion and Policy, the government was reluctant to open the doors to foreign players to protect the ‘mom-and-pop’ stores which employed 21 million people. All industry representatives such as Sunil Mittal, MD of Bharti Enterprises and Adi Godrej, chairman of Godrej Industries did not agree with Mr Dua’s point of view.

Increasing your site's popularity

When I first started this blog over two years ago, I couldn't have cared less about readership, feeds, popularity, ranking etc. Unfortunately, I succummed to the need to have a highly rated website and started researching how Google indexes sites and rates them. Google's algorithm to rating sites is complicated and circumtious for anyone who is not extremely tech saavy and a mathematician to boot to understand. By and large, Google ranks sites based on on-site factors as well as off-site factors which base 35-45% of the rank. In layman's terms, Page Rank is how popular your site is. The fact is that page rank doesn't hold as much weight as it used to since it can be manipulated quite easily.

Google instead looks for inbound links, text around the link, the title tag etc in your site. Google is testing a new algorithm called the Latent Symtantec Indexing (LSI), which evaluates how words are related to each other on your site. Now, link popularity is key to being ranked higher by Google, having credible inbound and outbound links. While links can be purchased or exchanged between sites, the best way is press release distribution, which blogs are naturally attuned to doing. Blogitive uses this system with its network of over 2000 blogs, which has proven to be an effective system of increasing link popularity.

Indian suppliers eager to live the American dream in India

The Economic Times reports that Indian suppliers are eager to relive their American dream, this time in India itself. Companies that are manufacturing a wide variety of goods hope to continue their relationship with the retail giant to supply the Indian Wal-Mart stores. The company will be sourcing approximately $600 million of goods from India this year. Last year, the company sources $400 million from India.

According to Rajinder Gupta, MD of Trident Group, a Ludhiana based home textiles company, “We look at Wal-Mart’s entry not just as an opportunity to supply for its private labels but also to retail our products under our own brands. We already have an established relationship with Wal-Mart and that would work in our favour once they start sourcing for their India operations.”

Other companies such as JHS Svendgaard which manufacturers oral care products and Liberty Shoes which manufacturers and supplies footwear to Wal-Mart are keen on continuing their existing relationship with the company as well as contributing their knowledge of the local market.

Reviews and appraisals

This is a really cool tool to have. The Manager Assistant Performance Review Software is a tool that helps you keep up with employees reviews and appraisals. Once the most dreaded part of a job, Manager Assistant's performance review software will make you breeze through by keeping you organized, productive and getting results. It's the simplest way to keep track of your team, coordinate activities and evaluate results. I would have loved to use such a tool when I was a manager at Kmart in Kansas City. With a constantly changing stream of part time employees, reviews and appraisals were tough to do.

Reliance Retail to focus on Chennai next

After opening its first retail stores in Hyderabad, Reliance Retail is now focusing on opening stores in Chennai, where it will be opening 10 stores in densely populated residential areas around December 25, 2006. Most stores will be in the 1,500 to 3,500 sq ft range. The company also plans to open 6-7 stores in Jaipur, Delhi and Mumbai around the same time. Reliance hopes to have significant presence in 6-7 states by March 2007.

The company has hired the CEO of another retail company as CEO of its B2B business, and is likely to hire another 30 expatriates as consultants. So far 15 expatriates from companies such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Dairy Farm have already been hired and are working on its supply chain, operations and planning.

Its first 10 stores in Hyderabad are bringing in Rs 100,000 per day, selling over 6 tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables a day. The company had anticipated average sales of 4-5 tonnes per day. The company is planning to open at least 30 more stores in Hyderabad alone.

Reliance has pushed back its plans for its other two formats, Reliance Fresh Plus and its hypermarkets, due to the success of its Reliance Fresh stores. It will now open its first hypermarket, Reliance Mart in Ahmedabad in March 2007, instead of this December as earlier planned.

Wal-Mart’s Indianization

The Economic Times reports that even though it is the world’s largest retailer, it is not infallible and has had to withdraw from Germany and South Korea this year itself. For India, the company has to keep its Indian consumers firmly in mind when deciding everything from location, to pricing, to packaging and package size. According to Nirmalya Kumar, professor of marketing at London Business School, “Wal-Mart’s challenge in India will be to customise products and formats for local customers and to work around the infrastructure clearly not equipped to handle a world-class supply chain”.

Another key issue will be to understand the country’s tax system and its variations according to state. According to Andrew Levermore, CEO of Hypercity, “One of the biggest challenges for Wal-Mart in India would be the lack of sophisticated infrastructure that it has not dealt with in other countries yet. The Indian market is extremely diverse and distribution system highly complex. Wal-Mart will clearly have to tweak a whole lot of their processes to ‘Indianise’ systems and work around the country’s peculiarities.”

Monitoring computers

As the use of computers and Internet spreads and becomes more ingrained in our lives, the line on the appropriateness of its use often gets blurred. Where do companies draw the line on monitoring their employees? Is checking one's personal mail on an office computer acceptable? What about reading the news, maybe even related to what the company is doing? How about booking tickets online or playing games during a lunch break?

With the incidences of misuse of office computers or Internet rising, companies have no choice in safeguarding their physical and intellectual property and one of the best ways to check this is by using a computer monitoring system by SpectorSoft, one of the leading companies in the industry. PC Magazine selected the Spector Pro software two times as it's Editors' Choice for best Monitoring Software in 2002 and 2004.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wal-Mart brings in own high level executives

The Economic Times reports that Wal-Mart and Bharti Enterprises highly anticipated entry to the Indian retail market is not going to create any HR ripples within India. The company will be filling in crucial spots with its own senior executives. One top industry emphasized that the company “doesn’t need to learn retailing from Indian executives”. Andy Guttery and Lance Rettig are likely to head the Indian operations, along with Raj Jain, who will be heading the cash-and-carry business and has been training for the job in Shanghai.

