Saturday, April 22, 2006

Readings on coffee

Interesting article in Economic Times on how Café Coffee Day outlets in cities of pilgrimage have shown 30-50% higher sales. Usually, there is no option of getting anything decent to eat in a clean, sanitized atmosphere in these locations and Café Coffee is bridging that gap very well. The sales of take-away items such as cookies have also been higher and they are introducing fruit juices and other items that are energizing.

It’s a very good example of a company understanding how its customers think, want and even what they might want. Café Coffee Day has been innovative and is constantly experimenting with new formats and creative ways to increase its customer base.

At the other spectrum of its customers, it opened its first lounge café in Kochi, to bring a global feel and a leisurely coffee drinking experience. Anyone tried it out yet?

On yet another level, Café Coffee Day opened an outlet in Vienna late last year. It just goes to show that they not only ready to focus on its established customer, urban educated youth, but is taking risks and relentlessly heading into new territories.

Some links:

Cafe Coffee Day in Vienna

Cafe Coffee Day site

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Reliance Retail: changing the rules of the HR game

In looking for qualified talent, Reliance’s HR department has apparently set up camp in Dubai and is hiring large numbers of sales, marketing, purchase and merchandising staff of large international retailers such as Carrefour, Lifestyle and Lulu. The company is hoping that these people will be able to set the initial systems in place.

The latest to join the company’s retail venture is K Radhakrishnan who will join as CEO for the hypermarket vertical. He was VP Merchandising for Spencer’s Retail, which is part of the RPG Group. He was also one of the key players who organized FoodWorld’s operations.

More information in this article in The Hindu Business Line

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Pantaloon's star is shining bright

After Reliance, it'’s Pantaloon Retail that'’s constantly been in the news. If anyone is capable of taking on the mighty strength of Reliance Retail, it'’s definitely Kishore Biyani of Pantaloon. He has the clear advantage as the country'’s largest, most successful as well as its most innovative retailer. Even though Reliance has pulled in several big names like Raghu Pillai, Bijou Kurien, Gunender Kapur, Sriram Srinavasan, Rajeev Karwal and Ninu Khanna, it'’s not going to be an easy job setting up supply chains, distribution networks, training in-store staff, merchandising and the rest of it.

The biggest problem facing the retail industry is a severe shortage of qualified and experienced middle and upper management. There simply aren'’t enough people who know what the job requires and to tackle this problem, Kishore Biyani has tied up with four management schools from where he will offer employment to all students enrolling in the MBA program. The company has already recruited 62 graduates since 2005 from this pool.

The four institutes are:
1) Wellingkar Institute of Management Development
2) KJ Somaiya Institute
3) IILM, Delhi
4) Chennai Business School.

The company has 14,000 employees at present and is looking for 600 frontline and 60 managerial positions to be filled each month. Interestingly, Pantaloons is one of the few companies that does not use temporary staffing for its sales teams, as it feels it does not ensure career growth. They are obviously doing something right, the attrition rates are only 8.3% compared to an average ranging between 40-50% in the industry.

With inputs from this article in The Hindu Business Line

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Why I shop where I shop

I read an interesting article on consumer spending and shopper habits. According to a study conducted by Yuwa Hedrick-Wong of Wiley titled ‘'Holding Up Half of the Sky',

“By 2014, women consumers in Asia will control more than half a trillion dollars of discretionary spending power. Of this, $335 billion will be from affluent Asia. The emerging countries in Asia will account for the rest, $181 billion.”

"If a society wants robust growth, women must contribute fully to the economy and lead full social lives," declares Wong in the intro. "No company can hope to be successful in Asia's consumer markets without a deep understanding of the women consumers of Asia." For, they not only have a rising share of consumer power, but also decide more "how, when and what to spend."

The significant trends highlighted by the author are that as a larger number of women are working professionals, time has become a scarce resource for them. To utilize their limited time, women want shopping to be fast, convenient and without any fuss.

I absolutely agree with Yuwa'’s findings. I don'’t want the botheration of too many frills and convoluted store configurations. Armed with my list, I want to be done with my shopping as efficiently as possible. It is only another job after all.

I refuse to go to Spencers in Inorbit Mall in Malad on the weekends for this particular reason. There are too many people, the check-out lines are too long, cashiers are usually out of change, items on the Sunday promotion catalog are moved from their regular spots and its near impossible to find someone to tell you where they are now. In short, very inefficient, very time-consuming and leaving a bad taste in the mouth kind of experience.

Spar in Juhu wins on its product selections but loses rather badly on its checkout service. There is no counter space to put your purchases on, no specific lines to stand in and no standard procedures to follow, for employees as well as for customers. I always feel a bit lost and ill at ease because I am never sure what their system is. Stores must make customers feel comfortable in their stores, especially for food retailers where it'’s important to build a base of loyal, returning customers. Plus there is absolutely no parking, always a major deterrant for me to visit a store.

Nature'’s Basket in Lokhandwala has an identity problem, I feel. The product mix is very confusing. Are they only selling fresh fruit and vegetables, as deciphered from the name, logo and pictures on store windows, or are they a complete grocery store? Well, Nature'’s Basket is a bit of both. They sell the basic fruits and vegetables, and not very good ones at that, and also exotic vegetables like baby corn, broccoli, asparagus etc. Their other products are an odd mixture of imported cereals, chips, crisps, pasta sauce, jams and organic stuff from Pondicherry. My problem with Nature'’s Basket is that it does not allow me to do my complete grocery shopping by not stocking basics like pulses, rice, spices, cleaning products. It is a secondary store where I might be able to pick up a couple of things but not everything that I need. That'’s no use to me.

