With the Indian retail and e-retail industry passing through an interesting, adventurous and lucrative phase, the timing for the India Retail and eRetail Congress (IReC) 2018, held on April 16-17 at JW Marriott, New Delhi, could not have been any better. And like every year, it returned in full glory with top visionaries, business thought leaders and retail bigwigs, who shared their insights and discussed the disruptions taking place in various sectors. The IReC 2018 acted like a legion master-class, featuring different arenas of the industry through four distinguished summits – omnichannel summit, e-retail summit, payment summit and the global summit.
The 7th edition of this annual affair started with the lighting of lamps by Ritu Marya, Editor-in-Chief, Franchise India Ltd.; Krish Iyer, President and CEO, Walmart India; and Samir Modi, Executive Director, Modi Enterprises. While Ritu Marya acknowledged that the brick-and-mortar model is the most dominant form of retail not only in India but worldwide, she also agreed that e-commerce has since long come out of its infancy stage and has immense opportunity waiting to be tapped. “While almost every brand is moving towards omnichannel and e-commerce, India is not even among the 10 largest e-commerce markets in the world,” she said. This was the trigger for all the panel discussions that followed over the next two days.
Create a Sound Organisational Structure
India has, in the last decade, witnessed an enormous number of foreign brands entering its market. While some prosper, many are forced to step back. Bestseller is one such company which has become an indispensable part of India’s fashion retail scene. Vineet Gautam, CEO, Bestseller India, credits this success to the organisational structure of Bestseller wherein the country headquarters takes the decision about market strategies rather than the head office in a foreign location. “We first look at what is affecting the customers and the company staff and then go ahead to give a thought to product assortment. Furthermore, one needs to define experience from the consumer’s perspective. The first thing a consumer experiences is the product and then the store layout. If all these are well managed, then follows technology and being omnichannel,” he stated.
Ensure a happy customer
With online retail moving on, the next discussion focusing on trends and the way forward highlighted the importance of the merger of FMCG, retail and e-commerce – all aimed at ensuring a happy customer. Arvind Varchaswi, Managing Director, Sri Sri Tattva, said, “We need to remain relevant in our customers’ life. Understanding a customer’s requirement is most important. Being a brand, we need to innovate and engage society in the brand.” He also affirmed that ultimately it would be a love marriage between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce which would work in favour of the consumers.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
The next trend highlighted by speakers Bhagyesh Dwivedi, Founder, Retailers App; Mohit Dhanjal, Director-Retail, Raymond and Atul Bajaj, ED-Merchandising and SCM, Puma, underlined the importance of adopting new strategies. “Sometimes small is the new big. The store size depends on which market one is operating in, the brand portfolio and the kind of customers one needs to cater to. We moved away from our cookie-cutter approach to open stores ranging from 600-1,000 sq.ft. in smaller markets,” said Dhanjal. Atul Bajaj asserted that if a retailer gets his merchandising and store design right, the size of the outlet will not matter in the long run.
What’s Next for Shopping Malls?
Shopping malls in India have witnessed a drastic change in the past few years with onslaughts from e-commerce retailers and also the entry of international brands in the country. This particular session focused on what’s awaiting shopping malls in India. The panel, comprising Dinaz Madhukar, Executive Vice President, DLF Luxury Retail and Hospitality; Anurag Singh, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Affle Enterprises; SK Sayal, CEO and Managing Director, Bharti Realty; and Alexander Koth, Founder and Managing Director, MiNODES, discussed the relevance of malls in the age of e-commerce. Anurag Singh negated the fact that shopping malls need to compete against online commerce. “In many categories, offline pricing is better than online, especially in the electronics segment. What we need to realise is that online commerce is not yet designed to be optimal and the way of running the offline stores network is the way you need to move forward. But the first battle is to provide the ‘discovery’ value that would bring consumers to malls.” SK Sayal spoke about the mixed use of land by shopping malls and the challenges related to it.
From Traditional to Digital
This session underlined the sense of transforming a business with traditional roots into one which is digitally-led. Brian Bade, CEO, Reliance Retail, pointed out that the real challenge lies not in transforming the business into a digital one but seamless functioning of both offline and online channels. “The future of retail does not lie in how brick-and-mortar can turn into omnichannel but on how we evolve the experience to offer exactly what the customers want. I believe that e-commerce still has a long way to go,” he said.
