Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Business Idea: Getting rid of junk mail

This has to be one of the coolest new business ideas that I have read about lately. 41Pounds is a community of people that has vowed to get rid of the daily dose of junk mail. Why is it called 41Pounds? Because that is the estimated amount of junk mail that an average person gets in a year. What they do is contact anywhere from 20-30 direct mailers to take your name of their list. So how much junk mail is really out there? 4 million tons of junk mail is produced each year, worth approximately 100 million trees.

Here are some statistics from their site:
  • Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year.
  • The average person gets only 1.5 personal letters each week, compared to 10.8 pieces of junk mail.
  • More than 4 million tons (62,000,000,000 (billion) pieces) of junk mail are produced yearly.
  • The majority of household waste consists of unsolicited mail.

Late nights at the mall

Retail Wire reports that malls are staying open later to compete with standalone stores who are able to attract customers with late night store timings. General Growth Properties, a mall development company decided to extend hours at 200 malls located in 44 states. As consumers are getting more strapped for time, they are expecting stores to be open till later at night. Most malls usually only have extended hours in the shopping season from Thanksgiving to New Years.
Patrice Duker, a spokesperson for the International Council of Shopping Centers, said other malls will likely follow General Growth if it turns out to have positive results over a longer period of time. General Growth only began expanding mall hours last month. "I think you need that year or length of time to benchmark it before we make the decision of whether it's good, bad or indifferent," said Ms. Duker.

Mom-and-pop stores will not be harmed by malls

It seems that malls are opening on every second corner, bringing with it a lot of concern that they will wipe out the local mom-and-pop (or Kirana) stores, but contrary to most peoples assumptions, malls are not likely to harm local mom-and-pop stores, as they too are upgrading their stores. Most kirana stores have already begun upgrading their stores so they are more professional and organized in the way they display goods as well as in their billing and supply chains. Reliance Retail announced its intentions of giving out franchises of its Reliance Fresh supermarket stores to certain kirana stores or taking over their stores to convert them into small supermarkets. Most retailers and industry analysts feel that there is enough opportunity for all formats to survive, just as long as they offer some additional or localized service that other stores are not providing.

When did you get your first credit card?

My first credit card was when I was a senior in college. As the time for graduation approached, we suddenly started getting bombarded with pre-approved credit card applications, usually with high credit limits. It was a heady feeling to be chased by these companies simply because our earning potential was looming closer and closer and we never even thought to compare credit cards to see which was the best deal.

I remember being very cautious with my first credit card, but then I got a second card, and a third and I forgot all sensible reasoning and starting spending with no regard on if I could really afford my purchases or not. After all, the credit card was there for a reason, to spend, to charge and to enjoy. Well, that's really the way most college students think about credit anyway. Life is to be dealt with once college is over and one has to face real life and a real job. But by then, a lot of consumers are already quite deep in debt. Add student loans that you have to start repaying once you finish college and the debt goes even deeper.

The thing is that no one realizes that it actually easier for the debt to climb higher each month and bury you, than to charge things on the card just because you can and not because you need to. The most popular reason to get a credit card is to reduce interest payments by getting a 0% balance transfer credit card. The only credit card I got recently was a reward credit card that really made a lot of sense to get. Gone are the heady days of college, this is the real world, where we make all our financial decisions only after having done the full research and background check.

Global retail firms will account for 40% of retail investments

The Economic Times writes about the latest ICICI Property Services-Technopak Advisors white paper that has lots of interesting figures for the country's retail industry. According to the report, international retailers like Wal-Mart, Tesco, Metro and Carrefour will account for 40% of the estimated $30 billion investment over the next 4-5 years in. The remaining investment will be shared by leading Indian retailers such as Future Group, Reliance, K Raheja Group and upcoming retail companies such as AVB Group. It has been estimated that 94% of this $30 billion investment will be taking place in urban markets, of which over 60% will be in the top 25 cities.

Food and grocery will of course get the maximum investments in the hypermarket, cash-and-carry and supermarket formats. While malls will also receive investment, it will be the high street locations that will play a major role in the apparel and clothing sectors. Being sporadic purchases, furniture and consumer durable categories are likely to lead to specific real estate developments such as specialty stores.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Remembering Wayland Sq in Providence

Lots of talk about Starbucks making definite plans to open up cafes here. The Seattle based company has been holding talks with several companies but has not confirmed anything as yet, except that they are very interested in starting their operations here, but with whom is not yet known. I used to enjoy going to Starbucks, especially when we lived in Providence, on Waterman St, and we had a Starbucks a minute's walk away at Wayland Square. Since it was close to Brown University, there were always lots of students, but somehow we always managed to find a nice cozy nook to sit in.

Wayland Square had a really great and eclectic mix of stores, including a couple of bookstores, a super old world diner, a great local cafe, a couple of high end furnishing and lingerie stores, a charming toy store, a winery, a pizzeria, lots of hair salons, a pharmacy and of course Starbucks. It was one of the rare locations that Starbucks managed to fit right in and look at ease with the local stores and that probably explains why this location was so popular.

Gap to close Forth & Towne stores


After an 18 month pilot project, Gap has announced that it will be closing all nineteen of its Forth & Towne stores. The closing of the stores will affect approximately 550 employees. Gap has been struggling for several years now, trying to find the right mix of merchandise as well as customers, while rival companies such as H&M and Zara have been hitting the right note in merchandise, product mix and brand buzz.

Using wall heaters

One of the most beautiful places that I have lived in was Bristol, RI, where we had a beautiful old house that overlooked the Bay. The town of Bristol is full of history and had the first Independence Day parade in the country, a tradition that is celebrated with great relish to this day. Living in such an old town was very interesting, but living in a hundred and fifty year old house, meant that our heating wasn't too efficient. We realized soon after the first snowfall in November that we had to get something extra to keep the house warm, but being an old house, the bedrooms were quite small, so we opted for a wall heater, which barely took up any space but was really great at warming up the area. I wasn't too familiar with them, I found wall heaters to be the perfect solution for us. I found ours at the DESA online outlet store which made it easier for me to decide which type of heating system I should get and also had some great deals available. I selected a natural gas wall heater that was energy efficient and fitted into our bedroom quite unobtrusively.

Argos teams up with HyperCITY

It has been confirmed that the Home Retail Group has signed a franchise agreement with K Raheja Group to establish a retail format for its Argos brand. The K Raheja Group is one of the country's leading retail groups with a variety of retail formats such as a department store brand called Shoppers' Stop, a hypermarket brand called HyperCity, a bookstore brand called Crossword, a home decor brand called Home Stop and many others. To develop the Argos brand in India, the company will be establishing a HyperCITY-Argos brand which will be first launched in Mumbai as a store as well as a catalogue.

Investing in property

The two biggest dreams people have when they start earning is to own a new car and a new home. While buying a car is relatively easy for anyone with a decent salary, getting a good house is somewhat more complicated. A house needs to fulfill so many things all at once, such as being a good investment, be in a safe locality, have good schools nearby, access to public amenities such as parks and recreational activities, and of course increase in value while you own it. Some of the best places to purchase residential property is in smaller towns or suburbs of larger towns. Property in Atlanta and Doraville is one of the great areas for investment, especially real estate in Doraville which is known for its rapidly rising properties. Houses in Doraville have doubled in value in the past ten years, which is a really great return on their investment.

Wal-Mart, Bharti to start operations by September

You might be able to do your Diwali shopping at a Wal-Mart/Bharti store this year. Wal-Mart and Bharti are hiring at a fast pace in an effort to have their stores open by September this year. The joint venture between the companies has been in accordance of FDI guidelines set by the government and will conform to all clearances that are required for its operations to take place. The actual operations will start once the business and funding plans have been finalized, which should happen by August or September this year.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Booking online tickets

Buying tickets online has really made life so much simpler, hasn't it? There are a variety of online merchants that offer really great deals on domestic airfares, such as Makemytrip, Cleartrip and Yatra. I searched on all of them to get a good deal for our Goa trip next month, but ended up finding the mother of all deals on Spicejet's own site, where I snagged two tickets for Rs 0.99, yes only 99 paise, each way for both of us. So our ticket cost us just Rs 3.96 and taxes added up to Rs 4,900. It was quite unbelievable to find such as deal online. It just goes to show what a great system the Internet has brought about.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Deciphering ranks

The past week I've spent a lot of time researching how Alexa rates a website. This site has been online for almost three years now, and its odd that now when my readership has been increasing the Alexa rating has worsened, as has Google's Page Rank. It all seems a bit too arbitrary and quite biased to a few corporate funded sites. I subscribed to the Alexa - Web Discovery Machine blog to try and keep up with their updates.