The CFO position is likely to be an Indian and is being scouted by a search firm. Other important back end operations such as logistics, sourcing and merchandising will be taken care of by Wal-Mart executives also. Lance Rettig is likely to be incharge of all overall operations and also of market research and business development. Andy Guttery’s exact job is not yet known, but he will be relocating to India. He was earlier with the company’s South Korean operations.

Send some flowers this Christmas

So, is there anyone who doesn't like getting flowers? Not likely, right? Well, then it's a good idea to have some great flower delivery experts at hand, who can transform a bunch of flowers into a work of art. Dot Flowers is one such company that specializes in flower gift ideas and gourmet baskets that can fit all types of people on your gift giving list. Their flowers come directly from growers and so are fresher and last longer than those at other florists. With an award winning customer service department, Dot Flowers is a great place to start your Christmas gift giving.

Pantaloon to set up standalone stores for its private labels

The Hindu Business Line reports that Pantaloon Retail is planning to set up exclusive stores for its in-house brands such as John Miller, Bare, Ajile and Rig. According to Bina Mirchandani, Head (Category Management) for Pantaloon Retail, "Today our private labels generate between 75 per cent and 80 per cent of our revenues. Some of these brands have taken a natural level of growth in certain areas and we are thinking of exclusive stores for them." Pantaloon has 20 private label brands at present and its ladies ethnic wear brand Akkrruti is likely to grow over 50%. One of the main advantages of private brands is higher margins and greater control.

CPM’s trade union arm Citu and US based AFL in talks

The Economic Times reports that the trade union arm of the CPM, Citu, is reportedly holding talks with the American Federation of Labour (AFL) to collaborate and tie up with their counterparts. In this regard, Citu has asked for AFL’s cooperation in organizing and implementing a nationwide campaign against Wal-Mart’s entry into the Indian market. According to MK Pandhey, Citu President, “AFL delegates will attend our national conference in New Delhi in January 2007. They will make presentations highlighting instances of Wal-Mart’s anti-employee stance across its retail chain in the US."

A Samurai gift

How about a Samurai Sword for a Christmas present? Ok, so this is not your conventional Christmas gift idea, but it sure is imaginative and probably once in a lifetime thing. I see them more as works of art than weapons, actually more for the history associated with them rather than their sharp blades. If you are thinking about one, then have a look at KarateDepot.com which has some of the best of Samurai Swords on offer, besides having close to 100 other swords and sword sets. The company is offering a special delivery for Christmas for anyone who orders before December 13th, so hurry up and check them out.

South Korea's Lotte Mart likely to enter Indian market

The Economic Times reports that the company that was responsible for Wal-Mart’s exit from South Korea, Lotte Mart is now likely to enter the Indian market. The company has set up an office in Delhi to study the domestic market. Lotte Mart was in the running to acquire Wal-Mart’s stores in South Korea, which eventually went to its rival and the leading retailer of Korea, Shinsagae.

Lotte Mart is looking for an Indian franchise partner to establish its discount stores. The company is interested in entering malls initially and then work at stand alone formats. Lotte Mart stores usually are over 3,000 sq ft and stock fresh and processed foods, home appliances and apparel. The company is part of the Lotte Group, Korea’s fifth largest conglomerate, with interests in confectionary, restaurants, retail, construction and petrochemicals.

Retailers unveil new marketing plans

The Economic Times reports that Indian retail chains are all stepping up marketing activities to invigorate their brands. Pantaloon, Ebony, Shopper’s Stop and Trent have all begun to increase their marketing budgets to compete with Wal-Mart and Reliance Retail. While until now, most of the activity was limited to below-the-line (BTL) marketing initiatives such as customer loyalty, direct mailers and in-store programs, now retailers are looking to newer ways to reaching customers.

According to Gibson Vedamani, CEO RAI, “…now since retail chains have attained a certain level of operation, the focus will shift to above-the-line (ATL) marketing. Each store will now want to communicate their brand differentiation to their consumers.” The Future Group will be varying its marketing mix based on its formats, with its flagship store Pantaloon receiving more ATL spending and Big Bazaar chain using a mix of ATL and BTL. Ebony and Shopper’s Stop will also be increasing their marketing budgets.

Fishing equipment

Camping and hiking in the lower Himalayas are some of my favourite memories from school days, when we went on our annual week long hikes and camps session in April. We had quite a basic set up back then but now camping and hiking are altogether more modern activities, using GPS navigators systems, radars and the like. Northeast Marine Electronics for example, specializes in equipment for camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, boating and driving, especially for things such as Furuno Fish Finders and Garmin Marine Electronics. The company specializes in marine equipment such as fish finders, chart plotters, binoculars, GPS systems, batteries and depth finders, which are sold at much lower prices than elsewhere. Northeast Marine Electronics stocks only the best of merchandise from companies such as Astron, Garmin, Standard Horizon and Raymarine, some of the best known names in the industry. The company is also known for their outstanding customer service.

Tesco likely to enter via cash & carry route

The Economic Times reports that UK based Tesco is likely to enter the Indian retail market via the cash & carry route, although it has not closed options for a full retail presence in the country either. According to sources, the company will be setting up cash & carry outlets by mid 2007, and also form a franchise deal with a domestic chain for its front end format.

At present, the tow major companies in the cash and carry business in India are Germany’s Metro and African chain Shoprite. According to Euromonitor, a UK based market intelligence firm, “When the restrictions on the retail industry in India are lifted, international retailers will be in a prime position to easily convert their cash-and-carry stores into highly profitable supermarkets and hypermarkets.”

Lenses for astigmatism

I've been using contact lenses since I was 16; rigid gas permeable contact lenses since I have astigmatism and could not use soft contact lenses. Although they took me quite a while to get used to, now I can't manage without them at all. Traveling on planes these days has become quite tiresome, since you are not allowed to carry any liquids on board and I can't keep my contact on the entire journey for these long trips that I seem to be doing with great regularity. Since gas permeable contacts are not common, its not possible to even buy cleaning solution for them in Bombay, let alone a small travel size container to use in-flight.