Inclusive Growth for Modern Workplaces
The next panel including Rajesh Jain, Managing Director and CEO, Lacoste India; Manish Mandhana, CEO, Mandhana Retail Ventures; and Lalit Agarwal, Chairman and Managing Director, V-Mart Retail Ltd., was moderated by Rajat Wahi, Partner, Deloitte India. The session talked about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the modern workplace.
Lalit Agarwal opined, “Our company’s vision is to try and create value everyone should feel proud about. We try and adopt people from all parts of India with different expertise. We also give regular rewards and recognitions to our employees; we empower them to take decisions.” Furthermore, the panel also agreed on the relevance of innovation in product categories, etc.
Going International
The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion on how to build brands and organisations that can help support international growth. Nikhil Ranjan, Managing Director, William Penn; Rahul Kapoor, Co-Founder, Excedo Luxuria; and Sushant Rabra, Partner, KPMG India, shared meaningful insights on best practices for success in global markets. “For any brand looking to enter any country – maybe South Korea, the UK or America – there is a simple equation of how price plus value must equal worth,” opined Kapoor.
Digital Payments
Even though digital payments have grown rapidly over the last five years, they are still in their nascent stage. “The market is going to be USD 500 billion at a compound growth of 50%,” shared Vikas Bansal, Head of Emerging Payments, Amazon Pay, adding, “It all started with demonetisation where the government provided this huge momentum to disrupt the payments and create a habit.” Given that many merchants are reluctant to start digital payments, the government has made all transactions less than Rs 2,000, which will provide the required impetus to trigger growth.
Personalisation in E-Commerce
Highlighting the various aspects of investment required for implementing technology, Stephen Antony Venansious, Head of Projects,, Dubai and Rashi Menda, Founder and CEO, Zapyle, talked about how it offers a great online shopping experience. Pure playing e-commerce taps the knowledge and pinned data, which are kept intact in various devices and smartphones. Comparing the leakage of Cambridge Analytica with usage of data by e-commerce, Venansious said, “In an ethical way e-commerce companies can actually use this data to understand or process this customization.” “India is where all the major technological developments and revolutions are happening,” he added, pointing to the fact that many companies are after our data sciences and personalisation tactics.
Big Data to Take Retail Industry Ahead
The concluding session talked about the importance of big data in attracting consumers. Shivanandan Pare, Head–New Digital Businesses, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail underlined the significance of data analytics in reinventing the customer experience. “The evolution of data as a power tool happened because online guys are sitting on a repository of huge data. Now this is available to the offline world as well. However, it is in an extremely unstructured way, non-scalable and non- tracked. Once a retailer starts doing that, his ability to understand and improve increases,” he said.
Option of Package Return
Revealing why responsiveness beats speed in the supply chain, the summit had Lakshminarayan Swaminathan, Director-Supply Chain, Myntra, said, “Customers are not willing to give up the option of ‘return’ and this is the core of the e-commerce business, more so in the fashion space because there is a lot of touch-and-feel, the right fitting, etc. which is not the case with several other products.” While elaborating about the two types of returns – one that goes from the warehouse but the courier agent is not able to deliver and the regular return by the customer. “COD i.e. ‘cash on delivery’ is the market-mover today and you get the trust of seeing the product first and then paying for it,” he stated.
Optical Fiber
Holding an enlightening discussion on the paradigm shift in new communities, new consumers and new markets, Sauvik Banerjee, CTO, TataCliQ and VP-Digital Initiatives, Tata Industries, spoke about how the brick-and-mortar brands and small retailers are becoming digital natives through the use of social media. “Countries like the UK have a very strong sense of platforms and products,” said Banerjee who has studied disruption in the emerging optical fiber countries like Vietnam and India and realised it was important to know how the consumers were shaping up. “Data shows that 29% of farmers in India have got 2-3 smartphone sets in each family. So the paradigm shift is happening,” he said. “The network eruption in Tier 2 and 3 cities will start moving wallets, e-commerce and digital education,” he added.


The IReC 2018 acted like a legion master-class, featuring different arenas of the industry through four distinguished summits.