Oct 18, 2008

Business - India;Q&A Kishore Biyani

Shramana Ganguly Mehta & Kumar Anand

Despite retail slowdown, you have launched yet another format Ethnicity. What makes you so sure that the concept will click?

Who says there is a slowdown? Although the environment looks gloomy, the Indian consumer is spending on FMCG, consumer durables and garments. Sales do not drop even if the sentiment is negative. Roti, kapda, makaan are essentials and consumer does not stop buying them.

Ethnicity is targeted at the aspiring urban Indian consumer who is looking for exclusive ethnic product-mix during marriages and festivals. It is an attempt to go back to our roots and create a niche category of ethnic wear and products like mojris, semi-precious jewellery, handbags, home decor products, handicraft, etc.

With brands deserting Ahmedabad and two Big Bazaar outlets closing down, are the times too challenging? Do you see a retail graveyard here?

It is a wrong presumption. With Nano happening in Gujarat, there is so much positivity around the state. If Nano can happen, so can Ethnicity. As it is, the success rate of any brand is 20-30%. While we had to wrap up one of the stores because of high rentals and another because we targeted the wrong consumer, we are expanding other formats (in Ahmedabad).

We have plans to set up eight Ethnicity stores across India in the next two years at Rs 8 crore per store spread over 25,000-30,000 square feet. Considering the urban poor customer is devoid of aspiration, a Big Bazaar would not click with them. At the same time, we have realised that we have to focus more on fashion even in Big Bazaar outlets to draw the aspirational `India One’ customer. (Future has re-categorised its target segment under India One, India Two and India Three.)

You are known to experiment with different retail formats. Which one has been your favourite?

All formats launched by the group are close to my heart. At this point in time, Ethnicity and Pantaloon are my favourite formats. That’s where the money is. Pantaloon is overachieving its target. We expect to record a turnover of Rs 10,000 crore in 2008-09 compared to Rs 6,500 crore in the last fiscal.

Ethnicity alone would fetch us revenues worth Rs 25 crore in the first year of operation.
How have real estate prices hit you?

Real estate scenario in a city like Ahmedabad is not inhibiting. In fact, realtors are so welcoming that they let us set shop without expecting any rentals for the first six months. We will add 5-6 million square feet of retail space in the near future.

There was a simultaneous boom in retail and aviation sectors. Now that the crisis looms over aviation sector, do you expect retail to be hit sometime soon? Could retail sector expect lay-offs?

Growth is important to avoid such stagnation. We believe that retail is booming and so there is no question of lay-off at this point. While investors like lay-offs (as it cuts down on the expenditure), promoters believe otherwise. One has to strike the right balance between the capitalist and socialist ideologies. I am a mix of both. A socialist-capitalist and vice-versa.

After Ethnicity, what next?

We are going to open the first stand-alone outlet of John Miller in Mumbai on Friday. The outlet will be located at Kala Ghoda and at the same store where I had started my first journey as an apparel supplier.

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