These days, the concept of buying contact lenses has totally changed. Some of the best deals are now available online instead of at a physical location. Discount Contact Lenses is one such site that has a great variety of information on all types of contact lenses, how to read prescriptions, prescription contacts help, where to buy, how to buy, and what to buy. I especially found the section on Toric (lenses for people like me, with astigmatism) lenses useful and seriously think I ought to switch to these.

Landmark Group to set up hospitality business

The Hindu Business Line reports that the Landmark Group, which operates the Lifestyle retail stores in India, announced that it will be setting up a chain of three-star hotels, food courts, restaurants and amusement parks under a new entity Citymax Hotels. According to Ravi Saxena, Managing Director of Citymax Hotels India Pvt Ltd, "We plan to set up a total of 12 three-star hotels within the next three years across all the major cities in the country."

Landmark will be investing approximately $30 million to set up a chain of 30 amusement zones called ‘Fun City’. The company will also be setting up food courts in several malls across tier I and II cities and has short listed 15-20 brands which it would like to tie up with.

South Korea's Lotte Mart likely to enter Indian market

The Economic Times reports that the company that was responsible for Wal-Mart’s exit from South Korea, Lotte Mart is now likely to enter the Indian market. The company has set up an office in Delhi to study the domestic market. Lotte Mart was in the running to acquire Wal-Mart’s stores in South Korea, which eventually went to its rival and the leading retailer of Korea, Shinsagae.

Lotte Mart is looking for an Indian franchise partner to establish its discount stores. The company is interested in entering malls initially and then work at stand alone formats. Lotte Mart stores usually are over 3,000 sq ft and stock fresh and processed foods, home appliances and apparel. The company is part of the Lotte Group, Korea’s fifth largest conglomerate, with interests in confectionary, restaurants, retail, construction and petrochemicals.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Golden investment

Investing in gold is almost as old as the precious metal itself. The methods of purchasing gold have changed for the better, though. With Monex Deposit Company (MDC) you can purchase gold or other precious metals that can either be delivered to you personally or can be kept in storage for you at a bank or depository. Monex has been one of the leading investors in gold and precious metals in the US for the past 30 years and has gold in bullion, ingot or coin form. Through Monex Precious Metals, you can complete all your gold investments easily and securely.

Average consumer spending increasing

The Hindu Business Line reports that organized retail is changing the way Indian consumers shop and is providing the perfect setting for global retail giants to enter the Indian market. Average ticket values at lifestyle stores such as Shopper’s Stop and Lifestyle have doubled in the past two years.

At Lifestyle, the average customer spend is between Rs. 1,500-1,600 which increases by 40% during the festival seasons. Two years ago this amount hovered around the Rs. 800-900 mark. At supermarkets, the average ticket value has risen from Rs. 250-300 a few years back to Rs. 600.

‘Indian retail industry likely to emerge the largest’

The Hindu Business Line reports that at an international conference organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on ‘Private Labeling in Food – Gaining Shelf Space and Market Share’ along with Agro Tech 2006 in Chandigarh, experts agreed that the Indian retail industry is likely to emerge as the largest in the world. According to Amit Vaishnav, Managing Director of Mega Food Company, a Chennai based company,
"Modern retail started in India a decade ago and now accounts for 35 per cent of the retail industry. By 2020, this may surpass 70 per cent and the 10,000 new retail stores in the pipeline would cover over 2.5 lakh sq feet."

Credit Card Guide

Getting a credit card is pretty easy, but getting the right credit card is the hard part, that most people overlook. Each credit card company is different, with its own rules and stipulations and one of the best ways to figure out what will suit your needs best it to use a credit card site that offers a variety of premium cards. One such site is Card Guide which is based in the UK and specializes only in these credit cards.

What is really unique about this site is that besides information on credit cards, it also has lots of articles on making money, how to earn with credit cards, balance transfer guide and how to select between Visa or MasterCard. Whether you want to just compare credit cards or go a lot deeper into understanding how they work and how they will help or harm your financial future, the Card Guide site is a really useful tool to have at hand.

The articles at Card Guide are a great way to improve your knowledge of financial terms and procedures and learn about strategies that most credit card companies use to make money. Check it out to see what cards are being offered at present with special deals on balance transfer and introductory cards.

Back in Bombay

Back home yesterday after a fast paced three weeks away in the US and Canada. Still groggy and jet lagged from the trip. This was my second time on Air Canada, and there really wasn't much to be impressed about. Their planes are old, with barely any ammenities for entertainment, very few restrooms and a wierd mish-mash of Indian and continental food. Still have to download and sort through the pics, catch up with work and everything else.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

In Ridgefield

In Ridgefield, CT now....drove down from Toronto via Niagara-on-the-lake and Niagara Falls. We stayed the night in Auburn, NY and visited some local vinyards in the Finger Lakes region, Ithaca, Cornell University and headed this way through the Catskills, along the Delaware river in some bits and lots of other streams and brooks. It's an absolutely beautiful area that I hope to come back to in warmer weather, maybe for some camping too. Pics later...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Coming soon---Wal-Mart India

Forbes reports that Wal-Mart is finally coming to India. The world's largest retailer announced that it had tied up with Bharti Enterprises to set up hundreds of stores across the country. While the full details are not yet out, the deal is said to be one of "equal partnership" between the two companies.
"We have signed an MoU (memorandum of understanding) for a joint venture and a franchise agreement," Mittal told reporters on the sidelines of an international business summit in New Delhi.