To live in Italy

Ask anyone their list of place they would love to move to or have a vacation home in, and you can be sure that Italy will be on their list. There is something incredibly magnetic about the country, its people, its weather, its relaxed attitude, its culture and architecture, that pulls people from across the world so effortlessly. Although, I haven't been to Italy as yet, my husband has and he simply loved it, especially the small towns that are off the beaten track and don't get too busy in the tourist season. It would be great to get a little villa somewhere in the hills of Tuscany and become part of the local community. While a lot of property in Italy is moderately priced, it is the high end of the market that has been getting a lot of attention thanks to several high profile people who have purchased properties there.

AS Watson defers plans to come to India

AS Watson, the Kong Kong based retailer which is part of the Hutchinson Whampoa company said that it will not be entering the Indian retail sector as long as the government has restrictions on FDI in retail. At present the government allows only 51% FDI in single brand retail and 100% in cash-and-carry wholesale, and the AS Watson company has interests in a variety of fields, including health and beauty, food and grocery, electronics and even airport retail.
“We are waiting for FDI in retail to be allowed in India as we would like to hold at least 51% equity in our India operations. The franchisee route is not for us,” Watsons Personal Care MD Krish Iyer, who is on a India visit currently, told ET.

Argos coming to India

The Economic Times writes about a deal between Home Retail group and the K Raheja Group to set up stores and a catalogue business in India. This news has been in the offing for a while now. UK based Home Retail group will be signing a MoU with K Raheja Group divisions, Shoopers' Stop and HyperCity Retail to develop a retail format for Argos. In the UK and Ireland, Argos is one of the leading general merchandise retail chains and also has a thriving online business. Argos stores and catalogue will be called HyperCITY-Argos and will be operated an a SPV. The new venture will be launched first in Mumbai and then in other cities in India.
Shoppers Stop MD BS Nagesh said, “This unique retail format of Argos is particularly suited to the urban, densely populated areas, where retail space is expensive and limited in supply.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Wal-Mart CEO visits local stores in Mumbai

Michael T Duke, the CEO of Wal-Mart visited local stores in Mumbai yesterday accompanied by Rajan Mittal of Bharti Enterprises and other Wal-Mart executives. The visit was mostly concentrated to organized retail stores, such as HyperCity, Spencers, Crossword, Inorbit Mall and Big Bazaar, the basic idea of the trip was to get an idea of how Indian consumers shop. While here in Mumbai, he did not have to face any protests and demonstrations, in Delhi over a 100 protesters gathered and marched to government buildings against the impending entry of the retail giant.

How hard is it for you to find clothes that fit?

Are you able to find clothes that fit you perfectly?

According to the Retail Forward ShopperScape survey, more than 50% of women shoppers find it hard to find clothes that fit and flatter them. The main reasons for this is inconsistent sizing for different brands and retailers which has made most women go to several different stores and departments as well as sizes, before they can find something that fits. The survey also reports that close to one-fifth of women own clothes that they are not able to wear since they have not had them altered.

In India, getting clothing altered is the simplest and fastest things to do, in fact most stores do it free for you and will even deliver your item at home, so you don't need to make that second trip. The small tailors shops are experts at altering jeans, cutting the faded bottom hem and stitching it back on after alteration, so expertly that you'd never know the difference.

Safeguarding your information

I've become quite fanatic about having good and reliable security softwares installed on our laptops at home and at work. The kind of viruses and spyware that is going around these days is simply amazing. People seem to be taking advantage of the simplicity and ease of Internet connections and often end up using or rather mis-using work computers for their personal activity. While a lot of personal activity might not be harmful, employers have a right to be able to track employees and computers to stop this mis-use. Corporate espionage also seems to be increasing, as many seem to think it is an easy way to make quick money and its up to an employer to have anti spyware software installed on office computers. Using a software such as the eBlaster spy software, an employer can track all activity on a computer, including emails, websites and chatrooms visited, keystrokes typed, chat and instant messages, programs that have been launched, files that have been shared and even keywords that have been used. Employers need to think of such software as an essential part of their software needs, since this is the requirement of the times we live in.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Geeky Speaky: All things tech

Have you visited Geeky Speaky lately? It's a really great blog for all things technology related. There is a new feature on the site, a directory called Geeky Speaky: Blog & Website
Directory
that has lots on interesting sites listed and can help in increasing PR if you link to it. Colleen has a knack of being able to make even the most complicated new technology seem simple, understandable and usable. It's not easy to do that, and a lot of writers do exactly the opposite just to keep themselves at a higher level than anyone else. It's quite a short term strategy, don't you think? Well, Geeky Speaky is the opposite of that, and if you want your site to be added to her list of blogs, go ahead and submit your site.
Geeky Speaky: Submit Your Site!

Subhiksha stocks falling short

Subhiksha Trading Services is facing a severe shortfall of stocks in its stores due to rapid expansion plans. The company has set up around 80 stores in and around Mumbai in the past three months and is not able to keep up with keeping the stores fully stocked, in key categories such as soaps, detergents and certain foods. R Subramaniam, MD of Subhiksha Trading Services, admitted that the company has been facing a shortage of around 20-25% in certain categories in in Mumbai stores, as they had underestimated their demand. Industry sources instead feel that the company who usually only stocks 750-800 SKUs (stock keeping units) for each of its stores, needs to carry a minimum of 1,500 SKUs. The company stocks its stores from its distribution hub at Bhiwandi, outside of Thane.

Shopping deals on BuyMeBlog

Ever since we moved back to India, we have been using on online shopping much more than ever before. After having lived in the US for so many years, especially some of the most important character building years, we have grown accustomed to certain products that are still not available here. While a lot of food products from the US are available, its not the same for other handy items for the house. So, I've turned to the Internet to order stuff online from US merchants and have them either ship it directly to us or have it sent to a friend or relative who will be visiting soon. Yes, its definitely more complicated than stopping by at the local supermarket, but then, its a lot more worth it when it finally arrives.

One of the sites, where I have found some great tips on online shopping deals is Colleen's BuyMeBlog which deals with "the best and the worst of the shopping deals and products" on the Internet. It's usually a great starting point for me and I found a great deal on steak knives from Chicago Cutlery from her blog. I also found a really great way to hang paintings, something called Hercules Hooks, which I really needed to hang my growing collection of paintings that I started when I worked in an art gallery. The Internet has really made it so easy to connect to and get help or inspiration from someone half a world away, whom one has not even met, and the BuyMeBlog is the perfect example of that. BuyMeBlog is stuffed full of info on where the best sales are going on and is a real time saver, since by checking just this one site, I am sure to find some interesting offer or the other.

My birthday fortune!

Your Birthdate: June 4

You have an extraordinary character - moral, responsible, and disciplined.
Your sincerely and honesty shine through in almost every situation.
Driven and focused, you rarely let your emotions get the better of you.
You're level headed and rational. People count on your to look at things objectively.

Your strength: Your unwavering loyalty and ethics

Your weakness: Your rock solid stubbornness

Your power color: Navy blue

Your power symbol: Shield

Your power month: April

Sephora coming to India

Some exciting retail news in the beauty industry. It's quite a coincidence how I had written a post earlier today about how its not possible to buy foreign beauty products in stores here and the only way to get them is on by ordering online. Well, one of the most famous beauty line, Sephora will be opening stores in India where it will be setting up 50 stores over the next five years. The company will be setting up stores in partnerships, which its parent company LVMH will be discussing. Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy already sees India as one of the most promising markets for luxury goods, although the market is characterized by a lack of environments to market these luxury goods. At present most luxury stores are located in five star hotels and LVMH is trying to change the concept.

H&M opening in Dubai

Dubai will soon have H&M stores. The swedish retailer will be opening stores in Deira City Centre on March 14, 2007. Dubai is the most forwad of the middle eastern cities and has made a name for itself by contantly renewing itself.
By offering wardrobe essentials alongside high fashion in each collection, H&M makes it easy for customers to combine different clothes and find their own personal style. With more than 100 in-house designers, H&M's collections are created with the customer in mind.

This spring, Dubai is all set to experience yet another H&M first. H&M has teamed up with Madonna to create 'M for Madonna', a line of clothing and accessories that is scheduled to arrive in all stores carrying the women's wear collection on March 22.

Is the Wal-Mart, Bharti JV delayed?

Some distrurbing news I read last night that the joint venture deal between Wal-Mart and Bharti Enterprises might get delayed. Michael T Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart will be arriving in India tomorrow on February 23, and will be in the country for less than 24 hours. He already has several meetings lined up with Kamal Nath, the commerce and industry minister and officials from the Planning Commission. Industry speculation is that there are still lots of details to be worked on as yet and the actual finalization of the agreement might be delayed

FAM protests Wal-Mart’s entry

Another protest against the entry to US retail giant to the Indian market, this time by the Federation of Association of Maharashtra (FAM), an organization that represents all retailers in the state, including co-operative stores, hawkers and trade unions. The FAM protest is based on the social impact that such retail chains will have on the local stores. One of the well known co-operative stores, Apna Bazaar is also part of the FAM. The group has planned a protest on February 21 in both Delhi and Bangalore against the arrival of the Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke.

