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.