Driving to the US

Tomorrow we leave for the US from Toronto, via Niagra and a stop in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Even after living for so many years in the US, this will be my first trip to Niagra Falls and I'm really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the Maid of the Mist is not operational this time of the year, but we hope to go in the tunnel behind the falls. The Finger Lakes region is said to be one of the most beautiful areas of New York state, with its vinyards, lakes. More details on the area in a later post.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Toronto

Its good to be back in this part of the world again. Especially, since it's not as cold as we expected it to be in Toronto. Living in Bangalore and Bombay for the past two years, I've got accustomed to long, hot summers and a mild short winter, if you can even call it a winter. But it is nice to use my woollens again after two years. I really love the immense range of nationalities in Toronto, especially when it comes to the wide variety of food available. We had some great Vietnamese subs a few days back and hope to have some Sri Lankan food before we head back home...yummy yum yum!!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

On vacation

Off to the US and Canada for 3 weeks, so will be posting only sporadically. Will definitely be missing my daily writing schedule that I have grown to love so much. My last vacation was to the interiors of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayas, a totally internet and blog free vacation. Although, I will definately have access to modern means of communication on this vacation, not sure if I will have the time though.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Top Toys for 2006

The National Retail Foundation writes about the Top Toys for 2006 for both boys and girls. No surprises here, TMX Elmo tops the list for boys and Barbie tops the list for girls.
“Retailers can expect to see long lines of shoppers eager to get their hands on this year’s hot toys,” stated NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “For parents, the name of game is ‘Buy it when you see it.’ There is no telling how long these hot toys will last on store shelves.”

Best Buy makes changes to appeal to women

StarTribune.com of Mineapolis and St. Paul writes about Best Buy's new marketing experiment to woo women shoppers this holiday season. Usually one the the biggest turnoffs about Best Buy stores, as perceived by women, were the loud music, cluttered aisles and crowded checkout lanes but the company has embarked on an experiment to appeal to women. In 60 of its stores, Best Buy has increase aisle space, addes play areas for children, trained its staff on how to communicate with women customers and reduced the volume to loud music.
The changes represent an admission by Best Buy that, 40 years after opening its first store, the retail chain still hasn't figured out how to connect with female shoppers.

"We know we haven't figured out women and shopping, but we're committed to figuring it out," said Erin MacMillan, a Best Buy spokeswoman.

Best Buy is also experimenting with "women's shopping nights," in which experts are brought in to share ideas on how to shop for consumer electronics. On Wednesday evening, for instance, representatives from the women's magazine Real Simple were on hand at 10 Best Buys, giving tips on how to budget for holiday spending and maximize time while shopping.

Audio Video workstation

As more people take up non traditional and work at home jobs, changes in the way they work will affect several industries that are provide products and services to them. Take a look at the range of audio video centers available at VersaTables.com for instance. These products can be adapted to people who work at home or in non-traditional settings. The Versa Audio Video Development Center is one of the best Multimedia Tables and is really the ultimate workstation available today. It has a ability to support several components such as monitors, CPU's, mixing boards, speakers etc. Built of steel and high density wood, it is adaptable and versatile, so users can make changes to suit their needs.

Au Bon Pain expanding overseas locations

Some news about one of my favorite bakery and cafe chains Au Bon Pain, although still no plans to open in India as yet. Boston.com reports that the the company will be doubling its locations, adding 200 new stores in overseas locations through franchising agreements with local companies in Kuwait and Thailand. The company has tied up with The sultan Center in Kuwait to open 100 stores in the Middle East and North Africa and with ABP Thailand to open 100 cafes and kiosks in Thailand.
Au Bon Pain currently counts 255 cafes, including 115 company-owned locations in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, and franchisee-owned cafes in 19 states. The privately held chain also has overseas cafes in South Korea and Taiwan.

The 28-year-old company has recently emphasized adding franchise locations to the chain's traditionally company-owned cafes, giving Au Bon Pain greater access to prime real estate, Morelli said.

Many of the chain's cafes are located in big cities, and in or near shopping malls, university campuses, hospitals and transit centers.

Gift ideas

Do you have your holiday gift list ready? Well, if you're like me then you have lots of ideas on what to buy, but still haven't decided on anything specific as yet. I saw a site that makes handcrafted gift baskets chock-a-block full of goodies that are hard to resist. Holiday Gift Baskets are a really good gift idea since they will actually be liked and used unlike the majority of Christmas gifts that are either returned or relegated to the back of the closet. There is a wide range available of gift baskets which are filled with goodies such as chocolates, fine liqueurs, chewy candies and other snacks, they will work for family, friends and business assocites.

Birlas’ retail division on a hiring spree

Money Control and CNN IBN report that Birlas’ retail division is fast picking up steam and already has 45 professionals. The shortage of retail talent in India has forced the company to hire from overseas. CNBC-TV18 reports that the company has hired two executives from Tesco and Wal-Mart to lead its hypermarket and supermarket divisions. The Aditya Birla Group will be investing Rs. 9,000 crore to open 3,000 supermarkets and 200 hypermarkets in 100 cities over the next 7 years.

Black Friday deals creating buzz

Advertising Age writes about how consumers are diging up Black Friday deals on the internet. Retailers usually promote their post-Thanksgiving sales with circulars and inserts in newspapers, but this year, consumers are not willing to wait and are using the internet to find the best 'Black Friday' deals online.
"Retailers are just beginning to realize that they are combating leaks," said Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the Retail, Advertising and Marketing Association. "We really started to see it become a trend last year."

The Yahoo Buzz Index shows a trackable number of searches for the term "Black Friday ads" starting Oct. 19 and growing 147% since that time. "Black Friday ads" was the No. 4 search term within Yahoo's miscellaneous/holiday and observances category as of Nov. 13.

During that same time frame, blog discussions revolving around Black Friday, its sales and advertisements has jumped from roughly 100 blog posts a day during the first week of November to nearly 350 posts a day in the third week. FatWallet.com, a registered community of more than half a million bargain shoppers, has even set up a Black Friday section. To date, more than 100 conversation strings are taking place. The oldest dates back to September and is based on rumors of Ace Hardware's Black Friday sale.

Related posts on Black Friday that I have written earlier:

Black Friday deals
Will you be shopping on Black Friday?
Midnight madness shopping after Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Investing in an online degree

Online education has been in the news a lot lately, as more and more students and career professionals are taking advantate of being able to study no matter where they are located and without even having to take a long leave of absence from the workplace. Learning is and should be seen as a lifelong process and getting an Online Degree let you take advantage of this perfectly. I know of several people who would nver consider going bakc to college in the regular way, as it takes up too much time and effort away from ones regular life, but getting an online degree is the simplest solution to this problem. Once you have an additional degree, it is always going to come of use, no matter how late in life you study.