Gas logs for no mess fireplaces

One of the best memories I have to growing up in the mountains are the log fires we used to have at our cottage in the Himalayas. We used to have plenty of wood from pruning the trees and clearing storm damage to last us for the entire winter. When my parents renovate their house in the city, they plan to add a fireplace, but one with gas logs which are just more practical now and more convenient for city living. There is no mess at all with gas logs, and no soot or smoke either. Gas log fireplaces are so much easier than the real deal, and are perfect for the city, where they don't need to provide too much heat but are more for creating atmosphere and ambience. While at first, something so different and unnatural seemed odd, now I am totally hooked onto the concept of gas log fireplaces. I found a great deal of vent free gas logs at Desa's Tech site and can't wait to order some to use this winter itself.

Kirana stores keen on selling 'branded' goods

The Indian Institute of Packaging is making a cluster branding strategy that would help kirana store-owners compete effectively with large format organized retailers like Big Bazaar and Reliance Retail. The chairman of IIP, BS Kampani said that the institute was “…evaluating an alternative model for kirana shops” that would benefit both customers as well as shop owners.

By clubbing neighborhood kirana stores under a single brand, they could sell packaged rice, pulses and other items under a brand name. Packaging for such an initiative could be taken care of at a minimal cost. Customers would get some sense of quality assurance by purchasing a 'branded' product. So far, the institute has already contacted 800 such stores in Mumbai and more than 250 in Ahmedabad.

Business execs relying more on video conferences

Business travel in the US has been decreasing lately due to the improvement in high quality video conferencing that have become available in the market. Cisco, for example, provides cost-effective and high-quality options in video conferencing to choose from. The Cisco Unified Video Advantage, which was earlier called Cisco VT Advantage, provides video telephony to Cisco Unified IP phones, so its as simple as making a telephone call. This video conferencing system uses a Cisco VT Camera II and a video telephone USB cable, which makes the entire interface easy and even familiar. There was a time that one of the big advantages of rising higher in an organization meant that you could fly off to attend meetings, but with the security situation having changed for the worse in the past few years, congestion and delays have become a normal part of flying and thus, many business professionals would rather use video conferencing instead.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Online retailers provide higher consumer satisfaction

The Columbus Dispatch writes about higher consumer satisfaction for online retailers than bricks and mortar retailers. According to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index conducted by the University of Michigan, American consumers gave a higher score to online retailing than bricks and mortar stores. Online retailing received 80 out of 100, while bricks and mortar stores received 74.4 out of 100. The best rated online retailer was www.barnesandnoble.com, with a score of 88, followed by www.amazon.com with a score of 87. One of the major reasons for this shift towards online retailing has been the significant increase in customer satisfaction in terms of price, product as well as service of online retailers.

Getting rid of backaches

I've always been into writing of some sort. Even before I started working from home, I used to spend 4-5 hours a day sitting at the computer just for fun and reconnecting with friends, playing games etc. Since I started working from home, I have had some sort of back pain or the other. Earlier it was because I never had a good computer chair, that provided the right support, but even now, I tend to get back aches simply because I am usually leaning forward and not sitting upright. What would be great would be to visit a Physical Therapy near New York that I used to visit when we lived in Providence, RI. That therapy really did help me a lot and I would love to go back.

Where rich consumers shop?

Did you know that rich consumers prefer discount warehouses for their shopping? A new study by the Nielsen Company found that although these consumers can afford to buy items at higher priced stores, the lure of good deals pulls them in. Households of annual incomes of more than $100,000 usually shop at discount warehouses such as Costo and Sam's Club and high end mass merchandisers like Target retail stores. These consumers generally prefer national and higher-end grocery chains that have a larger selection of fresh items, especially those that have good produce, meat, poultry, seafood, deli and alcoholic beverage sections.
"Strong fresh food sections act like a magnet for affluent shoppers who make 56 percent more trips to purchase fresh produce, but the quality and selection have got to be there," Hale said.

While the affluent shop all the mainstream retail channels, they are more than twice as likely to patronize a warehouse club store, and nine percent more likely to frequent a mass merchandiser when compared with households who earn $20,000 or less, according to the research.

Going to Goa

Here we come, Goa!!
This is simply amazing news!!
We are going to Goa next month for a vacation and I was searching for flights and managed to find tickets for Rs 0.99 each for our return tickets on Spicejet.com. When I first saw it, I thought it had to be a mistake, I mean, I didn't think it possible. But here we are, going to Goa for a fare of Rs 3.96, return fare for two passengers. The taxes are a different story and one has to pay them in full, so our ticket adds up to Rs 4903.96, which works out to roughly $114 at an exchange rate of Rs 43 to $1.

Subhiksha plans to set up stores in Nagpur

Food and grocery retailer, Subhiksha is making plans to open about 24 outlets in Nagpur in Maharashtra. Eleven stores are expected to open by end of March, according to several owners of commercial properties in the city. Nagpur has been attracting a lot of big name retail chains lately and Subhiksha will be the fourth such chain to come to the city, after Westside, Big Bazaar and Piramyd.

Most of these new Subhiksha outlets will range from 700-800 sq ft to 2,000 sq ft. The company is looking to open outlets in commercial areas in the city. In the state of Maharashtra itself, the company plans to open 180 stores and once complete will move to Pase II of its expansion drive to open stores in the northern and eastern parts of the country in cities like Chandigarh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and West Bengal.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Do you want free antivirus?

One of the most searched phrases on the Internet seems to be free antivirus. Plug it into any search engine and you're sure to get thousands and thousands of results. So how does one select the right company and software for your computer? My antivirus expires in a month, so I thought I'd check out what was available on the free software's, and came upon Free Antivirus Info where I could check all the available options and packages that they came with, all in one place. Did you know that you could download free Norton Antivirus via Google? That's pretty good, right? Norton is one of the best antivirus' around, and usually costs $40 minimum. The reviews for the product are great, with PC Magazine and CNET both giving it superb reviews. I'm hoping this deal will still be around when I need to sign up for my computer.

Nike upbeat on India's potential

Nike is targeting reaching sales of $1 billion for India in the next five years. Nike executives said that even though sales in India had grown by 40%, the brand still trailed Reebok and Adidas in India. Growth in India has largely been driven by cricket, in marketing and advertising initiatives. Nike executives see India as becoming one of the new billion dollar markets, along with Russia and Brazil. Nike is also planning to focus on creating a high end consumer experience for its products, using innovative techniques, branding and increasing its number of stores to newer markets.

My new site

Well, I finally did it. I set up my own website this morning using BlueHost and WP. The new site is called The Power of Retail and will deal with all things retail, consumerism, trends, innovation, new business ideas, communication and technology. I had started this blog as a personal space for myself, but have been writing more on retail and business here than personal stuff, so I thought it was high time, I did some segmentation myself!!

While the basic set up and installation was very simple, I still have to figure out how to get additional plugins and themes...something I was not able to figure out how to do this morning!! I am looking forward to focusing on my new blog with specific topics and issues, and keeping this blog as a more of a general space, as it was first intended to be.

Itsmymarket: is a hit

Something I really love about the Internet is how a variety of service are now being offered for free. The Internet has radically changed the concept of free forever. Itsmymarket.com is a UK based site that offers a variety of services such as classifieds, blog creation, web page hosting, event calenders so you can see what's going on in the area, dating etc and to top it all, there is no cost to use the site. The site is the perfect example of how people are getting used to looking for and finding the best of the best, and if it can be for free, then why not. Itsmymarket.com looks like a great place to connect with the online community, learn something new and contribute to building a better society just by participating.

Will Wal-Mart not use its name for stores in India?

There is a lot of talk in the industry that Wal-Mart stores in India might not use its ‘Wal-Mart’ name since Bharti Enterprises will be taking care of the front end retail operations and Wal-Mart focusing on back-end operations such as logistics and supply chain. While a Wal-Mart spokesperson emphasized that branding of the front-end stores was completely up to Bharti to decide. Bharti Enterprises has been doing research on potential names and weighing its options on finalizing a brand name that will reflect the Wal-Mart way and also connect to local customers. The US retail giant, surprisingly has been quite open to the idea that its brand name might not feature on storefronts, especially in regards to this factor fueling political opposition to foreign owned companies such as Wal-Mart setting up shop in India.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bharti will invest $2.5 billion in JV deal with Wal-Mart

Well, the Bharti Group finally announced its plans for its joint retail venture with Wal-Mart. According to the announcement, Bharti will invest $2.5 billion by 2015 to open a chain of retail stores across major cities in India. Bharti Entreprises JMD Rajan Bharti Mittal, said that "After revolutionising the Indian telecom sector, retail will be the next big focus area for Bharti... the investment would be $2-2.5 billion.” The company would also be opening multi-format stores in cities with populations of around 1 million. Bharti will be covering an estimated 10 million sq ft of retail space, and employ 60,000 people over the next few years. the company's first store will open in the first quarter of 2008.