Laxmi General Store is where I currently do most of my shopping from. It'’s technically a kirana store and is part of the unorganized retail sector, but boy is it good or what. The store is constantly changing to find the right mix of product placement and promotion. Till date, I have not been able to think of a single thing that Laxmi does not stock. He seems to have everything under the sun, from notebooks to sewing thread and buttons, wrapping paper, international phone cards, toiletries, cleaning products, plastics besides a huge stock of basic food items. The aisles are narrow, but that's because over 90% of their business is via home delivery, which by the way is quick and efficient. Interestingly, this is one kirana store that places customer service very high on his list. It'’s the convenience of this store that has made me stop going to stores like Spencer’s and Spar, very ironic since I loved the organization of the retail system of the US when I lived there.

Now onto a store that scores high on my list, Fruits and Veggies in Lokhandwala market, near HDFC Bank. This is a gem of a store, stocking primarily fresh fruits and veggies and few bakery items like methi puff pastries (my favorite!), wheat bread and rolls. They have the entire range of exotic veggies, fruits and sprouts. I can count of finding what I want and walking out of the store in 5 minutes flat.

If organized food retailers don'’t understand how to read their primary customers, the local kirana store that has years of experience is going to end up taking a sizable chunk of the market.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Coffee dreams

This Sunday’s Mumbai Mirror has an article on how the Versova and Lokhandwala areas of Andheri (W) have become magnets for wannabe stars and starlets. We happen to live right next to what is described as “The Golden Triangle” of Fanoos, Barista and Café Coffee Day and Shreejee’s is even visible from our windows.

Frankly, we’re not too thrilled with the over abundance of wannabe’s in the area. Most of the time we think of them as the annoying people who think they can drive, park, walk, talk with no regard to others. We once made the mistake of going to Barista for coffee after dinner and were amazed at how different the crowd was from morning and mid-afternoon when it occupied mostly by students and working professionals. At night almost every table will have a folder full of photographs and wannabe’s checking their phones every 2 seconds. With its low prices, Coffee Day is ten times worse than Barista especially in the evenings; full to the brim with aspirations and dreams.

On the plus side, as the author points out that a lot of business takes place at these cafe's and it has made it possible for young girls to meet coordinators and agents at a safe public place. Both Barista and Coffee Day are planning on opening more outlets in the area, (Coffee Day recently opened one at Inifinity Mall down the road too) and I'm sure they will always be full too.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Not worthy of inclusion in Blogger dictionary?

I found it very odd that the word “blog” and all its various forms are not included in the dictionary. Offered replacements are bloc, bloch, bloke, blacker, blocker and so on. Hmmmm.....

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Blogs to replace White Papers?

Blogs are bringing about changes in the way we live, the way we buy, the way we interact; giving a chance to speak and be heard to millions who would not otherwise bother giving their opinion in mainstream media. The highly interactive medium of blogs has altered the way information is spread.

The audience for blogs and white papers is similar, although bloggers spend more time online, are younger, more tech savvy, educated, earning high incomes and having broadband connections.

Blogs are sprouting everywhere it seems. It is estimated that over 12 million Americans have their own blogs. The total number of blogs in the US doubles every five months with 700,000 being created every single day, of which 76,000 shut down due to lack of traffic.

At the recent Chicago DM Days & Expo '’06 organized by the Chicago Association of Direct Market, Dana VanDen Heuvel, director of RSS and Blog advertising at Pheedo explained,
“RSS is the new e-mail, blogs are the new whitepapers and podcasting is the new webinar. [Anywhere] from 10-30% of Internet users are using blogs”. Forrester Research'’s estimate of 10% is the most conservative, EMarketer thinks it'’s 14%, Pew 25%, Princeton Survey 27% and comScore Networks 30%.

Blogs are making a significant dent as consumers are becoming highly skeptical to mainstream advertising and are increasingly resisting advertising to gain control of decisions. Media sources are also becoming fragmented and targeting the right customer is becoming crucial. The underlying force is that consumers are demanding higher accountability.

This is a short version of my post on

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Unwanted Tenants

I recently evicted some unwanted tenants from the dining room windowsill, a family of pigeons nestled in empty terracotta pots. I know they sound pretty cute and I seem rather heartless, but pigeons are some of the dirtiest birds around. Their feathers were constantly flying into the house, that weird white dust settling in everywhere, and a few times they flew in themselves and knocked down stuff, including the notice board on my desk. Thankfully my laptop was closed; else I shudder to think what could have happened. That was the point where I decided enough was enough, they have got to go. Nobody but nobody messes with my laptop.

So I got all the empty pots filled with new plants—hibiscus, duranta, chlorophytum, dracaena and raat ki rani---leaving them no place to roost along with disinfecting the entire area. The first day the birds seemed really put out and made lots of racket but now I think we have made peace. The birds visit my newly expanded window garden occasionally and coo and cuddle under the croton.

Several cities have tried to get rid of the birds. The mayor of London banned feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square in November 2003, where they have caused ₤140,000 damage to Nelson’s Column and the square. In Venice it is illegal to feed the pigeons under a decree that the Commune of Venice issued late in 1997 which exempts the main tourist areas around the Piazza San Marco.