Therapy for your beloved denims

Springwise.com reports on a new trend coming from New York City--Denim Therapy. The company provides services to repair torn jeans by using real denim fabric and thread to replace holes, cover spots etc. These are not patches and in fact are so well matched, that they become part of the jean itself.
Owing to the fact that both buying a new pair of jeans can be expensive and finding a perfect fit is a challenge, founders Francine Rabinovich and Karla Schufftan recognized a business opportunity. At USD 7 per inch, most repairs cost between USD 21 and USD 35, which many consumers gladly pay for the revival of a well-worn, well-loved pair of jeans.

Subhiksha aggressively building its private label brand, to cross 500 stores this month

The food retail sector is gearing up for the more competition after Reliance Retail's mega entry in the industry segment. Subhiksha is one of the best known names in food retailing, but has been limiting its growth in the south where it has already established its brand. Now, The Economic Times reports that discount food retailer Subhiksha is likely to cross 500 stores this month and is building its private label brand and its mobile phone and pharmacy sections. The company will be opening 100 new stores this month to reach a total of 500 stores. Subhiksha is happy with the results of its phone retailing that it started in Delhi last month and is considering setting up a separate chain for the segment along with one for pharmacy products.

By March 2007, the company hopes to reach 750 stores. Store openings are happening at a faster pace now, due to adequate funds being raised and the company fixing its backend integration. The company has allocated Rs. 300 crore for its expansion, raising money through debt, equity and working financial capital.

Bombay Dyeing plans a dual strategy for retail

Bombay Dyeing is one of India's oldest home furnishings company. Over the years it has become a household name across the country, but its brand is being eroded by its failure to move beyond simple franchising opportunities and creating a brand for itself. Now the company has again been focusing on building its own unique image and brand to counter the threat from new entrants such as S Kumars and Welspun. The Hindu Business Line reports that textile manufacturer Bombay Dyeing plans to use two separate strategies to market its products to low and high end consumers. The company is making an effort to not be known as a ‘discount’ brand anymore with this new strategy. It’s competitors S Kumars’ Carmichael House and Welspun have both been increasing their top end brands and so Bombay Dyeing does not want to be left out.

According to Arun Bhawasingka, Head of Domestic Business for Bombay Dyeing, the company is not just focusing on the price to differentiate their products, saying that, "Apart from the price points, the look and feel of these new stores will be different to signify the high-end range of our products." Another differentiator would be location of the premier stores. It's a good time to watch and see how this growth is received by consumers who night have switched to other brands.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Managing your online identity

MarketingProfs.com has a superb article on how to manage your online identiy. It's common knowldege that companies try to find out as much information about potential employees by 'googling' their name and vice versa. So, its really time to get down to controling and fine tuning the information out there about you.
People are googling you and making decisions about you from what Google reveals. Whether you are an employee looking to advance in your company, a professional seeking your next marketing role, or a consultant looking to land your ideal client, you should plan on being googled. And you should prepare for it.

Will you be shopping on Black Friday?

Display and Design Ideas Magazine writes that according to a survey conducted by Maritz Research Inc, an estimated 34% of shoppers are planning to shop on Black Friday. An estimated 33% of those who will be shopping on Black Friday will spend over $875 on gifts and 17% plan to spend more than $1,000.
"For those who wonder why retailers invest so much effort and creativity into one shopping day, these numbers speak volumes," said Mark Rein, director of strategic consulting for the Maritz Retail Research Group. "The poll also revealed strong demographic indicators, such as 44 percent of those with household incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 planning to shop on Black Friday."

Black Friday has generational implications with the majority of Gen Y respondents (58 percent), as well as a significant portion of Gen X (40 percent), planning to shop. "Gen Y, which is known for its affinity for fashion and impulse spending, is a prime target for retailers," Rein said. "A good Black Friday showing by this group is key for many retailers trying to jump-start this holiday season."

Garden Offices


This is an absolutely amazing idea. I would love to work in one of these to work in myself, except I don't have a garden since I live in an apartment!

Springwise.com reports on a new trend from the UK: Garden offices. These are modular offices made by iscape that you can set up in your garden. At present there are only two models available called 'Miana' and 'Winola'. While both are multi-use outdoor spaces, Miana has been designed to be use as an office. As the world is becoming more connected and physical presence is not required at a specific 'office' location, people can set up and work in an office anywhere.
Every garden office (from GBP 4,995 including installation and delivery) comes complete with integral electrics and includes sockets and lighting. Constructed from panels, the Miana can be ordered in a range of sizes, with door and window positions meeting a customer's specific requirements. Customers can choose from 60 colours for timber and plastic coated steel finishes, and iscapes are insulated to high standards for all-year round comfort. The modular designs are pre-fabricated and can usually be installed on site in just one day.

HLL refashioning kirana stores

The Hindu Business Line reports that Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL) has launched a project to improve the quality of kirana stores and make them compete with modern retail formats. The ‘Super Value Store’ programme is targeting mom-and-pop stores to update their look and help them add value to their stores. HLL will be buying shelf space from the retailer and giving a 3% discount to the retailer on its products. Besides theses tangibles, HLL will also train kirana stores on modern retail basics.

Industry sources estimate that the Super Value Programme will cover 15,000-20,000 kirana stores. One such store in South Delhi, who has been inducted in the program, has already seen a 20% increase in stores sales and a saving of Rs. 5,000-6,000 due to incentives of the scheme.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Focus on shoes

Boston.com reports that shoe retailing is the next big thing. With several high profile retailers starting to retail shoes, the segment is going to receive a lot of attention. One high profile entrant, Gap Inc, launched an online store called Piperlime to sell its own shoes. Others such as Talbots and H&M have also been focusing on their footwear collections. Marshalls has increased its shoe departments in 40 of its stores in New England and Famous Footwear has opened 90 new stores across the country. Teen retailer Pacific Sunwear has launched a store focused on shoes called One Thousand Steps.
Shoes increasingly are becoming every season's must-have accessory: Between 2000 and 2005, US footwear sales rose 19 percent to about $49 billion, and they are expected to grow another 23 percent by 2010, according to Mintel Group, a Chicago market research firm. Women's clothing sales, on the other hand, rose only 2 percent between 2000 and 2005, and researchers predict growth of 9 percent by 2010.