Can you find me on the 2000 bloggers list?

Yes, I made it in to the 2000 Bloggers list that is putting up pics of 2000 bloggers on its site. I found out about it just by chance and quickly left a comment asking them to add me too. Originally started by blogger Tino Buntic, who decided to put up pics of 2000 bloggers on his site from some of the 55 million blogs that have been created. He only had two requirements for submission, you must have a blog that was created before January 1st, 2007 and you must have a picture of yourself on your blog. To enter you have to leave a comment with your name and blog url which will be verified and added to their photo montage. So can you spot me?

Regional blog directory

I recently added my blog to a new regional directory of blogs called Grokodile.com. So far, there are very few sites listed in my area. Hopefully it will pick up since it's a great way to connect to other bloggers from the same area. Here's is the page for Mumbai blogs. Add your blog to the area where you live and you'll be sure to find some interesting company.

Our new digi cam

My parents gifted us a really cool camera, a Casio Exilim. It's a tiny little thing with a huge screen to see what you're photographing and has lots of settings for taking different kinds of pics like scenery, kids, sunsets, text, even taking a pic of the scenery first and then adding people in front later. I'm having lots of fun trying it out. We had gone to town last week and I took some pics along the way....have a look!


Driving along Linking Road, Santa Cruz, where we were lucky not to get too much traffic. The stretch from JW to Mahim is the worst portion for jams and conjestion.


Side view of the Gateway of India, from the Yatch Club side.


Rooftops: of the Taj Mahal Hotel opposite the Gateway of India. I simply love the color of the dome.


Near Haji Ali


Long time waiting at Mahim traffic lights

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Tata Croma opens another store in Mumbai

The Tata and Woolworth consumer durable retail chain Croma, opened its second store in the city of Mumbai in Malad. The new store is spread over an area of 22,000 sq ft and stocks an estimated 6,000 products from 180 international and local brands. Croma is one of the new specialized formats of stores that focus on consumer durable products, a category that is becoming very popular with consumers who are able to find all their electronic needs under one roof.

Cinema, The first Croma store in Mumbai is located in Juhu, opposite the Utpal Sanghvi School and near ChandanDynamix Mall, Shoppers' Stop and PVR Cinemas. I have been to this store several times and have been pleased with the entire experience of shopping there, right from finding a parking spot to customer service people who know about the products and brands etc. The second store in Malad, I have yet to visit, so am not sure of its exact location.

Fresh sounds

Some of the best new sounds are from unsigned and unknown artists. Usually these artists are not able to flourish without the right sort of support and network, but a relatively new concept called Unsigned.com has come up to do just that. Owned by the First Beat Media Inc, an online entertainment and media company who provides the best source of information to discover unsigned artists. With their team of music enthusiasts, Unisigned.com listens to music from across the world to find artists who have the potential of making it big. Unsigned.com sorts is musicians by categories such as Trance Bands or Jazz bands or World bands and so on. Its a great way to see upcoming talent in the music industry without all the hype that the media generates on just the few popular artists. Here you just focus on the music, which is what its all about. Listen to some great new sounds at Unsigned.com, I'm sure you'll love it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

HSA interested in tying up with Reliance

The Economic Times reports that a Yemen based company, the Hayel Saeed Anam Group (HSA), is keen on tying up with Reliance to set up a retail business in Yemen. The company already has had dealings with Reliance in its refinery segment and is keen to expand these to the retail sector also. The HSA Group has interests in a variety of sectors such as manufacturing, real estate, telecom, food products and petrochemicals, and accounts for over 60% of the economy in the country.

RV vacations

Last summer our family traveled along the eastern coast of the US for about 15 days. It was a great trip and we stopped at several places along the way: Long Island, NY; Providence, RI; Boston, MA; Kittery, ME; Ridgefield, CT; Edison, NJ; Scotland, MD and finally back to Washington DC. It was a really great trip, and I would love to cover the entire itinerary by RV this time. Traveling by recreational vehicles is something that has fascinated me for quite some time now, and hopefully one day, I will be able to be able to vacation in one. On doing some research on choosing the right rv / recreational vehicle and the kinds of RV's available, I came across the Travelworld site where the FAQ page is in video format. I found it really interesting to be able to get my answers in this manner. Making a decision would be a lot easier this way, I would think.

Future Group to add Big Bazaar stores

The Future Group will be increasing the number of its value retailing Big Bazaar stores to 70 by the end of this year. The maximum number of new stores will be in the state of Maharashtra, in smaller cities like Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Kohlapur and Solapur. Thee company currently has 44 Big Bazaar outlets, with most outlets located in metros and larger cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Ahmedabad, which are the most lucrative markets. An estimated 66% of the Big Bazaar's Rs 900,000 crore income comes from these eight markets. The company will be exploring smaller cities too, after its success in Sangli, a small town in Maharashtra and was surprised at the level of success the store has achieved, encouraging it to invest in smaller markets.

Additions to The Z-List

Social networking has taken on an entirely new meaning via the Internet. It is a fascinating and evolving aspect of marketing and networking, that is creating a world of its own. I came across something called The Z-List on a blog called The Viral Garden. The Z-List can be viewed as the opposite of the A-List. It is a list where you can add recommended blogs of your own, which will keep growing as it passes from blog to blog.

The original list:
Shotgun Marketing Blog
BrandSizzle
bizsolutionsplus
Customers Rock
Being Peter Kim

My additions:
idano
Seth's Blog
Style Station
Peter Foster's Telegraph blog
Rajeev Karval's blog
Writings by Tim Harford
Jugaad
Indian Writing
l-e-mental
Vaandoo

Go ahead and make add your own list to this. Cut and paste the original list, as well as my list and then add your own list to it. Good luck and enjoy!

Multilingual toys

The phrase that the US is a melting pot has been used for decades, but has never really been taken to heart by many people. Each city has its own little pockets of different nationalities who set up a world of their own in a foreign land. Another phrase that was bandied around was that the US is more of a salad bowl, a variety of different nationalities, each keeping their own distinct flavor and language. It was interesting to read that toy makers in the US are finally waking up to the fact that there are people from all over the world who are looking for toys that represent their own culture and language. Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing group of minorities in the US, at 42.7 million and have finally caught the attention of companies who are now making dolls and toys who speak Spanish as well as English.

US Commerce Secretary emphasizes opening economy would benefit farmers

The US Trade Secretary Carlos Guiterrez, who is on his first trip to India, said that opening India's consumer sector would benefit India's farmers. Emphasizing that the government needs to take a more proactive step in helping the markets, he said, “More needs to be done to open India’s markets ... there are some sectors such as retail, banking, financial services and telecommunications where obstacles remain.” The Trade Secretary also advised the government not to build walls around its economy and said that instead India must not stop foreign companies from coming in as it would help its citizens. Interesting that his visit was just a week after Congress President Sonia Gandhi's letter of caution on retail FDI to the Prime Minister's Office caused tremors in both business and political circles.

Ice Cream for grown ups

Here's a really interesting new concept that I read on Springwise.com, which is absolute favorite reading material of the day, Ice cream for grown ups. Scoop sells ice cream in a pink and black van and will be traveling through the summer to UK's festival spots. With ice cream flavors like Vintage Marmalade and Turkish Delight, sold in small Chinese take out boxes, the fun flavors and sexy theme is a hit with customers so far. The Scoop concept was created by Adam Ellis, Design Director of Coley Porter Bell, a London based agency as part of the company's own Blue Sky competition in which the winner gets a two week vacation and GBP 2,000 to start a business.

Property in Austin, TX

One city that has been on my must-live-in cities ever since I was in college has been Austin, TX I had several friends from the city and it seemed to have the perfect mix of being a manageable size city but still have lots of things to do, such as the opera, philharmonic and a vibrant art scene. It's no surprise that the city is one of the most sought after places to live in the US, due to the high quality of life. The Austin real estate market is booming and home prices have risen significantly in 2006 and are likely to continue to do so this year. While real estate prices have been slowing down in the rest of the country, Austin real estate is expected to grow at a fast clip. My friend from college who lives in Austin, told me about Jim Olenbush, one of the most reputable real estate broker from whom she had purchased her home. Jim Olenbush's site on real estate in Austin, where he lists Austin homes for sale is a great source of information on the general real estate market in the city and also on specific properties on the market. His site is a great place to get details on the real estate market for both investment and living purposes.

