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BW Businessworld

Why Customer Will Continue To Be King

The retail market is expected to balloon to fantastic proportions in the near future, buoyed by a growing e-tail sector. In this issue, BW Businessworld takes stock of the evolution of this brickand-click sphinx

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If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful - Jeff Bezos
E-commerce was considered a threat to the brick-and-mortar retailer. Was it? Reality struck, defying past hype. Online retailers had to bend to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. The lines between e-commerce and physical retail are increasingly getting blurred, as traditional retailers have expanded their online and mobile presence. At the same time, the world’s most iconic online retailer Amazon is gobbling up stakes in retailers in India and putting up stores of its own. Ditto with many etailers that were launched in cyberspace.

The Walmart-Flipkart deal has broad implications for all of retail. Particularly, in a diverse country as India, physical stores are not disappearing any time soon. More than 95 per cent of retail transactions still happen at small shops, malls, retail chains. Even Ikea is set to invest Rs 20,000 crore to open 25 stores in India. Nevertheless, retailers will/must go digital to log onto “smartphone” shoppers.

Glass-and-steel retailers have the opportunity to offer consumers an experience that surpasses that of online. Social media, personalisation and subscriptions are likely to define the future of online retail, with social media driving wider choice, product discovery and purchases, utilising AI and other emergent technologies, such as voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google, etc.

Besides, private equity firms and wealth funds invested $800 million in 2017 in retail to cater to India’s growing middle class and rapidly increasing consumer spending, seeing that the country ranked first in the Global Retail Development Index 2017. Indian retail accounts for more than 10 per cent of the country’s GDP and around 8 per cent of employment.

One of those integrating online and offline retailing is RIL, which is creating a hybrid online-to-offline commerce platform, integrating and synergising Reliance Retail’s physical marketplace with its telecom unit Reliance Jio Infocomm’s digital infrastructure and services, using digital data to reach out to shoppers. Other pure play online retailers are going physical, mainly to cater to and enhance the touchy-feely shopping experience. It’s all happening in retailing, and the good news for customers is that they will always be pampered.

This is the reason we decided to do our first cover in this issue of BW Businessworld on the evolving retail / etail space. We say the future is here, with the opening up of the omnichannel stores. A highly readable story that captures the evolution in the space.

Our second cover is a mélange of interesting personalities. In the governance space, in popular perception, as also in BW Businessworld surveys, Minister Nitin Gadkari has brought about the most visible change on the ground. We put him on the cover and debate if he will power PM Narendra Modi’s 2019 re-election bid.

In the corporate world, Britannia was in the news recently for having completed 100 years in India. We feature its MD Varun Berry, and ask if the rebranding exercise is enough for it to keep its dominant market share going.

The third personality on the second cover is Manu Kumar Jain, the India MD of Xiaomi. The Chinese company is now the leader in the smartphone market in India.

This issue of BW Businessworld comes with all other regular features and columns.

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Happy reading!

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