Fitness goals

A treadmill is one of the best forms of exercise, since it exercises the entire body and can be done all year round, regardless of the weather outside. For a healthy lifestyle, one should have grounded Fitness Goals and exercise 3-4 times a week at least. I personally prefer exercising in the open, since the natural air gives one a much better high than working out indoors. Doing a little research, I was quite amazed at the number and variety of treadmills available in the market today. Before buying one, I'd recommend doing a comparison to see which one will suit your needs.

Mall or University?

The Miami Herald writes that the University of Central Florida's newest residence halls have retailers at their doorsteps. Chain stores such as Maggie Moo's, Subay, Starbucks, Red Brick Oven Pizza, Barnes & Noble and other retailers have opened on campus so students don't need to go far to spend their cash. Earlier, most colleges (including Kansas State University, where I went) had a campus store selling college memerobilia, textbooks and other supplies. We also had a few food chains at the Union along with the university food service.

Now it seems, retailers have upped the ante to catch students where they spend most of their time anyway, making the university look increasingly like a mall. UCF has its own little shopping centre opening in a few weeks, attatched to the dorms and across the basketball arena.
Though nearby college towns with quirky health food and rare-book stores have long been a staple at traditional universities, many schools are placing retail on campus and collecting rents to subsidize operations and attract students. At UCF, money from the dorms, shops and a pair of parking garages is subsidizing the 10,000-seat basketball arena.

''We're a public university, but we want to adopt some of the best practices of the private sector,'' said Bill Merck, vice president for administration and finance at UCF.

Florida Atlantic University's board of trustees began moving in the same direction Tuesday. Trustees discussed ''Innovation Village,'' a proposed complex of dorms and retail stores designed around a proposed football stadium at the Boca Raton campus.

In a study, administrators learned many students were rejecting FAU to attend UCF, Florida State and the University of Florida -- in part because those schools offer more campus life. And FAU defines that to include a shopping district.

On furniture

My favorite style of furniture is that with clean and simple lines. No gothic, carved stuff for me please. I love furniture that is adaptable to many different looks, since I like to mix things up quite often. I really like having a good bookshelf, something I don't have right now. Living in Bombay or pretty much anywhere in India, one needs to have a closed bookcase so the dust doesn't get to the books. Unfortunately, mine are open bookshelves and the quality of my books are deteriorating with each passing day. I also find it extremely important to have some good storage in the bathroom. Here's some resources on Bathroom Vanities, that will help store and organize stuff.

What happened to the Biotech industry?

The Harvard Business School Working Knowledge writes about the Biotech industry and how in the 1980s it looked like th industry would revolutionalize healthcare and imporove hon the R&D process. While some firms have made breakthroughs, the industry as a whole does not have a good track record and has in fact even suffered losses. Professor Gary Pisano talks about his new book "Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech" and how the industry has created poor conditions for science based businesses to bloom.
"The sector has indiscriminately borrowed business models, organizational strategies, and approaches from other high-technology industries under the (false) premise that if it worked there it will work here," Pisano writes.

Experts predict a shakeout

Financial Express reports that Reliance’s mega launch in the retail sector has propelled its rivals to ramp up operations which experts estimate will lead to a retail revolution in the next 3-5 years, followed by a shakeout. The potential for growth is still immense, with penetration only at 5% at present.

Current big guns of the retail world, Pantaloon and RPG are also expanding operations. Pantaloon will be increasing its 4 million sq ft of space in 30 cities to reach 30 million sq ft of space by 2010. RPG plans to double its 80 stores by next year, opening Spencer’s Hyper, Super and Daily in tier I and tier II cities. Piramyd is planning to increase its TruMart stores from 15 to 40 next year, mainly in tier II and tier III towns.

Monday, November 13, 2006

How much is your blog worth?

I had this in my sidebar when I had the regular blogspot blog, but since I've switched to the Beta version, I can't seem to add it to my sidebar. I get an error message saying the img tag must be properly closed. Not sure how to fix it, so here it is for all to see......


My blog is worth $6,209.94.
How much is your blog worth?

Vietnam's consumer class

The International Herald Tribune reports that shopping habits are changing in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The middle classes in cities like Ho Chi Minh city and Hanoi are enjoying spending money at restaurants, buying luxury cars and shopping for vanity items.
"Vietnam is wealthier than what we believe, but we honestly don't know how wealthy," said Ralf Matthaes, managing director in Ho Chi Minh City with TNS, a market researcher based in London. "Urban Vietnam has a middle class and, when a country has a middle class, it means it is able to sustain itself for the future."

Research by TNS has shown that in an average household in Ho Chi Minh City, which is still commonly called Saigon, people spent 2.5 to 7 times more than they said they earned.

Entertainment options beyond the mall

Rediff News reports that Indians are looking beyond the malls for entertainment. Part of the mall boom has taken place because of the newness of the concept and as a one-stop-shop that provided something for the entire family to do together. Well, malls now have competition on this front. A new type of 'integrated leisure complexes' or ILCs are coming up that will offer the entire family a place to relax and unwind for a few hours or the entire weekend.
"There is a need for convergence of various kinds of entertainment and leisure elements for different members of a family," says Gupta. Up until now, we have had malls with multiplexes. Most of these are shopping -- not leisure -- oriented. "The need today is to have separate zones for different segments."

According to Gupta, an ILC would typically have a mix of leisure, entertainment, food and beverage as well as intellectually stimulating options such as art or reading galleries, informal clubs and maybe very sophisticated shops. The scale here will be tipped towards the leisure and entertainment options.