Dollar stores rise in demand

Quite interestingly, the concept of dollar stores has really caught the fancy of consumers who are flocking to stores to buy branded food, healthcare products and glassware. The dollar stores in India, price all items at Rs 99 ($2) instead of the requisite $1, but the 'dollar store' name has stuck, not only for the price but also as it immediately connects conusmer to foreign products, which is a greater pull than the price. Several American companies such as Dollar General, Dollar King, 99 Cents and Family Dollar are making plans to come to India.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Integrating publishing and marketing

Publishers are now offering additional services such as marketing to expand their reach. B2B magazine reports that last month Meredith Corp. acquired two marketing communication agencies, interactive marketing agency, Genex and interactive word-of-mouth agency, New Media Strategies, in a move to integrate marketing and publishing services and create more revenue opportunities. Meredith Corp is the publisher of prominent B2C publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, and B2B publications, Successful Farming and Wood.
"A number of companies are doing this," said Gordon Hughes II, president-CEO of American Business Media. "They are becoming more of a consultancy practice to help their customers talk to their customers better."

Private labels are the way to go

Retailers are increasingly shifting to private labels to control costs and margins. Companies such as Pantaloons, Westside, Ebony and Shoppers' Stop are adding to their private label in an effort to improve margins as well as increase the average bill size. With overhead costs such as real estate increasing substantially, retailers are looking at all other factors that determine their profitability. Private labels can also meet customer expectations as they are often based on customer requests and perception and are usually targeted at specific customer groups and categories, such as yoga wear, women's luggage etc. The big difference in private labels of today is the improvement in quality.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Making your own ads

We have all used the Internet to make travel bookings for hotels, flights and cars; some of us have traded stocks on the Internet, but now the concept of creating things on the Internet is going to a whole new level. The New York Times writes about advertisers letting consumers make their own television commercials, without even going to an ad agency. You can now do it all on an automated advertisement creation system on the Internet. Using this method, advertisers save on costs and really get to know what consumers are thinking. So, will this new concept reduce the role of traditional advertising agencies? To an extent yes, they will be a threat to ad agencies, but companies who use this method will gain insight into the local element and be able to make the advertisements more relevant.
Visible World, based in New York, introduced a product this week that allows national advertisers to create thousands of custom versions of TV commercials. Visible World also plans to add online and mobile video ads to its system soon. And Spot Runner, an online ad agency based in Los Angeles that has been offering to make local TV commercials for $499, plans to branch into automated radio and Internet ad development later this year.

Wal-Mart looking to enter Russian market

Wal-Mart is reportedly looking to find a suitable partner to start operations in Russia. According to a news report in Reuters, officials from Wal-Mart visited Moscow last week to determine if the market was ready for the US retail giant. Rising incomes and an economic boom for the past eight years in Russia, is the likely cause of the renewed interest shown by Wal-Mart. According to Wal-Mart vice-president Mike Bratcher, besides rising incomes of consumers, local retailers have also been successfully experimenting with new retail formats, paving the way for a concept such as Wal-Mart's.
Media speculation has centred on a possible partnership deal between the country's leading food retailer X5, which has ruled out a full-blown foreign takeover but has spoken to Wal-Mart, TescoCarrefour. Also in the frame as possible targets are food retailer Lenta, which is based in St Petersburg, and Turkish-controlled Ramstore.

Ford Mustang: More than just a car

The Ford Mustang is not just a car, it is an American institution, an icon and a continuous trend setter. My friend Sarah had a Ford Mustang in college which was the obvious car of choice for all of us when we went out together. While the people in the back seat don't have much leg room, the Mustang was never really built for passengers. It was solely for the driver and the emphasis on the engine, driver's seat, console and handling was always there. On graduating from college, Sarah's parent's gifted her her choice of car, just as long it was American made, and once again Sarah selected a Ford Mustang. This time it was a convertible in black, which was really incredibly fun to drive. Our time in Kansas City was pretty much defined by that car; with everything else related to it, road trips in it, cruising the country club area in downtown Kansas City and trips back to college for football games and alumni functions in Manhattan, KS.

There is something special about Mustangs, not just in the engine and physical car, but almost something spiritual that attracts fanatics and enthusiasts to the car. I was really amazed at the time people spend in adding gadgets and gizmos to jazz up the car, take a look at what all is available to add to a 2000 Mustang for example. The variety of products seems to be getting longer and more elaborate over the years. The graphics and bumper inserts especially have been getting more and more innovative. The Ford Mustang is probably one of the most loved cars in the US, with fans and car owners ranging from the 1960s to the present. While the shape of the car has changed a lot over time, its iconic tail lights are one feature that remains constant.

Nokia launches 6 new models

At the launch of six of its new mobile phones, Nokia said that it was upbeat on the market in India, which has emerged as the third largest market for Nokia in the world. The company is the most popular mobile phone company and is keen on holding on to its rapidly increasing market share. It is estimated that 6 million new mobile phones are purchased each month in India. The total number of mobile subscribers is likely to cross three billion this year.

Selecting furniture

I've always loved furniture that has some character and some history. Now, not everything needs to be an antique piece, but it should have some story behind it at least. I also prefer not to have matching furniture sets since I find them just too matched and perfect and not real enough. I see my house as a collection of objects from a variety of times, and since I am constantly changing and updating, I want that reflected in my home. So, I have some pieces of furniture that are traditional and older than me and others that are ultra modern and sleek. It's this combination that makes a house a home. Lately, I've been looking for a nice computer desk and since I work from home, I need something with storage but not one that looks very office-like. I found a really nice computer desk and hutch in the Young America collection at Great Priced Furniture that I can keep in my guest bedroom, since it will enhance the decor and be a good piece for storage too.

Wal-Mart, Bharti to finalize agreement next week

Bharti and Wal-Mart will be finalizing the details of their joint venture agreement in the next week, when Wal-Mart vice-chairman Michael Duke visits India on February 22. He is likely to meet Kamal Nath, the Commerce and Industry Minister to discuss the country's retail FDI policy. At present, the government permits direct investment in only wholesale trade such as cash and carry operations and for 51% in single brand retail.

Food retailers keen on self checkout lanes

Food and grocery retailers are increasingly opting for self checkout lanes. The Burlington Free Press writes about stores such as Price Chopper in Burlington, Vermont have added 'Easy Scan Checkout' machines to eight of its nineteen checkout lanes, where an customers scan, weigh, enter produce codes and bag their own purchases although one employee is present to verify age in alcohol purchases and assist shoppers. Payment is done via credit card or with cash reading machines. Shoppers who use these lanes are usually in a hurry, but usually finish with a sense of accomplishment.
Grocery store self-checkout aisles are becoming more common across the country, said Bill Greer, spokesman for the Food Marketing Institute in Arlington, Va. Systems are more user-friendly and shoppers are more computer literate, creating the conditions for a spike in the number of supermarkets adding the machines. In 2002, just 7.6 percent of U.S. supermarkets had self-checkout systems in at least one store, he said. Three years later, in 2005, the number jumped to 56 percent; 2006 data was not available

Wal-Mart likley to opt for neighbourhood stores

Some very interesting news today, it seems that Wal-Mart is likely to opt for neighbourhood formas in India. The company has large format hypermarkets and supermarkets across the world but is considering smaller formats in India due to consumer's preference for small neighbourhood stores. The Economic Times reports that:
"We expect Wal-Mart and Bharti to explore the neighbourhood market concept because groceries are one of the largest retail categories with the least organised retail competition in India," a former Wal-Mart adviser and US-based global retail investment firm Growth Ventures Group's Chairman and CEO Love Goel told media.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ferrari likely to come to India in 2-3 years time

Ferrari is likely to come to India in the next three years. In an interview with The Economic Times, FIAT chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said that the company was looking into bringing his brands such as Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Fiat's Grand Punto and Bravo to India. The company could also be tying up with Tata's for its Rs 100,000 car. The Ferrari and Maserati brand will be coming to India in the next two years while the Grand Punto and Bravo are likely to become available even sooner.

Are women more intuitive in business?

Are women more intuitive when it comes to business? Fast Company writes about a new book by Margaret Heffernan's called "How She Does It: How Women Entrepreneurs are Changing the Rules of Business Success" talks about how women in business are able to see patterns in information and are able "to connect the dots" in this information.
“Women’s brains are like street sweepers,” she says. Every day, women are out there canvassing their environment, from the office to the school to the mall to the kitchen to the church to the supermarket, and on and on, taking in information, often in a commercial context. The extent of women’s purchasing power has been well documented, of course: 88% of all retail purchases, 89% of bank accounts, more than 50% of credit card use, etc. While they're shopping, they're also sucking up dust balls of data, like some crazed Roomba of the marketplace.