These would be on the outskirts of the city (prohibitive land cost within the city makes such large projects unviable). The advantages of these, explains Gupta, is that they will tap into the local public and create a new market. They can, in the long run, also become a prominent feature of a city, increasing its appeal as a destination.

Searching by appearance not words

The New York Times reports on a new trend this Christmas season's shopping has brought. Consumers can now search items by visuals to find something than maybe a celebrity has worn. Like.com is said to be the world's first visual search engine and its searches of itmes brings up products from over 200 merchants' websites.
The site, operated by San Mateo, Calif.-based Riya, an expert in visual computing, allows customers to click on images of celebrities wearing accessories or on pictures of handbags, jewelry, shoes and watches. In a few weeks, the site will add clothing, according to Riya's CEO and co-founder Munjal Shah. Eventually, customers will be able to download their own images onto the site.

Improving productivity

Working from home teaches you how to have an organized and productive schedule. It's not always an easy task, there are so many distractions calling out to you, so many temptations, so much pending housework and errands. It takes discipline and order to have a productive day at work. I personally like to read tips on improving productivity from a variety of business newletters such as Productivity 501, which has interesting write ups on improving time management skills. There is a good post on The Sacred Todo List, which I thought was quite appropriate for me since I love to make lists and work from them. If you have not signed up for their newsletter, now is a good time to do so, since they are having a free iPod Shuffle contest, to give a free iPod Shuffle to their 250th subscriber who signs up.

Wal-Mart's 'wish-list' tactic earns parents ire

Canada.com reports that Wal-Mart's marketing tactic of sending children's wish lists to their parents, has earned them some bad press. The company had earlier launched a new toy website where children are encouraged to review toys and send a wish list of toys they would like for Christmas to be sent to their parent's email address.
"The child has no choice," said Ottawa's Camille Lechasseur, a mother of two girls, aged two and five. "These toys appear `Do you want it, yes or no.' What child wouldn't want it? It's trying to dupe the parents that it's their child's choices. That's laughable."

Kessa Edwards of Calgary said the toyland site takes marketing to kids to a new level. "I was actually quite shocked by it," Edwards said. "Just the fact that kids can have an e-mail sent to their parents. I haven't seen anything like that before."

She is particularly dismayed by the value of some of the products peddled on the site, including the Little Tikes H2 Hummer Ride-On for $199.77. "I really felt that they were really putting ideas into kids' heads," said Edwards, the mother of a five-year-old girl.

They are among the parents who have signed on to the "Tell Wal-Mart Nagging is a Family Value" campaign, launched recently by the Harvard University-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a coalition of health-care professionals, educators, and parents. The group is asking Wal-Mart to shut down the site.

Barista likely to be bought by Italian coffee chain Lavazza

The Economic Times reports that Italy’s leading coffee chain, Lavazza has made an aggressive move to purchase the Barista Coffee chain owned by C Sivasankaran. Standard Chartered Bank had advised C Sivasankaran to ask for Rs. 2.5 billion for the coffee chain and according to sources, Lavazza has bid close to this figure. Other companies interested in purchasing the company are rival coffee chain, local chain Café Coffee Day, a European coffee chain and financial investors.

Raymond to launch more brands for women

The Economic Times reports that Raymond will be bringing out new brands for women to balance its product mix and not be known only for its ‘complete man’ products. Shreyas Joshi, president (group apparel) for Raymond, told ET, “So far, we have been a men’s apparel-dominated brand while women’s wear is an interesting market, with not too many organized players in this segment. We are seriously looking at this segment, which we should be able to announce by January 2007. Yes, we could look at Jvs with international labels, too, or acquire existing brands.”

Currently, Raymond has 16 Be: stores, a women’s brand which features some of India’s top designers, and will be adding four more by March 2007. There will be multiple brands for women, including an ethnic wear brand. It’s other brands Manzoni has 2 stores at present and will add three by March 2007, Park Avenue, has 12 stores now and will be 25 stores by March 2007, Parx has five stores now and will have 12 stores soon, Zapp!, its children’s’ wear brand has two stores now and will add another 10 by March 2007.

On cheesecakes

So, we decided to go to town yesterday instead of lazing at home. We had a really nice lunch at Cafe Basilico in town, close to the Yatch club which had superb salads, some good fish and chicken entrees and good desert too. What I just don't understand is how and why Cafe Basilico and so many other restaurants in the city just can't get the cheesecake right. So far we have been able to find authentic cheesecakes only at JW Marriot's BBC cafe (short for Bombay Baking Company) and at the Grand Hyatt off the western express highway. Everywhere else, one gets something in-between a mousse and a cake on ordering a cheesecake. My favorite cheesecake is at Coffee Exchange on Wickendon street in Providence, although I had a really decadant one in a little diner off Times Square in NYC. Unfortunatley, I can't remember the name of the place.

Making the perfect cup of hot chocolate

We've always been mad about a good cup of hot chocolate. Each time we move, we go crazy finding the best cup possible and once we find it, try to fit it into our routine on a weekly basis or even more. So, when I read about this new machine that can make a Tassimo Hot Beverage Machine superb cup of hot chocolate, or for that matter espresso, latte, cappuccino or crème, I thought, this is perfect for us. The Tassimo Hot Beverage Machine is one helluva machine, it has pre-measured T-Discs that are sealed to keep the flavors of the tea, coffee or hot chocolate inside, each one with its own barcode with specific instructions on how much water should be added and how long it should be brewed etc to make a delicious drink.

Fast fashion concept being overused?

The International Herald Tribune writes that the concept of 'fast fashion' might be getting overdone, with customers not being able to keep up with the constantly changing fashions. Stores such as Target started the trend selling inexpensive trench coats by Issac Mizrahi and bedspreads by Cynthia Rowley, H&M took it further and got record numbers wanting to buy its version of Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney clothes, and now it has fueled a trend for cheap fashions by not just the famous names but by minor celebrities too.
But the fast fashion strategy already shows signs of wear, most notably at Wal-Mart, which was disappointed by reaction to its introduction of more fashionable women's clothes this year, including its version of a fast fashion line by the designer Mark Eisen.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Fortune to have an Indian edition soon

Good news for all business buffs. Business Stnadard reports that Time Warner owned Fortune magazine will most likely be published in India soon. Fortune already has editions in Europe and Asia, including one published in Chinese. In the US, readership of the print edition has not really been increasing although the online version is showing growth. In Asia, the print edition is likely to be the dominant edition.
“We are in talks with two-three Indian publishers. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and has a large English-speaking population,” a senior executive working with the magazine told Business Standard. He, however, declined to comment on the timeframe for such a venture.

While the executive ruled out any possibility of a licensee agreement with the local publisher due to stringent regulatory norms, he said there were expectations that the government would liberalise the norms for increasing foreign direct investment in publication.

“We are open for a joint venture or may provide 20 per cent of the content or go for a royalty over content to be provided for the Indian edition,” the executive said, adding that the magazine was also in talks with the publishers in Korea and Japan for local editions there.

Starbucks 'cheer' campaign

Advertising Age reports that Starbucks is using a new viral campaign to spread holiday cheer and build its brand. In its holiday marketing, the company will be surprising people with a variety of free goodies, such as free subway MetroCards in Manhattan, free movie ticktes in Chicago etc. Starbucks is wanting its cutomers to pass on the holiday cheer to others, by doing simple good deeds such as holding the door open for someone or buying a cup of coffee for someone, and in doing so will recieve a 'cheer pass' which is a numbered card that tracks the person's effort.
As much social experiment as buzz campaign, Starbucks is hoping the cheer-pass recipients take the individually numbered cards and log on to the coffee chain's holiday microsite, www.ItsRedAgain.com, to share how and where they received the pass. The idea is to follow how long people can sustain the "chain of cheer." Of course, the site also will promote a trio of holiday coffee blends and other gifts consumers can buy through Starbucks.

"I'll be happy if we create a single cheer chain," said Brad Stevens, VP-marketing for Starbucks. He said he's more interested in the qualitative response, as the effort has no traditional marketing metrics tied to it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Timex in talks with Reliance Retail

Business Standard reports that Timex India is conducting talks with Reliance Retail to acquire shelf space or have a shop-in-shop fir its own brands. Timex has been ramping up operations and has invested Rs. 8 crore in relocating its manufacturing facility in Himachal Pradesh to take advantage of the tax breaks the state government is offering. According to Kapil Kappr, MD of Timex India,
"We are rolling out a slew of initiatives, which will improve our market share. We are exploring options to bring in more brands to plug the gaps in our portfolio and are in talks with our strategic partner for this."

Hate crowded stores? Here's some shopping tips for you

The National Retail Federation has brought out a list of its Top 10 Holiday Shopping Tips. There are some really cool tips like going to a store after 6pm the evening before a sale is to begin. Most retailers program the registers the night before a sale, so you will be able to shop in relative peace and still get the discount. Another good tip on avoiding crowds is to take advantage of extended shopping hours by shopping early in the morning and late in the evening.
“Holiday to-do lists can get a little overwhelming this time of year,” said Dan Butler, NRF’s Vice President of Retail Operations and Merchandising. “From finding out ahead of time when an item goes on sale to knowing the best times to avoid crowds, smart shoppers can follow little tricks of the trade to reduce unnecessary frustration."

Online shoppers want good customer service too

More on the internet shopping experience. StorefrontBacktalk reports that according to a study by internet performance tracking company Gomez, customers who have had a bad experience shopping online, will avoid going to the physical store of the company too. Customers want good customer service above all else, even in an online shopping scenario. The National Retail Federation also conducted a survey where Amazon.com came in as the number one online retailer, followed by Nordstrom, LL Bean, Overstock.com and Lane Bryant.
Nordstrom, for example, has a reputation for delivering extremely personalized and attentive customer service for people visiting their stores. That high-touch attribute is quite difficult to replicate online, setting themselves up to disappoint online visitors. Those disappointed unhappy online visitors would then potentially punish the brick-and-mortar locations as well.

Who shops on the internet more? Men or Women?

Did you know that it is men that are the driving force behind the growth of internet retailing. The Financial Times reports that according to a study conducted by The British Council of Shopping Centres, the main reason behind this is that they have actually going to the store. Men generally have an idea of what they want and want to get it as quickly and painlessly as possible, and doing it at a computer is simpler than going to the mall.
“Men find it much more convenient and cost-efficient to shop on the internet than in shopping places and envisage that in future they will do more of their shopping on the internet,” says the report.

“Women were at the opposite spectrum compared with men when it came to their future intentions. They were certainly not planning to do more shopping online, nor did they think it was more convenient to shop online.”

While many British adults expect to spend 40 hours doing Christmas shopping they could do the same chores in just 10 hours online, says the report.

Generating traffic

A lot of bloggers start blogging just for the sake of airing their opinions and having their say, not really caring what their page rank is or if Google ranks your site high in their searches. Over time, most will want to see their blog become highly rated and highly searched, but are not sure how to achieve this. Google uses an algorithm to judge how popular a site is based on a complex mathematical formula. While Google's Page rank is a good indicator of a site's popularity, Google is putting less weight on it, since it can be easily manipulated with links.

What Google really looks for is quality inbound links to your site. It is testing an even more complex new algorithm, called the Latent Symantec Indexing (LSI), which will determine how search words are related to each other, focusing on the Title Tag and other textual content on your page. So, essentially the best way to increase link popularity is links between pages that have similar content.

One of the most effective methods to increase link popularity used so far has been press release distribution, where publications write about the content of the release. Purchasing links from link brokers can have a negative affect on a site in the long run as Google will devalue a site with too many of outbound links. Reciprocal links were one of the best methods to increase link popularity but don't have much value now. Using blogs effectively, you can increase link popularity substantially. Blogitive, for example, has over 2000 blogs in its database where you can submit a press release and have bloggers write about it.