Readings on financial news

Did you know that roughly 50% of teenagers in the UK will find themselves in debt by the time they are seventeen? I was amazed at the level that debt had crept into society, even among those who have barely started to earn on a casual basis. It seems that the necessities of people is increasing much faster than their ability to provide for it, hence the need and reliance, rather over reliance on credit. I came across this information on the Lombard Direct site which provides a variety of financial news and services. This new section on financial news is a very good source of information for all kinds of consumers, since we have taken credit cards, loans, mortgages etc at some point or the other.

Reliance Retail opens stores in Vishakapatnam

More news on the fast expanding Reliance Retail front. The company has opened three test stores in Vishakapatanam, each with around 1,800 sq ft of space. With these store openings, Reliance Retail has 56 outlets in the country, with 12 stores in Chennai, 7 in Jaipur, 9 in the NCR area, 21 in Hyderabad, and 7 in Vijaywada and Guntur.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Me.dium: a social reccomendations site

There's a new social networking tool available that is likely to change the entire browsing experience. Fast Company writes about social networking and reccomendations site Me.dium, which has lauched a program which lets you see which sites your friends are visiting in real time, so you can share browsing patterns. The idea behind this shared web browsing tool is to make browsing less of a solitary activity that it is at present. Me.dium encourages social interaction and users can send instant messages to individuals or groups on a particular site.

Connecting buyers and sellers

The International Herald Tribune writes about a new company called OpenAd and a new way to do business. While its not an advertising agency per se, it has access to about 7,000 creative agents across the world in 116 countries who do freelance work for this virtual agency. At OpenAd, advertisers can post 'briefs' giving descriptions on potential assignments for which marketers are charged anywhere between $3,000-$100,000. With its reach, OpenAd can connect advertisers with talented creative people from across the world, giving them a wide base to work with.
"We're basically doing for advertising what Amazon did for books, what iTunes did for music," said Katarina Skoberne, a co-founder and partner.

Using VoIP phones

We've been using a VoIP phone for over a year now and its been a great practicality since I work from home and have to contact international clients and vendors on a regular basis. When I got it installed a year back, there wasn't too much information about how these phones work, but now since they have caught on, there is lots of choice for consumers. I came across the Vonage site which is offering $24.99 a month for unlimited locan and long distance calls, and is even giving the first month free. VoIP phones are a really great way to save money compared to traditional phones and are perfect for home business use. With more features than traditional phones and mobile phones, VoIP offer the best of both worlds, in terms of great price and a variety of features.

Auchan keen to join Indian retail industry

Another global retailer is looking to enter the Indian retail sector. It is learnt that French retailer Auchan, a $50 billion foof and grocery and consumer goods retailer is making plans to come to India. The company is the world's ninth largest food retailer. According to reports, the company has been in talks with the Wadia owned Bombay Dyeing group, who has been in the news lately for its supposed talks with Carrefour.

Ranbaxy's Fortis to open health stores

Some news on the health and pharma sector. The Ranbaxy Group will be opening approximately 1,000 Fortis health stores across the country over the next five years, using an investment of Rs 800 crore. The stores will be called Fortis HealthWorld, and will run as 24hr health pharmacies and stores. These HealthWorld stores will provide information on all health related products and services, including prescription medicines and over the counter drugs, allopathic and aurvedic medicines, health foods and much more. The pharma retail sector has been attracting a lot of attention lately, with several of the large retail companies planning to set up pharma chains across India.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Reliance Retail hires 30 senior executives from leading international retailers

The HR departments at Reliance Retail are working overtime. The company has hired 30 senior executives who specialize in retail store operations and loss prevention from Wal-Mart's worldwide offices. Three of these executives have been hired specifically for building its training team and the remaining 27 have been selected for operations, logistics, distribution, IT. Reliance Retail has been wanting to hire Wal-Mart’s executives and had searched for executives in several countires where the company runs stores, such as Brazil, Mexico, France, Israel, Thailand, Hong Kong, UK, and its base, the US. Reliance Retail has also hired senior executives from other global retail firms such as Tesco, Carrefour, Best Buy and Circuit City for its retail venture in India.

Retailers look for talent in rural areas

The severe shortage of retail talent is pushing retail companies for talent in rural areas. As yet there are no details on exactly how many people will be required, but with the way retailers are expanding, the requirement is sure to be quite large. In general, a 50,000 sq ft store requires at least 250 people to run it, while 10 people will be required to run a small food and grocery supermarket. The bulk of the HR requirements will be needed by the country's two largest retailers, Reliance and Future Group. Reliance Retail alone is planning to have an estimated 100 million sq ft of space by the year 2010-11 and the Future Group is planning to double its 30,000 headcount by next year. Future Group has preferred to select employees from the local population due to language and customer preferences. The company has reportedly been recruiting for talent in the North-East where knowledge of English is good, for its New Delhi and Mumbai stores.

The Livelihood Advancement Business Schools (LABS) have also been instrumental in providing employees to retailers. These schools are run by Dr Reddy’s Foundation, which trains rural based poor high school students in basic employable skills. Some of the companies who have already selected employees from LABS are McDonald’s, Big Bazaar and Reliance Fresh. Call centers middle level employees who have good customer service and English skills and do not want to work night shifts are also a great source of recruiting talent for retailers.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Retail majors face pressure to improve margins

The Economic Times reports that the top six retail companies in the country reported an increase in net sales by 46% for the quarter, while net profits only rose 29% for the period. Top line growth was 59% for Pantaloon, 29% for Shoppers’ Stop, 28% for Trent and 43% for Titan, but profits were not as impressive due to rising staff and real estate costs.

Pantaloon Retail reported sales growth of 63% for its value retail segment and 37% for its lifestyle retailing segments, adding Rs 27 crore with its home furnishings concept segment. Interestingly, the growth came from new stores, while older stores growth rates stood at 14% for value retail and 15% for lifestyle retail.

Future Group to focus on lifestyle and non-food/grocery segments

The Future Group announced that it will be focusing more on the high-margin lifestyle segment, in an effort to improve profit margins. The food and grocery segment contributes to 60% of the total business while lifestyle retail contributes for 40% of their business. What this actually means is that the company is trying to stay clear of Reliance Retail’s plans for food and grocery retailing, which entail opening stores in 784 cities.

Food and grocery segment margins are usually around only 12-15%, while lifestyle segment margins are much more lucrative at 45-50%. Kishore Biyani, CEO and MD of the Future Group, said, “We are looking at business margins at the end of the day. We have to be in grocery retail which is a significant part of consumer spends, but the business will be clearly coming in from lifestyle retail. Food and groceries get the footfalls.”

Friday, February 09, 2007

The cost of a free coffee

What would you pay for a cappuccino if there were no prices listed? Would you pay at all? The Seattle Times writes about Terra Bite, a cafe in Kirkland, WA does not have any prices listed on the menu board or elsewhere, leaving it up to customers to decide what to pay or not to pay at all. The majority of customer do pay and although the cafe is still not breaking even, it is likely to do so shortly. The cafe was opened by Ervin Peretz, a 37-year-old Google programmer, who started it as a social experiment of sorts to show that people are essentially good and they are influenced by their environment.
Through his "voluntary payment" cafe, Peretz is poised to become the Robin Hood of the Starbucks set. Using an efficient, low-overhead business model and narrow profit margin, he figures he can finesse the largesse of well-off latte lovers to cover the tabs of the less fortunate.

Limited edition Vs Mass consumption

Retailers are opting to sell limited number clothes of a particular design and style rather than thousands of the same stuff. Consumers have reacted very positively to this move and there have been record crowds at openings of stores such as H&M, when it launched Stella McCartney's collection or Gap unveiled Roland Mouret's collection of dresses. The feeling that very few other people have the same outfit is a sure way to make consumers (mostly women) rush to the store and buy it. Retailers win too, as they clear out inventory fast and create lots of buzz in the market, ensuring lots of new footfalls. Almost every opening of H&M stores in the US has seen people lining up from dawn to get into the store, showing just how much customers are interested in having some limited edition pieces in their closet.

Apparel brands face HR shortage

Business Standard reports that due to increasing awareness and interest in branded apparel goods by upwardly mobile and brand conscious consumers, apparel companies are expanding at a accelerated pace and are not able to keep up. Most retailers are already facing a shortage of front end staff in retail. Partly the reason, is that international brands require a higher quality of staff and front end retail salaries are too low and the working hours too long to attract the right kind of people.

The BPO industry on the other hand offers higher starting salaries and chance to rise much faster than the retail industry. Reetika Dalal, executive at Forbes Gokak, feels that “The youngsters are opting for careers in BPOs and aspire for better treatment and respect at the workplace. They don’t want to be called salesmen. The companies should work on the human resource practices to promote the front line staff as store managers or area managers depending on their capabilities.”

Thursday, February 08, 2007

UTV and Future Group to create youth entertainment brand

The Future Group will be entering another new segment. UTV Software Communications and the Future Group will jointly be launching a retail venture, including opening CafĂ© Lounges that would serve as brand extensions of UTV’s youth centric channel that is expected to launched by June 2007. Using these Cafe Lounges, the company hopes to attract youth for entertainment, gaming and relaxing atmosphere of a lounge. It looks like it will be a winning combination for both companies, as UTV has experience in entertainment and broadcasting, and the Future Group has retail experience.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Roman Shades

I've been planning recently to get some new blinds for some of my windows, and have been searching for just the right kind of Roman blinds that look smart, are easy to take care of and are tough enough to take the direct sunlight for 3-4 hours every day. On searching on the Internet I found Guaranteed Blinds had a great selection of both hobbled and flat Roman Shades that would fit my requirements to the tee. Guaranteed Blinds is one of the leading Internet retailers of blinds, shades and specialty window treatment products and has a great policy on returns. There is also a great section on tips on window blinds and shades. In planning room decoration, one of the most important aspects is that a product should suit the needs and location. Since we live in a large city, one of the largest in the world and one that is constantly growing, changing and evolving, there is constant construction somewhere in the neighbourhood. So we have a lot of dust, especially in the dry winter, spring and early summer months, when it doesn't rain from end Oct to early may or so.

Kishore Biyani speaks about retail in India at lecture

The Hindu Business Line reports that at the 26th Annual Ayaz Peerbhoy Memorial Lecture, Kishore Biyani CEO of Future Group spoke about retail in real terms and emphasized that “Retail is not rocket science, its just buying from someone and selling it to someone.” Just like his brands and stores, Kishore Biyani spoke directly and was clear-cut in his view on retail. He dwelt on the role of design in coming up with solutions instead of only relying on case studies. The Future Group has it own design firm Idiom, was has created 26 concepts of which 24 were implemented and have received positve responses. The most prominent of the marketing concepts was of the three-day sale called ‘Sabse Sastha Din’ that was held around Republic Day 2005. The sale was a roaring success and in its first year, the company made Rs 125 crore of sales and had 60 lakh visitors.

Increasing inbound links

Probably the most frustrating thing about owning a website is trying to decipher how Google and other search engines rate popularity and worth of the site. Google uses a complex algorithm which is only for technological people to understand, for everyone else it's just a trial and error system. Google uses both on-site and off-site factors to determine page rank, a score that signifies the importance of a site. Page rank is not as high on Google's list as it was before since it is fairly easy to manipulate. Now, Google looks for high quality inbound links to your site, especially those from high quality sites and from sites of related material.

Having contextual and rightly place links is extremely important as are having the right Title Tag and other META data, which Google's new LSI system studies. The most common methods of increasing link popularity are press releases, purchasing links, trading links and link baiting. Press release distribution is one of the most effective way to increase incoming links but it is difficult since the press release has to be interesting enough for publishers to write about it. Purchasing links, trading links and link baiting are somewhat effective in the short term but can also bring negative results since you can have lots of low quality or non-contextual links.

The most natural way is using web releases from a system such as Blogitive which has over 2,000 members who write about products and services web releases. Blogs are filled with searched content that advertisers are interested in and this system has proven as one of the best ways to increase link popularity.

Wal-Mart CEO to visit India on Feb 22 to formalize agreement

Wal-Mart's chief executive and president Michael T Duke will be coming to India on February 22 to finalize and sign its joint venture agreement with Bharti Enterprises. The company will be operating cash & carry outlets as well as regular retail stores which Bharti will operate at the front end and Wal-Mart will take care of the back end logistics, supply chain etc. So far, the companies have signed a MoU that declares their intention to jointly operate retail and wholesale outlets in India. The CEO will also be announcing the number of cash & carry stores the company will be opening, and the company's long term strategy for the country.

Managing time

Time management has been most prominent on my mind for the past week or so, since all of a sudden I had 10 things to juggle all at once and still do them all well. It's a test to one's patience to be able to manage time effectively and efficiently. One of the best investments our company made recently was buying a software that managed our entire schedule, appointments, goals etc. It was such a relief to have someone take care of it, so that we could focus on the actual work itself.

On the home front, I have been swamped too and have had to put in late nights continuously to keep up. While this kind of schedule works for some time, effective time management skills are required to manage time efficiently, no matter where you are and what you are doing. I have been writing a research paper on Vision in Leadership and found the Time Thoughts site, which I really liked. After completing my assignment, I browsed the site and found some really useful time management tips from Time Thoughts. Tips such as making lists, being able to say no (this is a tough one for me to do), identify bad habits are on my priority list to stuff to do this week.

Metro coming to Mumbai

Germany's Metro Cash & Carry will be opening a store in Mumbai. This will be its fifth outlet in the country, after 2 outlets in Bangalore and one each in Kolkata and Hyderabad. The company has reportedly spent Rs 84.5 crore on purchasing a 10 lakh sq ft space in the upcoming Magnet Mall in Bhandup, an eastern suburb of Mumbai. The new store in Mumbai is likely to be ready for operations by November 2007. The company expects to get close to 4,000 footfalls and sales of Rs 1.5 crore every day.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Italian brand Friuli announces launch

Friuli, an Italian furniture brand has opened in India. The company has been brought to India by Bangalore based Ikian Furnitures. Their range of furniture includes everything a consumer might need for setting up a home, such as modular kitchens fittings, wardrobes, sofas, chairs, beds, lighting accessories etc. According to Ramesh Kumar Dugar, CEO of Ikian Furnitures, “The growth potential is phenomenal. We are targeting all categories of customers. Bangalore being the centre of IT industry, we look for more business from the city. We have already bagged orders from a few IT firms.” Friuli will open first in Bangalore and then be available in Chennai and Mumbai, expanding to cities like Ahmedabad, Kochi, Goa and Hyderabad next year.

Multi-tasking Vs time management

Managing time efficiently and effectively is one of the hot topics for any executive, regardless of seniority. In this multi-tasking world, we are expected to handle several things at the same time, putting in our best towards each task. The results are not always great or reliable, so it really makes sense to invest in time management software's such as Effexis's time management software, with which you can organize your schedule, plan tasks, set priorities to define what is important, manage your goals and take control of your life. Priced at $49 for the standard version and $79 for the premium version, the Achieve Planner seems like a good investment for any business. The premium version has a great tool called an out liner where you can make notes, track ideas using hierarchical note out liner and keyword support.

Reliance Retail eases HR restrictions

Reliance Retail's restrictive clauses have been relaxed somewhat due to unhappiness amongst the top executives. The company has been hiring executives with salaries of Rs 3-3.5 crore but adding several clauses such as not joining any retailer, retail consultant, supplier, advertising company or even a retail client after leaving Reliance Retail. Other causes of unhappiness were having to return 2 years gross pay to the company if an executive took a job with another retailer after leaving Reliance, and losing stock options. Although competition is fierce and talent is scarce, employees, especially top executives are not only looking for high pay packages, but rather a overall package from the company that ensures their financial well being at the time as well as later on.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Congress President raises question on FDI

Breaking news here as reported by a news channel: Congress President, Sonia Gandhi has reportedly raised the question of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail industry and has apparently written to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the issue, especially on US retail giant Wal-Mart being given permission to open stores in India.

If a spanner was thrown in the works, it would be a major setback to the retail industry and economy in general. More than financial terms, it would send a really bad image to the rest of the world, companies that are keen to enter the Indian market for its enormous potential and marketability. Let's hope nothing comes of it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Retailers keen on private label beauty products

Prominent retail companies such as Pantaloon, Reliance and Bharti-Wal-Mart are planning to launch private labels for beauty products. The companies are in talks with VLCC (Vandana Luthra Curls and Curves), a fitness, health and beauty products company to manufacture private label beauty products. Pantaloon Retail, which is part of the Future Group, have already entered the health and beauty business with a service format of beauty salons, called Star and Sitara and have also started retailing beauty products through its new outlet called Turmeric. Now, Pantaloon is interested in VLCC to manufacture private label beauty products for them.

Big Bazaar launching private labels

More retail news here; Big Bazaar will soon be launching several private label products in all its stores. Interestingly, where most private labels are quite basic in packaging and design, Big Bazaar will be focusing on product design for all its private labels. The company will also be opening its home improvement store, Hometown in the next two months.

Rural malls are taking

The concept of rural malls is picking up and retailers are all rushing to set up stores in rural areas. Consumers in rural areas spend an estimated Rs 8 lakh crore each year. In some areas, there is no electricity or drinking water, but villagers are tracking commodity indexes via the ATM. Companies such as DCM Shriram Group are setting up 50 rural retail outlets called Hariyali Kissan Bazaars seeing this vibrant demand.

ITC has set up 12 Choupal Sagars in three states and Reliance is also making plans to enter the sector. Hariyali Kissan Bazaar’s have 400 walk-ins a day, with a 70-80% repeat visitors and generate Rs 14 crore annually. While most products are farm related, soon stores will add construction items, automotive and telecom products due to demand from local customers.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Local storekeepers not worried about organized retail

As the number of companies getting into the retail sector increase, local storekeepers could start to feel threatened, but several local stores such as Everfresh Stores in Dadar, Mumbai are not worried. They feel that large stores will not affect their business due the high loyalty of local customers. Storeowner Hardik Lalani says that although they might lose approximately 10% of their business for branded products, other items will not be affected. Yogesh Chheda, owner of Chheda Stores says that the personal touch and specialized service such as home delivery would give them an edge of large retailers.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Shoppers’ Stop ties up with business schools to train and retain staff

Shopper’s Stop will be tying up with business schools such as Symbiosis and Manipal Institute, so that its ground level staff can earn professional degrees. The company has been doing salary corrections in an effort to retain its staff, with most salaries increasing by 20-35%. As part of the retention plan, the company will be offering career development options to its employees. The company will be investing between Rs 60,000-80,000 for a graduation program of three years and Rs 150,000-170,000 for an MBA degree.

Mint cards

Are you looking for a good credit card to get but can't find one with a good interest rate or one with benefits? Look no further, have a look at Mint Credit Cards where you can some really great deals like 0% interest on purchases till !st December 2007, 0% of balance transfers till 1st December 2007 and lots more. How about the Mint credit card, which was first introduced in 2003 and comes in two versions, a standard credit card and a MC2, where the bottom right hand corner of the card is removed. Mint launched its gift card in September 2006, which is a prepaid credit card that you can gift. Instead of buying vouchers from a specific store, this prepaid credit card can be used anywhere.

Kewal Kiran to open lifestyle chain store

Kewal Kiran Clothing (KKC) announced that it will be setting up four department stores by 2008 end, the first of which will be located in a suburb of Mumbai, in Kandivili. Each store will require an investment of Rs 5-6 crore. KKC manufactures the brands Killer, Lawman, Easies and Integriti, and the new stores will keep these brands and other newer private label brands that are yet to be launched.

Private labels are really increasing in popularity with retailers as with these brands, the retailers have greater control over pricing, merchandising, quality and promotions. Consumers too have become more accepting of private labels and we are sure to see many more new brands launched in this format.

Watching soaps

Are you an avid soap opera fan? I must admit that when I first went to the US, I was quite fascinated by the whole concept of daytime soap operas. They somehow seemed so contrived, so artificial, so unreal, but people were crazy about them. Deciding that there must be something to the fact that they were so popular, I started watching them. While I never got addicted to watching them, like I did with Friends, Sienfeld, Melrose Place or Mad About You, soap operas were fun to watch. Just as long as you took them lightheartedly. But, there are lots of people who are not like me, who absolutely love the characters and live as if they are perfectly real. So, if you are one of those fans, then read up for all the latest information on soaps like All My Children. Get the latest news about the show and actors here!

Now buy soft drinks while you ride a rickshaw

Advertising and promotion on rickshaws is one thing, but now an organization called Sammaan has launched rickshaws that will sell products like Coke, Bisleri water etc. The rickshaws will be owned by Sammaan and will be driven by people based on Sammaan's eligibility requirements. The drivers will keep all earnings from the rides, but will share the profit on sale of water of soft drinks with Sammaan. The organization will also provide its drivers with a uniform at no cost, an identity card and open a bank account for them with insurance cover of Rs 200,000. Riders in the rickshaw are also covered for Rs 100,000 insurance. Fares in these rickshaws will be the same as regular rickshaws.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

How many magazines do you subcribe to?

How many magazine subsriptions do you have? I have 4 and I thoroughly enjoy the idea of having my favorite magazines delivered directly to me at home. I once gifted a magazine subsription and have received one as a gift. They make really good gifts as they are something that a person can enjoy over time. I currently have magazine subscriptions for Elle, Elle Decor, BusinessWeek and Business Today and am seriously considering subscribing to Marie Claire too. One of the best places to look for magazine subsriptions is Magazines Direct where you can choose from over 1,300 magazines, all priced at unbelievable prices with no additional sales tax.

Organized retail sector to cross $22 billion by 2010

India's organized retail sector will cross the $22 billion mark by 2010, according to a study conducted by Assocham. Currently, the total market is worth $16 billion of which only 25% or $4 billion comprises of the organized retail sector. Retail space will increase from 40 million sq ft at present to 220 million sq ft. the bulk of the growth will come from tier II and III towns that will grow faster than some of the metros where space is just not available and is seriously hampering the growth of organized retail.

Banana Republic finally going to the UK

San Francisco based retailer, The Gap announced that its brand Banana Republic will be launched in Europe and the UK in 2008. It's rival H&M will also be launching a new brand called COS, which stands for Collection of Style, and is their more upmarket selection of clothes. H&M will open a COS store in the UK on Regent Street next month and ten additional stores in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Earn while you shop

It's refreshing to read about cash back schemes from retailers, when banks and real estate developers are increasing loan rates and passing the burden to consumers (as I had written in my previous post). Ebates is an online retailer that passes on part of the commission that it earns from retailers and advertisers to consumers. Ebates has over 800 retail stores where customers can shop online and qualify to earn some cash. There is no membership required, no fee to pay, only a valid email id is required. When you want to buy something online, either go through Ebates or download the Moe Money Maker so Moe can remind you. Besides cash back consumers can also get discounts and specials from a host of retailers, such as jcpenney, Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, Neiman Marcus etc. The amount of cash you earn varies from 4% to 25%.

Property to get expensive

Real estate developers are likely to pass on the higher interest rates on loans that they are being charged to consumers. The Reserve Bank of India announced that it will mandatory for banks to set aside more capital for lending to property developers, therefore increasing the loan rates. The RBIs move is actually to discourage banks to lend less to real estate developers due to concerns on inflation. As usual, it is the consumer who gets passed the burden.

Do you know your credit rating?

Do you know what your credit rating is? Have you ever asked for a report of your credit history? As everyone knows, credit is everything in the US. As soon as a person is born and assigned a social security number, a file is established where all financial activity related to the person is added. Credit card applications, student loan applications, car loans, etc are all reported and a score is given to each person for their credit worthiness.

Having a good credit report becomes especially important when you are making a major purchase, such as a car or a house, where your details will be checked before the transaction takes place. I have even had my credit checked for renting an apartment in Providence, RI. Checking a person's credit history is the established practice for all sales at all car dealerships, unless a buyer is paying only in cash.

A credit report has information all bank accounts in your name, credit cards, outstanding credit, salary, history of paying bills, rent, utility bills etc. In essence, it is your financial history and any negative aspect could have long lasting effects, such as high interest rates for a home loan or credit card, lower limits etc. It is a good idea to know what exactly your credit report says about you as in many cases it can even help to Identify Theft.

To see what your credit report says about you, all it takes is a small fee to one of the credit reporting agencies. The US Federal government has made credit reports free in certain states, to increase awareness about their importance. Annual credit reports are available for free in 12 western states, from all three of the credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

ADAG definitely entering retail sector; with whom is not known

It looks like the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) will be getting into the retail sector with one of the big global groups. The company has reportedly been meeting senior executives at Tesco, Carrefour and Radio Shack. While any tie up with either Tesco or Carrefour, will be in the food, grocery and home goods divisions, a tie up with Radio Shack, a consumer electronics chain store from the US, will allow the company to expand its Reliance Shops which were earlier called Webworlds. Radio Shack has shown interest in retailing mobile accessories which would also synergize will with ADAG's existing business.

Digital printing kiosks

Digital cameras have brought in lots of change in the photography field, especially for casual picture takers like me who enjoy taking pictures but don't want to get into too many technicalities or hassles. Springwise.com writes that while several major brands have set up their own digital photo printing kiosks, now an Australian company called Pxi has entered the market that is estimated to be worth US$7.7 billion by the year 2009. The company has set up a full service kiosk where you can print digital pictures, edit, store and share online. These kiosks have been placed in malls, train stations, universities and hospitals.
Pxi will be franchising up to 2,000 kiosks across its native Australia over the next five years, has signed a licensing deal for 35,000 kiosks in China, and is working on similar deals for Japan and Canada. For those of you interested in incremental streams of income, Pxi is interested in hearing from potential franchisees from across the world.